Climbers charged for scaling Native American protected site

Arizona men allegedly posted Facebook video of themselves at protected historic site

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Tuesday 23 November 2021 00:08 GMT
U of M offering free or reduced tuition to Native American students

Two Arizona men face federal charges for climbing and entering protected cliff dwellings considered sacred by many Native American tribes.

Levi Lee Watson and Shayne McKenna Brunt are accused of trespassing at Montezuma Castle, which was home to indigenous people as far back as 1100 AD.

The men were caught after the National Parks Service received a tip that they had posted video of their actions to Facebook after the July incident.

Now they have been charged with misdemeanor trespassing, unlawfully entering an archeological and cultural resource, and unlawfully disturbing a cultural resource, according to a complaint filed in Arizona federal court.

Prosecutors say that the men disturbed cultural artefacts used in coming of age ceremonies “that are still performed by the tribes in modern day.”

The videos allegedly show Mr Brunt reaching down and touching the “cultural items” before then trying to climb a cliff face to try and reach the dwellings.

In his Facebook posting, Mr Watson allegedly wrote, “Took a little trip to Montezuma Castle and snuck inside some caves lol” and “Such an amazing experience.”

In an affidavit a NPS park ranger says that Mr Watson was identified in park video footage by a cross tattoo under his right eye.

During one of the videos Mr Watson can allegedly be heard saying, “Shayne, just get down dude that’s dangerous.”

“Watson and Brunt’s actions were knowing and at risk of damaging property and artefacts that are irreplaceable,” said the complaint.

Montezuma Castle is a five-storey high residence, which features 20 rooms, that is built into a limestone cliff by the the pre-Columbian Sinagua people.

European-Americans first found the long- abandoned ruins in the 1860s and mistakenly named them after the Aztec emperor Montezuma.

The dwellings and surrounding area was named a US National Monument in 1906.

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