Recreational Use Of Sacred Sites Damaging to Spirituality

July 21, 2009

Author: Victor Morales

Source: Indian Country Today

Randy Luden scaled a mountain of boulders etched with dozens of petroglyphs that could be thousands of years old, hoping to get as close as possible to the records of a past civilization. The Las Vegas man didn’t think he was damaging the representations made by descendants of Mojave Indians because he was careful and wore soft shoes.

That was of no consolation to two Mojaves watching from afar.

“Oh no; he shouldn’t be doing that,” said Paul Jackson Jr., a tribal artist for the Fort Mojave Reservation.

As Luden approached the Indians, Linda Otero, a Fort Mojave council woman, told him he shouldn’t have climbed on top of the glyphs because they were holy.

“But how else am I going to get the full interpretation,” Luden responded.

Otero, in so many words, said he couldn’t.

“Treat them as you would other ancient sites in Europe. You just can’t go in their hall or records and touch their scrolls. They have guards and fences to block you, they are protected.”

At the end of the conversation, Luden apologized. Otero accepted.

Indians living in the vast Mojave Desert are increasingly vexing what they say are an onslaught of “Indiana Jones” types and lawless recreationists that are disturbing, damaging and even vandalizing sacred sites and breaching reservations. The 25,000-square-mile desert is the traditional home to half a dozen Indian tribes along the lower Colorado River that straddles the state lines of California, Arizona and Nevada.

“It’s a major issue for all of us along the river,” Otero said.

Indians say vandals, increasingly directed by Web sites and books, litter the sensitive sites with beer bottles and evidence of made up rituals. Off road vehicles leave a trail of destruction with tire marks across ancient geoglyphs and breach reservations.