able to drive an all-terrain vehicle right up next to a
sacred earthen Native American burial mound.
Mounds National Monument, you can. Three million
dollars' worth of illegal construction projects went on
for a decade at one of the nation's most sacred Native
American burial grounds in northeast Iowa. And it
happened under the watch of the National Park Service.
didn't do the proper archaeological studies before
installing an intricate boardwalk system that now
encircles ancient burial mounds that are shaped like
bears and birds.
"I will not
rest the rest of my days until all this junk is
removed," says Tim Mason, who used to work among these
ancient Native American mounds.
Ask Mason his
title and this is what you get: "Tree-hugging,
superintendent of Effigy Mounds National
Monument in northeast Iowa, stands at
the top of a bluff looking over the
Mason grew up
here. He's now retired, but for 19 years he held a lot
of different jobs at the monument, from laborer to park
ranger. During visits to the park after retiring, he'd
see these boardwalks and other structures going in.
Mason filed a complaint that sparked a criminal
investigation by a Park Service special agent.
collaborators at every level in the regional office and
the national office, and they were securing funds, they
weren't doing the checks," he says. "They were violating
federal and state law to build all this junk."
was responsible for the damage is still employed at the
monument. A National Park Service spokesman says it is
creating a corrective plan that will make sure something
like this never happens again.
Some of the
boardwalks were intended to make the monument
handicapped-accessible. Jim Nepstad, the monument's new
superintendent, says it's important for him not to make
the same mistake when trying to fix the problem.
the public, let's involve the state historic
preservation office, let's involve our tribal partners,"
he says. "And make sure everyone has a voice before we
go in and wholesale rip everything out."
it's going to take time to figure out just what to do.