Forty million dollars. That's what the ancient Indian ruins mean to the southwestern Colorado economy every year in tourism dollars, salaries and related goods and services.
"A lot of people from all sides of the political spectrum are taking notice of those kinds of numbers," said state archaeologist David Madsen.Gov. Norm Bangerter is one. Along with the Utah director of the Bureau of Land Management, the director of the Division of State Lands and several other state land and resource managers, Bangerter is touring southwestern Colorado sites to see how to better manage Utah's prehistoric heritage.
Utah has done least promotion
All of the Four Corner states are rich in prehistoric Indian ruins, but Utah has done the least to promote or protect its resources.
"For some reason we have this provincial attitude that our stuff isn't as good as as what they have in Colorado or New Mexico," Madsen said. "But Utah has world-class sites. It's the only place in the world where you can see some of this stuff, and people do come from all over the world to see it."
But it's a drop in the bucket compared to what Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico have done. All three states are actively promoting and protecting their Indian ruins, as well as promoting education and ethics.
Vandalism, lawsuits, sales
Utah, meanwhile, has been embroiled in controversies concerning the sale of state lands that contain ruins, chronic vandalism and destruction of sites by big business. Most recently, the Utah Professional Archaeological Council sued the Division of State Lands over what it says is mismanagement of such resources on state lands.
"Recent events have highlighted the need for all of us to be more aware of these resources and gain a better understanding of what needs to be done to protect and highlight them," said Bud Scruggs, Bangerter's chief of staff.
"The purpose of this trip is find out how to preserve and share them. The tourism factor is equal with the desire to preserve what we have. But this may be one of those instances where tourism may be the key to preservation. Tourism may actually provide resources toward preservation."
Need to coordinate with agencies
Archaeologists throughout Utah say the governor's newfound interest in archaeology is both welcome and sincere. And all have, over the years, cited the need for Utah government to work with the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and other states to promote resources cooperatively.
Madsen says Utah has many archaeological sites that have been developed for the public, but little has been done to coordinate Utah sites with those in other areas. Rather than a lot of "new" parks, Utah needs to better develop facilities at the ones it has and better direct people from one site to the next. And not just Utah sites, but those in other states.
"It seems like we have a lot of sites for people to visit, but every one is going off in different directions. No one is working together," Madsen said.
Last year the governors of Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico - Bangerter sent Lt. Gov. Val Oveson - met in Dolores, Colo. to plan strategy on how to promote and preserve their prehistoric heritage - something all acknowledged is an economic and cultural windfall to communities in the Southwest.
Millions visit Four Corners
Millions of people visit the Four Corners area every year, most of them to visit ruins of the Anasazi - a prehistoric Pueblo people who built spectacular dwellings on cliff faces before abandoning the area about 1300 A.D.
Colorado is best known for sites like Mesa Verde National Park, New Mexico for Chaco Canyon and Arizona for sites like Betatakin, Canyon de Chelley and Kiet Siel.
Utah's best site largely unknown
Utah's largest developed site, Hovenweep National Monument, goes largely unpromoted and mostly ignored.
"What we have in Utah are a whole bunch of really neat archaeological sites in absolutely spectacular canyon country settings," Madsen crowed. "Once people find out what's here, they will go crazy over Utah. But they don't know what's here and we haven't done a very good job of telling them."
Some prefer secrecy
Promoting archaeology among the public is a sticky issue with some archaeologists, many of whom believe the best way to protect sites is to keep them secret from the public. Madsen used to share that view.
He changed his mind a couple years back after watching spectacular tower ruins at Mule Canyon in San Juan County be slowly destroyed, despite the fact their presence was kept virtually secret from the public.
"It was sickening. I realized then if the public could see the kind of damage I was seeing, they too would be outraged. And then maybe something would be done to protect the site," Madsen said.
With visitors must come protection
But Madsen is likewise cautious. With any program to promote public visitation to archaeological sites there must come a commitment to manage and protect the site for future generations. That's where other states far surpass Utah.
Others states are spending millions of dollars to promote archaeological activities and develop archaeological activities, including organizations specifically offering educational vacations where people can participate in archaeological or paleontological digs.
Comparatively, such organizations are still in their infancy in Utah. White Mesa Institute in Blanding has a limited program, as does the Canyonlands Field Institute and the Utah Museum of Natural History.
Once people in rural Utah catch the vision of what these resources can mean economically, related problems of preservation and protection will take care of themselves.
"We will learn to better protect our resources once people learn to appreciate them," Madsen said. "And once the people in those areas realize this is good for their economic well being, for their children's well being, then the vandalism will stop. People protect things that are in their personal best interests."
Archaeology Week activities
Saturday, April 6
- An open house is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Museum of Natural History on the University of Utah campus. Demonstrations will be held of Indian crafts, including Shoshoni bead work; Navajo quill work, pottery, jewelry, weaving and silversmithing; flintknapping; and cordage. Indian dancing, singing, drumming and children's activities are scheduled. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children under 12.
- Dr. Eldon Dorman will speak at Fremont Indian State Park about San Rafael area rock art.
- Bicycle tours of Fremont Indian State Park will be offered at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., a Navajo taco lunch, afternoon games for children, and a 7 p.m. lecture on San Rafael area rock art by Dr. J. Eldon Dorman in the auditorium at the state park.
Monday, April 8
- Archaeologist Jesse Jennings returns to Utah for a lecture on "Utah Archaeology - Then and Now" at 7:30 p.m. at the Social and Behavioral Science Auditorium on the U. campus. There is a $3 admission fee to be matched by the Utah Endowment for the Humanities.
Friday, April 12
- Dennis G. Weder will demonstrate ancient methods of Fremont and Anasazi pottery construction, including gathering and washing of clay and sand temper, coiling the pottery, etc. The demonstration will last from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Stewart Auditorium on the U. campus.
Saturday, April 13
- A bus tour featuring Brigham Young University historian Don Southworth will leave the Richfield BLM parking lot at 8 a.m. The tour will highlight Clear Creek Canyon, Cove Fort, Territorial Statehouse and the Dominguez-Escalante Trail. There is a $25 fee that includes transportation and a sack lunch.
- At 7 p.m., the Quality Inn Convention Center in Richfield will feature a lecture by Dr. Ted Warner of BYU on the "Dominguez-Escalante Expedition of 1776." A catered prime rib buffett will be offered for $7.50 a plate. Those wanting both the tour and the dinner, the total price is $30.
Reservations are required for both the bus tour and the dinner. They can be made through Fremont Indian State Park, 527-4631.