Professors Take Fossils From Wind River Reservation Without Permission

Sep 20, 2018

Credit Matt Celeskey

This summer two professors excavated the fossilized remains of a Phytosaur on the Wind River Indian Reservation without explicit permission from the Northern Arapaho or Eastern Shoshone tribes. 

The dinosaur fossils will be returned to the reservation, and one of the researchers Michelle Stocker from Virginia Tech wrote a letter apologizing to the tribes.

Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Devin Oldman said that this situation was avoidable.

“We would have negotiated some type of legally binding agreement that’s said you can do this A, B, C, D. Also, you know, we would have an individual from each tribe out with you at the site monitoring to make sure you guys aren’t taking anything.”

The dinosaur is thought to have lived in a giant lake that used to be in central Wyoming.

The fossils were pulled from around Bull Lake on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Devin Oldman says that the researchers should have gone through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and set up a consultation with the Preservation office. Instead, Oldman says they got a trespass permit, which they thought gave them permission to exhume and take the bones.

“Well, there is also that other route of well we can go directly to the business council and get approval from both of them. She did that. She even went back on her agreement she had with them.”

Now, the researchers have apologized and agreed to return the fossils to the reservation. Oldman says the tribes are glad things worked out this time but often such cases don’t, and that undermines tribal sovereignty.

“Tribes across America we are starting to understand the world was created not for us, you know, but against us. They should be lending a hand instead of closing the door.”

The Bureau of Indian Affairs does not intend to take legal action.