I’ll get to a story about a gentle Buddhist woman and her “fly pistol” in a bit, but first I need to tell you about intervening in public lands court cases.
Last week, we highlighted that the Tribes of the Bears Ears Coalition filed to intervene in the two lawsuits brought against the Biden administration’s restoration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante (GSE) national monuments in southern Utah.
Back in December 2017, just days after Bears Ears was—probably illegally—downsized to just 15 percent of its original size and GSE by nearly half, Tribes and numerous conservation groups filed suits. Archaeology Southwest joined a team of plaintiffs in one of the Bears Ears lawsuits, which is still an unresolved case. That same group also filed to intervene last week.
I’m proud of the advocacy we’ve done and continue to do on behalf of these two truly awe-inspiring national monuments—from the news and commentary we share here in Preservation Archaeology Today to two Archaeology Southwest Magazine issues, one on each monument.
It was on a visit to GSE with Kate Sarther (co-editor of this newsletter and content editor of the Magazine) and R.E. Burrillo (guest editor for those two issues of the Magazine) that I met Blake Spalding. We were in Boulder, one of the remotest communities in rural Utah, located on the far northeast edge of GSE. Population: 226.
Boulder is also home to a world-class farm-to-table restaurant, Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm. Our host in the region, Nicole Croft, then-Executive Director of Grand Staircase Escalante Partners—the Friends group that supports and promotes this magnificent national monument—brought us there for dinner. As we settled into our table for four, a friendly woman with an odd, pistol-like gizmo greeted us. It was red plastic, with a clear plastic 12-inch barrel, and it sucked. As in, it sucked flies into its barrel. The woman explained that although she wanted the flies out of the restaurant, as a Buddhist, she wanted no harm to come to them. It was catch inside and release outside.
That was my introduction to Blake, Hell’s charismatic co-owner.
She later spent almost half an hour at our table as we capped off an outstanding meal with a sumptuous dessert. She shared how she and co-owner Jen Castle had made this old house in a tiny rural village into a destination. A restaurant with a Zagat rating. Which was a James Beard Award Finalist this year.
Hers was just one of many uplifting stories we heard and experienced on our GSE field trip. After GSE was established in 1997, the Bureau of Land Management invested heavily in visitor centers and funds for archaeological and paleontological research. Outdoor recreation thrived. Hell’s Backbone Grill benefited from the national monument, and its growing reputation drew people to a very remote corner of the monument. Conservation, regional research and tourism, and regional economic development were all enhancements to a challenging environment for ranching.
The pandemic was extremely unkind to Hell’s Backbone Grill. Due to debts incurred while keeping their employees and the restaurant going through the pandemic, they have been weighing the idea of closing down. But an outpouring from friends led to the establishment of a GoFundMe Campaign. Read their story here.
I just made a donation. This is not a tax-deductible gift to a nonprofit. But I will say that this is a gift to an important element of GSE. Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm and its people are an important part of the GSE ecosystem. They can be trusted and they are worth the investment.
Thanks for considering it,
President & CEO, Archaeology Southwest
P.S. YES, I meant to say 8 BILLION, not million, last week! Clearly, Kate and I needed the holiday break that ensued. Thanks to the Friends who gently noted the error.
Banner image: Spirit Mountain (Avi Kwa Ame) approach by Stan Shebs (CC BY-SA 2.5)
Breaking: Biden to Declare Avi Kwa Ame National Monument
Two decades ago, Congress preserved the mountain—called Avi Kwa Ame (ah-VEE-kwah-may) in Mojave—and 33,000 acres around it as wilderness. Now the Biden administration is readying a proclamation that could put roughly 450,000 acres—spanning almost the entire triangle at the bottom of the Nevada map—off limits to development under the 1906 Antiquities Act. President Biden will commit on Wednesday at the White House Tribal Nations Summit to protecting the area, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision was not yet public. Dan Michalski in the Washington Post | Get the scoop »
Community in Florida Reckons with Desecrated Historic Black Cemeteries; Archaeologists Help Locate 100s of Graves Never Reburied as Was Promised; Anthropologist Documents Other Desecrated Black Cemeteries across the U.S.
Those cemeteries were sacred ground until the ground became valuable. In the 1950s, headlines announced that the city of Clearwater made a deal on moving a “Negro” cemetery. Hundreds of African American bodies were to be reburied to make way for a swimming pool. A department store was planned for the site of another Black cemetery, where again, the bodies were to be moved. But O’Neal Larkin remembers, many years later, his first revelation that something was terribly wrong. CBS 60 Minutes | Watch or read now »
Editors’ note: Please be aware that footage from the 60 Minutes episode shows human remains.
Dec. 6 Webinar: Public Archaeology in African American Communities
Please join us at 6:00 p.m. MST for a conversation with William White (University of California Berkeley). Archaeology Café (Archaeology Southwest) | More information and Zoom registration »
Continuing Coverage: Intervening in Monument Legal Battles
A coalition of conservation groups has moved to intervene in the legal battle over Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, joining tribal nations that also are challenging two lawsuits that seek to reverse the monuments’ boundaries. At issue are lawsuits the state of Utah and two of its counties filed in U.S. District Court last August in a bid to overturn the latest boundary change to the two monuments, arguing that President Biden overreached the authority given him under The Antiquities Act when he restored the monuments’ original boundaries as set by Presidents Clinton and Obama. National Parks Traveler | Read more »
Additional legal commentary by Heidi McIntosh in the Denver Post »
Threats to Chaco’s Ancient Fields
When the ancestral Puebloans lived in the Chaco Canyon area, they chose to locate their great houses in areas with high agricultural productivity, according to a new study in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. Lead author Wetherbee Dorshow said these ancient agricultural fields can be hard to identify. And encroaching oil and gas development in the region could threaten the fields. “There are a lot of areas there that have never been surveyed and we don’t know a ton about,” he said. “There’s also a lot of oil and gas in areas that are highly sensitive.” Hannah Grover in the NM Political Report | Read more »
Tell the Bureau of Land Management to Protect Chaco
The Biden Administration announced a proposal to establish a historic, 20-year ban on oil and gas leasing within a 10-mile zone around the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. With support from tribal communities, conservation partners, and our state’s Congressional delegation, we have been working for years to see this happen. Now, success is in sight! We urgently need your comments to the BLM to support the withdrawal and protect Chaco today! The deadline for comments is December 10th. New Mexico Wild | Learn more and comment now »
Return Artifacts to Tribes: Interview with Joely Proudfit
The 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act … could use greater enforcement, says Joely Proudfit, director of the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center and chair of American Indian Studies, both at California State University San Marcos. “NAGPRA has been in effect for 30 years, and it’s an important law in that it provides a pathway of human remains and funerary objects to be returned to tribes and tribal communities,” she says. “Overall, the intent of the law is a positive thing, and we support any effort to return Native American materials, items, funerary objects … back to tribes and tribal communities. … NAGPRA is a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough because all cultural items should be returned to tribal communities. If the tribe wants it back, they should have it back.” Lisa Deaderick and Joely Proudfit in the San Diego Union-Tribune | Read more »
Position Announcement: Director, Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology (Burnaby, BC)
The position, Director, Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology is a combined managerial, curatorial, and public relations role responsible for SFU’s archaeological and ethnographic collections and their presentation to the public and the University community. The Director provides vision and leadership for the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and oversees all museum programmes and operations including management of the Museum budget. The incumbent develops and implements the Museum’s five year plan in concert with that of the Department of Archaeology. Simon Fraser University | Learn more »
REMINDER: TODAY, Nov. 30 Webinar: Every Yard Boasted a Metate
With Will Stoutamire. By the late 1800s, many Hispanic and Anglo Americans in northern Arizona had begun “pothunting”—that is, playing amateur archaeologist and taking artifacts from Indigenous historic sites. Eventually, notable professional archaeologists from back east set their sights on northern Arizona, taking the region’s buried treasures back with them, often to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. To stop this flow of historic artifacts away from the region, local residents decided to open a museum in Flagstaff—the Museum of Northern Arizona—that could preserve, maintain, and display the artifacts found in the area. Arizona Historical Society and AZ Humanities | More information and free registration »
December Subscription Lectures (Santa Fe NM)
Dec. 5, Jeffrey Long, Isolation in Human Genome Evolution; Dec. 12, Hunter M. Claypatch, Decorated Pottery of the Trincheras Tradition in Northern Sonora, 400–1450 CE; Dec. 19, Dan Louie Flores, Wild New World: The Epic Story of Animals & People in America. Southwest Seminars | Learn more »
Dec. 7 In-Person Event (Coolidge AZ): Set in Stone but Not in Meaning: Southwestern Rock Art
With Allen Dart. Ancient American Indian petroglyphs (symbols carved or pecked on rocks) and pictographs (rock paintings) are claimed by some to be forms of writing for which meanings are known. But are such claims supported by archaeology or by Native Americans? Dart illustrates how petroglyph and pictograph styles changed through time and over different parts of the U.S. Southwest both before and after non-Indian peoples entered the region and discusses how even the same rock art symbol may be interpreted differently from popular, scientific, and modern Native American perspectives. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument | Learn more »
Dec. 8 In-Person Event (near Taos NM): Archaeological Recording on Mesa Prieta Completed in 2021
With Candie Borduin. The most spectacular, well-made, unique, well-documented selections of petroglyphs and other archaeological features are featured in this presentation. This is a rare opportunity to see images on several parcels of private land that are not seen by the general public. Candie has volunteered with MPPP since 2002 and has served as Petroglyph Recording Trainer and Coordinator since 2008. Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project | Learn more »
Video of the talk will be subsequently posted to MPPP’s YouTube channel »
May we recommend…
As the world falters, threatening native ecosystems and Indigenous lifeways, acclaimed Australian Aboriginal author Alexis Wright turns inward to the dwelling place of ancestral story. From here, she considers how her ancient culture has responded to ongoing destruction—and how to bear witness to the creation of a post-apocalyptic world. Alexis Wright in Emergence Magazine | Read now »
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