Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Bears Ears in Southeastern Utah Is the Most Vulnerable Archaeological Area in the Country and Should Be Protected as a National Monument
Press Release

RELEASE: Bears Ears in Southeastern Utah Is the Most Vulnerable Archaeological Area in the Country and Should Be Protected as a National Monument

Washington, D.C. — The Bears Ears Native American cultural area in southeastern Utah is the U.S. hotbed for looting, vandalism, and grave robbing of archaeological sites. The Center for American Progress has released a column calling on the Obama administration to protect this area as a national monument.

It is estimated that since 2011, the Bears Ears cultural area has been victim to at least 50 instances of looting, vandalism, or grave robbing. The area, which is part of the most archaeologically dense region in the country, is particularly vulnerable to criminal activity because it is not adequately protected under national conservation laws.

“The Bears Ears area of Utah is one of the most vulnerable Native American heritage sites in the country,” said Jenny Rowland, a Research and Advocacy Associate at CAP and author of the column. “Important burial sites have been desecrated and vandalized, and sacred artifacts have been looted and sold. The tribes that make up the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition have called on Congress and the president to preserve this land and combat these vile acts. Now is the time to do just that.”

Here are a few examples of desecration and looting that have taken place over the past five years:

  • In 2012, campers tore down a 19th-century Navajo hogan for use as firewood.
  • In 2013, looters desecrated a burial site in Butler Wash.
  • In 2014, a 2,000-year-old pictograph site in Grand Gulch was vandalized.
  • In 2015, three remote burial sites in Cedar Mesa were dug up and looted. A separate burial site was dug up in Reef Basin.
  • In 2015, prehistoric walls were torn down at the Monarch Cave and Double Stack Ruins on Comb Ridge.

Click here to read the column.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at tcaiazza@americanprogress.org or 202.481.7141.

###