Monday, September 12, 2011

Hunterbear: Notes on Endangered Native Burials in the Florida Everglades; Way Back When -- Jackson, Mississippi and Civil Rights

Blog post by Hunter Bear

(Publisher's note: Hunterbear is a noted civil rights veteran, a university professor, and author.)

Earlier today I posted on the endangered Native burials in the Florida Everglades.

Sam Friedman writes:

It is hard to find words for such behavior. Attack, oppress and steal from people when they are alive, then desecrate their remains.

Not surprising, but still disgusting.

And my response:

You're right, Sam. And this situation is found across much of the United States. It's particularly prevalent in the Southwest where, in addition to such matters as construction in roads, buildings, and gas lines which can pose problem for burials, there is also a good deal of digging and looting of ancient graves for pots and crafts and sometimes presumed [but non-existent] gold and silver. Relatively recent laws, Federal and some state, are difficult to enforce in rugged back country -- even when there's some official motivation to enforce.

Not far northeastward from Flagstaff and in the lower elevated cedar country and related stretches into the very vast Navajo country, one can find hundreds of ancient Anasazi ruins around 800 years old. Those "old ones", ancestors of the contemporary Hopi, buried their dead to the south and east of their rock building structures. The latter crumbled over the centuries but the ruins and the burials remained, of course, and have been systematically pillaged by Anglo grave robbers for many, many decades. It's not unusual to find scattered skeletal remains along with the broken pieces of clay pots and other artifacts. It's also almost impossible to find a "ruin" in that region that hasn't had its burial area torn up.

In my long several days trek down vast and deep Sycamore Canyon southwest of Flagstaff in 1955, [a repeat journey is not totally out of the question by any means], I found some quite intact Native cliff dwellings in side canyons not far "up" from Sycamore Creek. I'd never reveal the location of those to anyone, anymore than I'd reveal the location of what I'm certain are the last surviving Grizzlies in that super rugged setting and in Arizona itself -- or the location of fairly rich gold bearing quartz that I spotted when the Canyon dropped down into the heavily mineralized Great Verde Fault. All of that's pretty safe -- I know of no one else who has ever done that long trek and systematic exploration. (The minerals would now be safe in any case since the eventual Wilderness Act covers Sycamore and prohibits any mining.)

The Navajo avoid anything relating to the old ruins in their vast reservation -- bigger than the state of West Virginia -- north and northeastward of Flagstaff and into Utah and New Mexico and a bit of Colorado. I've posted this before long ago but it says that pretty well:


Note by Hunter Bear:

This is simply another of virtually countless indications that the Native
nations and cultures have their own unique, deeply rooted and primary
identities. Many Anglos understand and respect this -- but many still do

Concern about DNA tests and related matters is broadly held in Indian
Country. This news story from the Salt Lake Trib quotes a Paiute's view:
"Among Brewster's own Northern Paiute tribe, he said, "We're not even
supposed to go near burials . . . the whole idea of disturbing a burial is
serious business."

This concern, for example, is extremely and very, very widely pronounced
among the Dine' [Navajo] where the Chindee [a powerful taboo] mandates
avoidance of the dead and all things directly related thereto. Violation of
Chindee requires extensive cleansing and harmony-restoring ceremonies by
Navajo medicine men -- who train rigorously for about 17 years before they
are considered full-fledged practitioners in the totally interrelated and
pervasively blended spheres of spirit, body, and Cosmos.

Our own family's ties with the Navajo are extremely close in the deepest and
most personal sense. When hunting -- say, at various points from
north/northeast and east of Flagstaff up and away into vast Navajoland -- no
Navajo I have ever been with or known would even go close to one of the many
hundreds of old [around 800 years old] Anasazi ruins whose burial grounds
are always just to the east and south of these ancient pre-Hopi villages.

The late Ned A. Hatathli [Hatathali] [1923-1972], who came from a very
traditional Navajo sheep-herding family near Coalmine Mesa, was one of my
father's top art students ever at Arizona State College, Flagstaff -- having
come there on the GI Bill via World War II. Some many years later, at the
end of the '60s, Ned played the key role in founding and launching Navajo
Community College [now Dine' College] -- the very first of the now many
Indian-controlled tribal colleges. He was NCC's first president. Far more
than all of those major dimensions, however, Ned Hatathli was a very close
family friend throughout his life. And he was someone who would often take
me deer hunting when I was a kid still without a vehicle. He used a
conventional 30/30 Winchester Model 94 lever action -- and I had an ancient
Winchester 1892 44/40 lever action which had served a venerable Basque
sheep-herder very well for decades. The jutting edge of its steel
saddle-ring-holder was worn down from an already long, long life in a tough
leather saddle scabbard. And when I got that good old rifle -- my first ever
for big game -- I was even given some black powder cartridges, but I
generally used the smokeless powder ones.

I remember an interesting -- but for me quite unsurprising -- scene where,
in the eastern edge of the Cinder Hills [a major volcanic region mostly just
east and north of Flagstaff, going back to upheavals around 1065 A.D. which
also involved the super-high and very spectacular San Francisco Peaks
immediately north of town], Ned and I spotted a very large buck mule deer.
It was difficult to get a clear shot in the cedars that were around it. As
we moved stealthily and hopefully toward it, the deer's keen senses jerked
it to attention. Aware of something, but not sure where we were, it
retreated slowly into some heavier cedars. We followed, very slowly, very

And then -- shrewdly, coincidentally, or psychically -- The Quarry was going
literally into the midst of a large and obvious Anasazi ruin: several large
piles of rocks partially covered with cinders and sand and sage. Even from
some distance, we could see some broken pieces of pottery sprinkled
about --shining in the bright sun.

As one, Ned and I stopped, turned -- and went on to other game trails. Big
Buck could not have been safer.

Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

Our Lair of Hunterbear website is now almost 12 years old. It
contains a great deal of primary, first-hand material on Native
Americans, Civil Rights Movement, union labor, and organizing
techniques -- and much more. Check it out and its vast number
of component pieces. The front page itself -- the initial cover
page -- has about 36 representative links.

See - A Few Basic Pieces in our Jackson Movement
"Scrapbook". Three consecutive web pages beginning with

And see this on the new, expanded and updated edition of my book,
Jackson Mississippi -- the classic and fully detailed account of
the historic and bloody Jackson Movement of almost 50 years ago:

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