July 9, 2009

Artifacts theft or ‘treasure hunts?’

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Denver Post columnist Tina Griego has an interesting take this morning on the Utah case involving the theft of massive amounts of Native American artifacts that resulted in the suicide of two of the accused, and the guilty pleas this week of two others. Griego explores claims that the thefts were traditional “treasure hunts” that area residents have engaged in for years, and that federal agents were “heavy handed.” As a child growing up in New Mexico, she recalls finding potsherds in the ground. But the Four Corners case was different, she writes.

“When I found a broken piece of painted clay poking up from the ground, it was as if history had extended to me an invitation: Sit down. Let me tell you a story of the people who came before you. In my imagination, I believed the earth that cradled the pottery, the earth from which that bowl or cup was made, spoke to me. Told me secrets.

“So, yeah, tradition. But we’re not talking here about a few pieces of pottery someone found while irrigating the alfalfa field. These defendants, diggers, sellers, buyers, are accused of stealing  ancient artifacts, of desecrating burial sites, on land they had no business raiding.”

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