Born and raised in upstate New York, Ralph “R. E.” Burrillo moved to New Orleans at 18 to continue becoming a writer. Five years later, ready for a change, he took a seasonal job at a lodge in Glacier National Park, and ultimately spent another five years working for a series of concessionaires in wilderness destinations—including two summers living and working at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, where he discovered and fell in love with Colorado Plateau archaeology. That led to spend the next five years at Northern Arizona University, where he graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Anthropology
While in graduate school at University of Utah, Burrillo became more involved in the archaeology of the Bears Ears area, spending most of his free time there, working on the Manti-La Sal National Forest, undertaking research, and giving public presentations on the region. By 2016, he had joined in efforts to conserve Bears Ears. He was subsequently hired by a consortium of groups, including Archaeology Southwest, to help write the technical portion of a lawsuit that would ultimately be brought when an executive order drastically reduced the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument.
Together with friend and colleague Benjamin Bellorado, Burrillo edited Archaeology Southwest Magazine Vol. 32, Nos. 1 & 2, “Sacred and Threatened: The Cultural Landscapes of Greater Bears Ears.” He served again for Volume 33, Nos. 1 & 2, “Enigmatic and Endangered: Cultural and Natural Wonders of Greater Grand Staircase-Escalante.” He has written numerous blog posts, public and scholarly articles, and book chapters on the archaeology, anthropology, and history of the Colorado Plateau in the meantime. R. E.’s book about the history, archaeology, and conservation of the Bears Ears area will be published by Torrey House Press in September of 2020.
He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Utah and an Assistant Principal Investigator for SWCA Environmental Consultants.