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2 men charged with Native American art exhibit theft

Posted at 2:48 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 15:48:13-05

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Two University of Kansas students have been charged with stealing part of a Native American art exhibit that also was vandalized while displayed outside a campus museum.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Samuel McKnight and John Wichlenski were charged Wednesday in Douglas County District Court with theft of property of a value of at least $1,500 but less than $25,000.

The exhibit, titled "Native Hosts," by artist Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, is installed outside the Spencer Museum of Art.

It consists of five aluminum signs that name Native tribes who historically or currently inhabit the region now called Kansas. On each sign, the colonial name is printed backward while the name of the land's original occupants is printed forward.

Charging documents filed against McKnight and Wichlenski say the artwork heist happened around Sept. 29. The stolen panel was recovered the next day, officials said previously.

The theft happened more than three weeks after two unidentified people damaged four of the pieces. The vandalism forced officials to take down the exhibit for repairs before reinstalling it. No one has been charged in the vandalism.