Effigy Mounds National Monument Debacle Was Wider

July 5, 2016 | By Garrett Montgomery More

An Effigy Mounds National Monument debacle might finally come to an end. Later this week, officials at the Effigy Mounds National Monument, who lied upon discovering that many Native American remains had vanished because they did not want to look bad in the eyes of the public, will be in court.

An Effigy Mounds National Monument

Friday is the day that those, who caused the Effigy Mounds National Monument debacle, will have their day in court. The Effigy Mounds National Monument is located in Clayton County, Iowa and is known to be one of the largest preserves of Native American remains.

The monument also holds more than 200 prehistoric mounds built by Native Americans including numerous effigy mounds shaped like animals, including bears and birds. The monument is linked to an extensive list of tribes including Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community In the State of Minnesota, Lower Sioux Indian Community of Mdewakanton Sioux Indians of Minnesota, Prairie island Indian Community In the State of Minnesota, Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, and Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska.

In 1990, Effigy Mounds National Monument’s superintendent Thomas Munson carried out a spectacular crime that went unpunished for years. Mr. Munson was fearful that a law that went into effect that year would require all “museums to return the remains of ancestors to their affiliated tribes along with any sacred objects with which they were buried.”

Munson came up with the wild plan to rapidly dig up all of the remains and move them to his garage. According to court documents:

“Munson wanted all human remains removed before the law went into effect so the monument could keep its collection of burial objects, which he saw as more valuable than the skeletal fragments. In July 1990, he ordered subordinate Sharon Greener to pack them up in two boxes and help load them in his car. He drove them to his home across the river in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, where they sat in his garage for the next two decades and suffered damage due to wildly inappropriate storage conditions.”

For years, Munson lied and lied about the vanished human remains, by first saying that he had no idea what happened to them, he also claimed that they were stolen, and even claimed that he was told to move them or maybe someone had accidentally dumped them.

In 1994, Munson retired, and his replacement discovered the horror and did nothing about it. In 2011, after a lengthy investigation, Munson returned one box of remains, and the authorities found a second box in 2012.

In early 2016, he appeared in court, pled guilty to embezzling government property and was told that he would have to spend one year in home detention and ten weekends behind bars, but his lawyer claimed that at the age of 76, his health problems make it impossible for him to be imprisoned.

He has been ordered to pay $108,000 in restitution to the park service for costs of the investigation and repair of the bones. Current superintendent Jim Nepstad said:

“the case has, and will continue to cause, profound damage to the credibility and reputation of the National Park Service. There will eventually come a day when this story likely sees the light of day, and at that time the National Park Service will be confronted with the difficult task of defending itself against the shameful actions of some of its employees. I and my successors — and the agency itself — will be dealing with fallout from this debacle for years to come. The offense of improperly removing the remains of more than 40 people is serious enough, but the consequences of covering up the offense and protecting the primary offender has made a very bad situation far worse.”

The 12 tribes affiliated with the monument said:

“We need a head on a plate.”

On Friday, Munson will learn his fate.


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