The Utah Court of Appeals has decided that state law does not protect Anasazi graves. In late February, the court upheld a state judge's dismissal of felony charges against Jeanne and James Redd, a Blanding, Utah, couple who were accused of desecrating a Native American burial site while pot hunting.
"I am appalled the judges would rule
this way," says Forrest Cuch, director of the Utah Division of
Indian Affairs and a member of the Ute tribe. He adds that the
decision "confirms the perception that our state is very backward
with its views of American Indians."
couple's preliminary hearing in San Juan County last March,
District Judge Lyle Anderson dismissed the felony charges,
questioning whether pieces of bone actually constituted a "dead
human body" under the law.
The Utah attorney
general's office appealed Anderson's ruling, calling the
interpretation "unworkable and racist." But the Appeals Court
sidestepped the question of whether the bones were actually human
remains, and instead upheld the ruling because the human bones were
found in a midden instead of "a recognized place of final repose."
Kevin Jones, state archaeologist for the Utah
Division of History, says the court "declined to take notice that
midden areas are known Anasazi burial sites, reasoning that since
middens are areas where refuse or garbage is piled, they must not
be sacred burial sites. It's a very ethnocentric and shoddily
The attorney general's
office has filed a petition for a rehearing. It may also refile
criminal charges against the Redds or ask the state Supreme Court
to hear the case.