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caption: North Cascades National Park 
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North Cascades National Park
Credit: KUOW Photo / John Ryan

Upper Skagit Tribe offers $5k reward after ancient site in North Cascades looted

The Upper Skagit Indian Tribe is offering up to a $5,000 reward to help catch whoever looted an archeological site in North Cascades National Park.

National Park Service police have been investigating the illegal excavation of an ancient mountain-goat hunting camp. They discovered someone had used hand tools to dig up the “Rock Shelter” site outside the town of Newhalem, Washington, in June 2019.

The dig caused “irretrievable damage,” according to the park service.

“Whatever artifacts were taken or removed probably didn't have a lot of monetary value to folks,” said Scott Schuyler, the Upper Skagit tribe's cultural policy representative. “But to the tribe, they're priceless and irreplaceable because ... in an essence, they're our culture.”

The site was used for at least 1,500 years.

“It's an overhanging cliff, and my ancestors used to process the game or fish that they got from Newhalem area right under there and cook,” Schuyler said.

Mountain goats were an important resource for both meat and wool.

The rock shelter site was rediscovered in the 1980s.

Today, there’s a wheelchair-accessible trail to the site and a wooden observation platform with interpretive signage to give visitors a glimpse of indigenous life in the Cascades centuries ago.

Entering the site below the observation platform, let alone digging there, is a violation of the federal Archeological Resources Protection Act.

Schuyler said the tribe wants people to know about its rich history, as long as they respect it.

Archeologists have identified more than 160 pre-contact archeological sites in the upper Skagit valley, going back at least 10,000 years.

caption: The Upper Skagit Indian Tribe and the National Park Service seek help capturing looters of an ancient hunting camp.
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The Upper Skagit Indian Tribe and the National Park Service seek help capturing looters of an ancient hunting camp.
Credit: National Park Service