Sign thieves strike 20 Mile Museum, Donner Summit Historical Society |

Sign thieves strike 20 Mile Museum, Donner Summit Historical Society

Youngsters pose next to the sign detailing petroglyphs near the Donner Summit Bridge. The sign was stolen roughly a week after it was brought out of winter storage.
Courtesy of Donner Summit Historical Society

In a bid to help the local economy while providing historical context for many sites in the area, the Donner Summit Historical Society has spent nearly a decade erecting interpretive signs, mostly along Old Highway 40 between Truckee and Auburn.

Recently a pair of signs detailing Native American Historical sites — one near Donner Summit Bridge and the other in Summit Valley — have been stolen by what the society has called “anti-history thieves.”

“The two that were stolen this year, one was for the petroglyphs down below Donner Summit Bridge, and the other one was for the Native American grinding rocks … that’s the second year in a row that one has been stolen,” said Donner Summit Historical Society Vice President Bill Oudegeest. “This year we lost both of the Native American ones.”

There are 47 signs as part of the 20 Mile Museum, according to Oudegeest, with each costing roughly $700. The stolen signs, which give a story about the site, list things to do, and show locations on a map, will have to be remanufactured — a process that takes several months.

“We started placing those signs eight or nine years ago,” Oudegeest said. “People come by, they see the history of the spot, there’s a story on each one, and there’s a list of things to do.”

With it being the second straight year the sign detailing a Native American grinding rock site, and third overall Native American sign stolen, Oudegeest said he believes a misguided individual or individuals are attempting to preserve Native American Heritage by removing the signs.

“Clearly you’ve got a few people who don’t want anybody else to see what they know about, and that’s worthy of public debate,” Oudegeest said. “Whoever is doing it is trying to inject their own politics into something the community likes … maybe there’s somebody in town who knows something.”

The fact that the Truckee third and fourth graders had put together the petroglyph sign, added insult to injury for the historical society. That sign disappeared about a week after being put up following its storage for the winter months.

“It’s sad because the signs are expensive, the Donner Summit Historical Society is small without many resources, and the signs and their heavy steel stands take a lot of time to make,” said Oudegeest in the society’s monthly newsletter.

The sturdy metal frames supporting the stolen signs were also stolen.

“I don’t know what is going on,” said Oudegeest. “We’ve got a popular tourist attraction that somebody doesn’t like, but it’s a particular part of it that they don’t like because there are 45 others they could take that would be even easier to get to.”

Each of the 20 Mile Museum signs have been sponsored by a community member or community organization. If individuals have information in regard to the stolen signs contact the historical society at

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at

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