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Destroying lives over ancient relics

Destroying lives over ancient relics
The exterior of Moon House ruin, a remote, undeveloped Anasazi cliff dwelling in McLoyd Canyon on Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The federal government managed to wreck the lives of upstanding Blanding, Utah, physician Dr. James Redd, the main family doctor in his county, and the informant Ted Gardiner, who spied on Redd's family. Both ended up killing themselves. ("A sting in the desert," Sept. 21)

Federal agents went after citizens who were collecting Native American artifacts from the pinyon pine area where "millions of artifacts lay strewn" across the region. The Indians could collect them if they had the energy and ambition.

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Who was harmed by the Redd family's devotion to the ancient Anasazi culture? Who benefited from the armed raids on the Redd home? Is this what federal agencies should be doing: harassing a doctor, bribing a criminal informant and sending agents on worthless, time-consuming investigations?

The people of Blanding see the government as "arrogant and intrusive." How right they are.

William Goldsmith, Studio City

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To the editor: Your undeniably tragic story of Utah pot hunters running afoul of laws protecting antiquities omitted any mention of the Antiquities Act of 1906. Pot hunting on federal lands has been illegal for more than a century.

Also unmentioned are the many legitimate and legal options available to those with a yearning for old things. The only problem is that these alternatives are not as financially rewarding.

You could easily devote another article to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, which apparently is the "main archaeological protection act" to which you refer. It has improved professional archaeology by respecting the wishes of Native Americans in the treatment and disposition of their remains and ceremonial artifacts.

The law also provided meaningful protection for antiquities. As a retired archaeologist, I can personally attest to the difficulties of enforcing the Antiquities Act.

Don Morris, Ventura

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To the editor: Thank you for the interesting article about the government's efforts to control the illegal trading of artifacts of the Pueblo Indians.

The article does not mention an interesting fact. The term "Anasazi" originates from the Navajo language. In Navajo, it means "ancestral enemy." The preferred term currently is Pueblo Indians.

With all the excellent research that went into the story, I am surprised that did not receive mention.

Dan Diamond, Santa Barbara

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To the editor: I'm certain the government bullies must be proud of taking weather-decaying artifacts from admirers of the past to hide them from view in some dark dungeon.

Jo Caldwell, Spring Valley

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