Climbers charged for scaling Native American protected site

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Two Arizona men face federal charges for climbing and entering protected cliffs considered sacred by several Native American tribes.

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

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


They are now charged with misdemeanor, illegally entering an archeological and cultural resource, and illegally disturbing a cultural resource, according to a complaint filed in Arizona federal court.

Prosecutors say the men disturbed cultural artifacts at the coming of age ceremonies “that are still performed by tribes today in modern times.”

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The video purportedly shows Mr Brunt trying to climb a cliff and reach residences before reaching down and touching “cultural objects”.

In his Facebook posting, Mr Watson reportedly wrote, “Took a short trip to Montezuma Castle and got inside some caves” and “such an amazing experience.”

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

During one of the videos, Mr Watson can purportedly be heard saying, “Shine, just get down man this is dangerous.”

“The actions of Watson and Brunt were knowing and there was a risk of damage to property and artifacts that are irreparable,” the complaint said.

Montezuma Castle is a five-story high residence, with 20 rooms, built in a limestone cliff by 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 residence and the surrounding area were designated a US National Monument in 1906.

Credit: / Arizona

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