Fire Spreads to Sacred Land

July 30, 2000

Source: The Denver Rocky Mountain News

On July 30, 2000, The Denver Rocky Mountain News reported that some Native Americans believe a recent wildfire to be the result of the spirits taking revenge. "Deer and elk sensed the wrath of spirits deep in the Earth, fleeing Mesa Verde National Park before a wildfire raced through the heart of the nation's largest archaeological preserve...From quietly watching and listening to natural signs, other Indians believe the fire was predestined. They believe spirits have controlled the fight to put out the blaze, regardless of firefighters' high-tech radios and helicopters...When the ashes cool, federal archaeologists will scour the charred acres for new clues to the ancient people who inhabited the cliff dwellings 1,400 year ago...But Indian firefighters cut through the scientific procedures. They rebury bones and pottery shards unearthed by the fire in knowing disregard of the Native American Grave Repatriation Act, with its bureaucratic procedures for claiming and reinterring remains...'We gave an offering to the four directions and the spirits. Then we reburied the bones, and we didn't tell the archaeologists,' said Dodger Chasing Hawk, another firefighter from the Rosebud Reservation. 'All these artifacts should be left in the ground, where they have been undisturbed for hundreds of years,'" he said. "They don't need to be sitting in some museum."