Looters also disrespect the dead, trample on tradition and invite bad luck--or worse.
By Brandon Loomis
"We aren't supposed to be digging up anything like that," Navajo medicine man David Filfred says. "It's the people who lived before us, and how they lived. They had their traditions, which deserve respect."
And disrespect for either human remains or the ancients' belongings brings deadly bad medicine. According to tribal lore, it can lead to bad luck, ill health, even death.
Filfred points to what many here on the Navajo Nation call the "Anasazi sickness" as a factor in the suicides of two men indicted last month on federal charges of illegally trafficking in ancient Puebloan, or Anasazi, artifacts.
"You'll get blacked out. Just faint," he predicts for those who disturb the dead. "It will cause something like, you don't care. Seems like there's no hope."
Other Four Corners cultures report similar spiritual repercussions or "bad energy" for artifact looters. Elders believe bones, pots, amulets and other items buried with the dead--whether today's Navajos or yesterday's faded Puebloan cultures--harbor spirits. These spirits command a wide berth and sicken those who disturb them, Filfred says. The torment may be either physical or mental.
Outsiders may scoff, but believers ask the same deference that other religions command.
For more on the artifact looting, see Artifact Theft = "Organized Crime" and Redds Plead Guilty to Looting. For more on Native religion in general, see "Primitive" Indian Religion.
Below: "Medicine man David Filfred, who lives on the Navajo Reservation near Aneth, Utah, believes that ancient Indian artifacts should be left alone not only out of respect for the dead but for one's health. He believes you can get sick from being exposed to bones in gravesites where artifacts are often found." (Al Hartmann/The Salt Lake Tribune)