Tuesday, June 16, 2009

don't twig out: the creepy connection between pot hunters & meth

Ever hear of a "twigger"? Yeah, neither had I, until I read this aptly-titled article ("Drugs, Guns and Dirt") in the March/April issue of Archaeology Magazine. Wow. Twiggers: methamphetamine users (often called "tweakers") who apply the drug's obsessive-compulsive drive to search methodically through archaeological sites, loot them thoroughly, then sell their illegally-gained finds on the black market to get more money to supply them with their meth habit.

Unreal, no?

And of course, in the process these addicts are destroying the history and culture of the areas they loot, because they aren't exactly doing it in a way that preserves provenance.

Other articles contribute to the details of this exploding "trade:" here, here, here, and this most recent SL Tribune article.

You might be tempted to think this is small potatoes. Nuh-uh. The illegal antiquities trade (on a worldwide scale, although U.S. Southwest native american artifacts are a huge leader) has been estimated to be in the Billions of dollars--right behind drug smuggling and the illegal arms trade. Yikes, no?

I reported the other day on a big bust right here in Southern Utah. Well, that plot has thickened considerably, and all sorts of people are upset now. It seems that some of the local Blanding residents object to having their names "tarnished"; our very open-minded (she says with a curled lip of distaste) Utah senators are crying foul on Interior Secretary Salazar's harsh crack-down; and at least one accused Blanding resident has apparently committed suicide due to his arrest.


The whole situation is sad, to be sure. Law-breaking, disregard for history, for an entire country's right to enjoy its treasures, the loss of life, the bs and the lies...

But I whole-heartedly agree with the federal process. Those locals of Blanding, UT, who willfully broke the law need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They do not need to be bailed out. They need to take responsibility for their illegal actions--forced to take it, if need be. Hello, it's called The Antiquities Act of 1906 (yes, that would be 1906, not 2006 for those out there who would like the twist the law to suit themselves), and it says it's ILLEGAL to take ancient human artifacts out of the ground unless you are permitted to do so! And yet many Blanding residents (as well as others throughout the world) justify their actions with the statement, "But I always did it as a kid, it wasn't illegal then." Perhaps not, if you are at least 115 years old.


I live in rural Utah. I come face-to-face with ignorant attitudes toward our country's government on a regular basis. Trust me, the people who have gotten away with their "we hate and don't need the federal government" drama for years need to ante up and recognize that if they don't like it, they can darn well move somewhere else. Such as Siberia. Or maybe, just maybe, they could get themselves educated and caring and start protecting the rich archaeological treasures near their homes.


Okay. Off my rant. And remember not to twig.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Peek-A-Boo & Spooky

No, it's neither a child's game nor time for Halloween. Rather, it's two great little slot canyons, the classic beginner ones that everyone who wants to hike a slot canyon should do. I first hiked them about six years ago, and yesterday had the privilege of taking a friend who had never in her life been in a slot canyon! Lookie here for some of what we experienced:

Yes, ooh & aah. That one is inside Peek-A-Boo.

Let me note that these slot canyons, plus another one called Brimstone, are located near Escalante, Utah, 28 miles down the v-e-r-y- j-a-r-r-i-n-g Hole-in-the-Rock Road (seriously, the washboards were terrible). It's recommended you have 4WD and definitely high-clearance. Since there was a recent New York Times article about Escalante (which features a great pic of Peek-A-Boo), the crowds had stampeded to the area. We saw probably no less than 60 freakin' people on our hike, and it made our experience in Spooky less than desirable, as we had to squeeze back into the rocks to let herds of Boy Scouts pass, and felt rushed when we heard people coming up right behind us in the there-is-no-physical-way-possible-that-you-can-pass-anther-human-being slot.

But I digress. Just look at these pics, and marvel more:

This was our Chaco-clad feet covered in the STINKY muck leftover from recent storms that we had to climb through in order to get up into Peek-A-Boo!

This is other people descending what we climbed UP into when first getting into Peek-A-Boo. Are you now properly impressed with our prowess? Let me tell you, it took forever to get in, because our feet kept slipping on the wet mud. Note: don't try this going up (when wet) unless you're really sure of yourself or use ropes. It could be really dangerous. You didn't hear me tell you to do it!

This is looking down into Peek-A-Boo. I climbed up on top and snapped this to demonstrate how deep in the womb of mama Earth we were.

Spooky. Yes, this is what you have to go through. You truly cannot be wider than about a foot in some areas. People who are, ah, well-nourished, should not attempt this slot canyon. Nor if you have claustrophobia, nor if you are athletically challenged--you often have to climb up, down, over, or all three, the rocks that get caught in a slot, which are called chockstones.

Me sneakin' through Spooky. See? Narrow! And so, so fun.

Southern Utah. Land of the natural cathedrals, sublime beauty, amazing forces of nature demonstrated right before our eyes. Oh, how I love it....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pot hunting. Yeah, it doesn't pay.

I firmly, albeit sadly, believe that greed will always be a part of the human condition. I suppose that's not all bad...it leads to lessons, no? But it sure as hell is disappointing most of the time. Take this SLTrib article about looters of ancient artifacts in southeastern Utah. It's a big bust, and it just went down. Hoo-rah!

It's aggravating. Annoying. And yet...I feel the oddest little tickles of greed myself, despite all my high-minded (and genuine) ideas about sharing and not doing The Wrong Thing. I'd like to see ancient treasures myself. Up close and personal. In situ, actually. All by myself. Now, I don't want to take them. Heck, no. As I've mentioned before, I have too much respect for a) ancient spirits casting a disapproving eye upon such activity, b) the rights of citizens to be able to enjoy the protected wonders of their country, and c) the laws of the land. In that order, too, I might add. But I do want to see them, admire and enjoy them all by myself. Frankly, I'd really like to see the "pre-Columbian menstrual pad." I mean, come on! How interesting would that be? A great reminder that no, Virginia, contemporary humans did not, in fact, invent the wheel. They just like to pretend they did.

Is that sort of drive, this really deep interest, at the root of this sort of greed? Or do the looters really just want to pay their rent, put braces on Janie, and don't give a fig how they get that money? I wonder.

I'd also like to note that this went down in Blanding, Utah. What a shocker! Blanding has been ground zero for looting over many decades--since the 19th century, really, when white folks discovered that those back Easterners would pay top dolla for real live Injun artifacts. Families in Blanding have been raised around the concept of looting. As if it's The Right Thing. Some members of one family in particular have been involved in pot hunting for a long time.

Grr. And at the same time, HA. You got caught. Now, stop teaching your kids that this is the Right Thing to do. Because it is not. End of story.

Anyhoo. Your southern Utah news for the day. Pot hunting: you can do it if you want, but eventually you'll lose. Especially if you're taking things from the land that by all rights belong to every citizen...not just you and your freakin' greedy little fingers.