USA, vandals deface ancient rock carvings with racist writing

In Moab (Utah, U.S.), a site with ancient rock carvings of Native peoples have been defaced with racist inscriptions praising white supremacy.

Some ancient rock carvings of Native peoples have been defaced by vandals with racist inscriptions praising white supremacy: it happened in Moab, a town in Utah (United States), and the damage in particular involved Birthing Rock, a rock well known in the area precisely because it was decorated by Native people with drawings and graffiti from different eras, made by the Pueblo peoples (0-1275 A.D.C.), Fremont (450-1250), and Ute (1200-1880). Reporting the news, which was immediately picked up by several news outlets, was local station KSL News Radio last April 27. And to notice the damage was reportedly, last Monday, a tour guide who was taking a group to the site. A number of vulgar inscriptions and a “White Power,” the slogan of white supremacists, were traced on the ancient carvings. Two other of the four sides of the rock with ancient engravings were also damaged.

The local press reports that the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s land management agency, has ordered a ranger to guard the rock, which will also serve to make sure that archaeologists can work to estimate the extent of the damage done to Birthing Rock, so named because of its designs that seem to allude to the celebration of birth and creation. The defacement thus takes on an even more odious significance since, anthropologist Angelo Baca tells Smithsonian Magazine, it appears to be an act perpetrated against native women.

The site is protected only by a fence, and the vandals simply had to climb over it to carry out their act. Birthing Rock, in addition to being a “unique, ancient witness that cannot be replaced” (so said Mary McGann, councilwoman for Grand County, of which Moab is the county seat), is also an important economic source for the area, as many tourists travel specifically to Moab to see the Native carvings, but it is precisely the growth of tourism that is something of a special watchdog. “It’s devastating, heartbreaking and horrific,” McGann told KSL News Radio. “Vandalism has grown exponentially with the growth of visitors. The county board is working really hard and the Moab City Council is doing the same to try to find ways to improve the behavior of tourists and people visiting the county.”

The problem, however, is that these sites are located on a vast territory, in the middle of the desert, among towns inhabited by only a few thousand people, so it is impossible to constantly monitor the whole area. What would be needed, according to McGann, is, if anything, the commitment of the entire population “to put an end to these destructive episodes, otherwise we will have to do something dramatic and that nobody wants, and that is to close the areas and not allow people to approach, but we don’t want that. We want people to love and appreciate them just as much as we do. But if we can’t protect them, that’s the only solution.”

The one in Moab, Smithsonian Magazine recalls, is in fact not an isolated incident: other native sites have been damaged in recent times. It has happened in Oregon, Georgia, and even Utah itself. Sometimes they are also accidents: for example, also in Moab, last March a rock climber from Colorado, in climbing a rock face, damaged some native inscriptions on the boulders.

USA, vandals deface ancient rock carvings with racist writing
USA, vandals deface ancient rock carvings with racist writing

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