Excerpt from Showdown at Crossfire Canyon: Getting Digs In, Part 1

 

2015 July 5 cliff dwelling at trailhead
Small Ancestral Puebloan dwelling in a side canyon at the head of Crossfire Canyon

Backstory: On 6/11/2009, in a raid dubbed “Operation Cerberus Action”, a large contingent of federal agents descended on San Juan County, Utah, and arrested several Blanding and Monticello residents for the illegal theft, selling, and trade of protected Native American antiquities. Among them was the esteemed Dr. James Redd, a longtime resident of the area. Dr. Redd was indicted, but the day following his arrest, after recording a long message to his family, he took his own life. This tragedy on top of the already shocking show of force resulted in unforeseen effects, some of which are still in play today, in the questionable prosecution of Rose Chilcoat and her husband Mark Franklin, for instance, for allegedly endangering livestock. This post expands on an earlier post titled “Getting Digs In.” The chapter has grown in length, so I’ve broken it into 3 parts.

June 13, 2009. Two days after Operation Cerberus took the town by thunderclap, and a day after Dr. James Redd committed suicide, I came up out of Crossfire and heard voices above me, near the trailhead. The town was still shaking, stunned by shock, outrage, and grief. I felt curious to see who might be coming into the canyon. I glimpsed a woman on the rocks overhead, well off the trail, turning back in response to a companion’s call. Picking up my step to intercept them, I caught up with two retirement-aged women—out-of-towners—as one helped the other over the arched rebar cattle guard at the trailhead. Something about them said, “Colorado”. They didn’t see me approaching, so I greeted them then asked where they were from. They were coy about answering, saying only they were visiting.

“You?” they asked.

I answered that I lived up the road but was not originally from the area. “Are you going to see the cliff dwelling?” I asked. There’s a two-story Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling a little off the beaten trail in the crease between the cliffs’ base and the talus slope. I thought they might be hiking in to see that.

The woman who seemed most willing to engage in conversation said, “Yes.” Then she pointed to the yellow, green and white, heavy-gauge aluminum, BLM sign posted at the trailhead announcing the canyon’s 2007 closure to off-highway vehicles. “But we really wanted to see this,” she said. Continue reading “Excerpt from Showdown at Crossfire Canyon: Getting Digs In, Part 1”

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Getting digs in: On the 6/11 SE Utah artifact raids

Saturday, June 13.   As I was coming up out of Crossfire I heard voices.   Much has happened lately in our small, southeast Utah town, so I was curious about who might be coming into the canyon.   I saw a woman on the rocks above me, well off the trail, turning back in response to a companion’s call.   Picking up my step to be sure to meet them, I  caught up with  the two retirement-aged women—out-of-towners—as one helped the other over the arched rebar cattle guard at the trailhead.   They had no idea I was there.   I greeted them then asked where they were from.   They were coy about saying, replying only that they were visiting.   €œYou? € they asked.   I answered I lived up the road but was not originally from the area.   €œAre you going to see the cliff dwellings? € I asked.   There’s a nice Ancestral Puebloan (“Anasazi”) structure at the base of the cliffs, a little off the beaten trail.   €œYes, € they said.     Then one of them pointed  to the yellow, green, and white, heavy-gauge metal, BLM sign posted at the trailhead announcing the canyon’s September 2007 closure to off-highway  vehicles (OHVs) and displaying the extent of the restricted area.

€œBut we really wanted to see this, € one said.

€œThis sign? € I said, puzzled. Continue reading “Getting digs in: On the 6/11 SE Utah artifact raids”