Clinton Man Indicted for Illegally Excavating Native American Site

1 min read
FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Clinton, Mo., man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for illegally excavating a prehistoric Native American site near Tightwad, Mo., causing more than $300,000 in damage.

Johnny Lee Brown, 70, was charged in an 11-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on April 26, 2022. That indictment was unsealed and made public today upon Brown’s arrest and initial court appearance.

According to the indictment, Brown participated in a conspiracy from June 20, 2016, to September 2021 to unlawfully excavate archeological resources from federal lands at Harry S. Truman Lake in Henry County, Mo. The site, which is located on a peninsula in Harry Truman Lake, is a large prehistoric Native American site that dates to the Late Archaic Period (3,000-5,000 years ago).

The federal indictment also refers to two known co-conspirators who are not identified as well as unknown co-conspirators. The indictment alleges that Brown and his co-conspirators either drove down a closed access road or walked to the site. They allegedly used tools ranging from small handheld trowels to full-size shovels, rakes, and hoes to dig, excavate, or otherwise damage large areas.

Damage to the site, says the indictment, has been estimated by a professional archeologist to be in excess of $300,000. According to the Osage Nation, the excavation damage to this archaeological site caused by this conspiracy greatly impacts the cultural history of the Osage Nation and affiliated tribes.

In addition to the conspiracy, Brown is charged with five felony counts of excavating, damaging, and otherwise altering and defacing archeological resources. Brown is also charged with five felony counts of injury or depredation to government property. The indictment cites 10 specific occasions on which Brown and his co-conspirators excavated the site.

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David A. Barnes and Cari Walsh. It was investigated by the National Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.