A museum worker who tried wearing Native American artifacts and then stole them faces up to 10 years in jail.
Preston Jay Spotted Eagle, 31, from Browning, pleaded guilty to stealing culturally significant artifacts including a grizzly bear necklace, moccasins and golden eagle feathers, from the Museum of the Plains Indian in Montana.
The government alleged in court documents that the thefts occurred between May and August 2021.
Preston was working as an aide last summer when The Indian Arts and Crafts Board, who with the U.S. Department of the Interior, run the museum noticed a bear claw necklace missing from the displays.
The museum curator assumed Preston had removed the necklace because she had given him a job to do.
But when asked about where the necklace had disappeared to, Preston told the curator he had no idea who took it or what happened to it.
But when she said she was going to look at the CCTV, Preston said she didn't need to and tried to get her not to look.
However, CCTV footage from the museum showed he had tampered with the necklace and it was found hidden under some paperwork heavily damaged the following day.
A further investigation found a pair of moccasins and about two dozen eagle feathers from a headdress were also missing.
CCTV footage inside the museum shows Preston riffling through the draws looking at the moccasins as he removed a pair and compared it to his own shoe size.
A pair of moccasins were stolen by Preston which he took home.
Preston had decided to remove the artifacts which were "very old and delicate” as he took pictures of them on his phone and tried them on.
He also rummaged through many sacred bundles and caused damage to the historic items.
Four loose bear claws were taken from a collection room drawer and 26 golden eagle feathers from a war bonnet.
The damage to the other artifacts estimated to have cost thousands of dollars.
The vandalism to the grizzly bear necklace resulted in a $1,200 loss of value.
In addition, the market value of the moccasins and four claws together was $1,150 and the replacement value was $2,150 (£1,990).
However, the government said it was “impossible to put a monetary amount on the items, which are unique and culturally significant to the Blackfeet Tribe”.
The museum, which was opened in 1941, is open to the public and “displays richly varied arts of Northern Plains Tribal peoples”, according to its website.
He has pleaded guilty to theft of government property and will be sentenced on February 8, 2023.
Preston faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years of a $250,000 fine (£218k).