Where does archaeology end and grave robbing begin?
Don't ask that question in Blanding, Utah.
The town has been the focal point for a federal investigation into the buying and selling of Navajo artifacts taken off of public lands. Several locals were arrested, but more to the point, the investigation has revealed a casual disrespect for American Indian culture.
Collecting arrowheads found buried in your back yard is one thing. The article that ran in The Daily Times this Sunday described intolerable behavior such as disrespecting remains and using ancient pottery for target practice. Many of those interviewed seemed indignant, even outraged, over the federal attention. This only goes to show how much of an attitude adjustment many people need.
These artifacts were lovingly placed in ancient graves by mourners who would not seem out of place at a modern-day funeral. When they are then sold for profit, or destroyed for entertainment, a line is crossed.
We have followed the related investigation in Utah and throughout the Four Corners region with much interest, as it serves to teach a lesson to all of us who live on the outskirts of the Navajo Nation.
Such inconsiderate action as vandalism and grave-robbing only seeks to divide us at a time when unity is important.
What's past is prologue. It cannot be denied that the Navajo and other tribes were living in this area for hundreds of years before European settlers moved in, and the graves of their ancestors deserve the same respect as any memorial.
It's not enough to take something created by another culture and understand its value as an objective work of art. The value the culture places upon the object must be taken into account as well.
The law takes this into account, and someone in Blanding broke the law.
It's time to face the music.