By Nancy Lofholm
But this year, the festivities had an angry edge.
Mayor Toni Turk opened with a prayer that included beseeching God to keep Blanding citizens free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The annual melodrama incorporated lyrics about recent raids and seizures of ancient artifacts from Blanding homes. "Legalize Pot" T-shirts, emblazoned with images of ancient ceramic pots, sold out quickly.
Blanding is in an uncharacteristic uproar because the Ancestral Puebloan artifacts that abundantly litter this area—and which have been collected by generations of residents—have become the stuff of nightmares.
The 1906 Antiquities Law attempted to preserve such ruins by putting protections on artifact-strewn public lands, but there are many reasons the anti-looting laws had little impact. Blanding residents say their ancestors were paid by museums to find artifacts.
Ted Black said his mother's family used the abundant ancient pottery as its dishware. He said practically every home in Blanding now has china-hutch and mantle displays of artifacts, many of them handed down and others collected during the common practice of Sunday after-church "treasure hunt" outings.
"I'm proud of my little collection," said Blanding resident Wendy Bunting, who still goes out looking for surface pottery pieces and arrowheads.
There are glimmers that the message is getting out. Boy Scouts who hold an annual summer camp in Blanding traditionally have dug up planted artifacts to earn their archeology merit badges. Camp director Jed Tate nixed that practice a week after the raids. The Scouts instead gathered in the museum with archeologists to learn about identifying, cataloguing and dating artifacts.
For more on the subject, see Republican Hypocrisy on Looting and Looters "Outraged" Over Indictments.
Below: "Teri Paul of the Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding, Utah, inspects the museum's pottery." (William Woody/Special to The Denver Post)