A Look at the Greatest Haul of Native American Artifacts, Ever

In a warehouse in Utah, federal agents from BLM are storing tens of thousands of looted objects recovered in a massive sting in Blanding, UT, back in 2009.

[At dawn on June 10, 2009, almost 100 federal agents pulled up to eight homes in Blanding, Utah, wearing bulletproof vests and carrying side arms. An enormous cloud hung over the region, one of them recalled, blocking out the rising sun and casting an ominous glow over the Four Corners region, where the borders of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet. At one hilltop residence, a team of a dozen agents banged on the door and arrested the owners—a well-respected doctor and his wife. Similar scenes played out across the Four Corners that morning as officers took an additional 21 men and women into custody. Later that day, the incumbent interior secretary and deputy U.S. attorney general, Ken Salazar and David W. Ogden, announced the arrests as part of “the nation’s largest investigation of archaeological and cultural artifact thefts.” The agents called it Operation Cerberus, after the three-headed hellhound of Greek mythology.

Preview thumbnail for video 'Plunder of the Ancients

The search-and-seizures were the culmination of a multi-agency effort that spanned two and a half years. Agents enlisted a confidential informant and gave him money—more than $330,000—to buy illicit artifacts. Wearing a miniature camera embedded in a button of his shirt, he recorded 100 hours of videotape on which sellers and collectors casually discussed the prices and sources of their objects. The informant also accompanied diggers out to sites in remote canyons, including at least one that agents had rigged with motion-detecting cameras.

The haul from the raid was spectacular. In one suspect’s home, a team of 50 agents and archaeologists spent two days cataloging more than 5,000 artifacts, packing them into museum-quality storage boxes and loading those boxes into five U-Haul trucks. At another house, investigators found some 4,000 pieces. They also discovered a display room behind a concealed door controlled by a trick lever. In all, they seized some 40,000 objects—a collection so big it now fills a 2,300-square-foot warehouse on the outskirts of Salt Lake City and spills into parts of the nearby Natural History Museum of Utah.

In some spots in the Four Corners, Operation Cerberus became one of the most polarizing events in memory. Legal limitations on removing artifacts from public and tribal (but not private) lands date back to the Antiquities Act of 1906, but a tradition of unfettered digging in some parts of the region began with the arrival of white settlers in the 19th century. Among the 28 modern Native American communities in the Four Corners, the raids seemed like a long-overdue attempt to crack down on a travesty against their lands and cultures—“How would you feel if a Native American dug up your grandmother and took her jewelry and clothes and sold them to the highest bidder?” Mark Mitchell, a former governor of the Pueblo of Tesuque, asked me. But some white residents felt that the raid was an example of federal overreach, and those feelings were inflamed when two of the suspects, including the doctor arrested in Blanding, committed suicide shortly after they were arrested. (A wrongful-death lawsuit filed by his widow is pending.) The prosecution’s case was not helped when its confidential informant also committed suicide before anyone stood trial.

Ultimately, 32 people were pulled in, in Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. None of them were Native American, although one trader tried vainly to pass himself off as one. Twenty-four were charged with violating the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, among other laws. Two cases were dropped because of the suicides, and three were dismissed. No one went to prison. The remainder reached plea agreements and, as part of those deals, agreed to forfeit the artifacts confiscated in the raid.

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which has custody of the collection, spent the last five years simply creating an inventory of the items. “Nothing on this scale has ever been done before, not in terms of investigating the crimes, seizing the artifacts and organizing the collection,” BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall told me. Before they were seized, these objects had been held in secret, stashed in closets and under beds or locked away in basement museums. But no longer. Recently the BLM gave Smithsonian an exclusive first look at the objects it has cataloged.

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With its inventory done, the BLM will give priority to returning whatever objects it can to the tribes from which they were taken. Even though the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act has highly specific guidelines for repatriating artifacts, several experts in the Native American community said the process will be complicated by the lack of documentation.

Once the BLM’s repatriation effort is complete, which will take several more years, the agency will have to find homes for the artifacts that remain. It hopes to form partnerships with museums that can both display the artifacts and offer opportunities for scholars to research them. “Part of our hope is that we will form partnerships with Native American communities, especially those that have museums,” said Mahaney. The Navajo have a large museum, while the Zuni, Hopi and others have cultural centers. Blanding, Utah, where several of the convicted looters live, has the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum. Even so, it will take years of study before the Cerberus collection begins to yield its secrets.]

(… more, with a video of the raid, here | SMITHSONIAN)

4 CORNERS STONE

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Why Are Old Women Often The Face Of Evil In Fairy Tales And Folklore?

[Typecasting is one explanation. “What do we have? Nags, witches, evil stepmothers, cannibals, ogres. It’s quite dreadful,” says Maria Tatar, who teaches a course on folklore and mythology at Harvard. Still, Tatar is quick to point out that old women are also powerful — they’re often the ones who can work magic.

“I always look to the Disney film Snow White and that charismatic, wicked queen who is down in the cellar with her chemistry set. There’s a sequence in which she turns from a beautiful, charismatic, wicked queen into an old hag,” Tatar says. “I think that’s a scene that is probably more frightening for adults than children because it compresses the aging process into about 20 seconds.”

Tatar says old women villains are especially scary because, historically, the most powerful person in a child’s life was the mother. “Children do have a way of splitting the mother figure into … the evil mother — who’s always making rules and regulations, policing your behavior, getting angry at youand then the benevolent nurturer — the one who is giving and protects you, makes sure that you survive.”]     Read the full article here | NPR

WITCH 2

Bufflehead Farm: Jon and Tracey Stewart’s Animal Rescue Farm

[If everything goes according to plan over the next few months, the family’s 12-acre tract of land in Middletown, New Jersey, will soon be home to dozens of rescue cows, sheep, turkeys, goats and other animals.

The project has long been a dream for Tracey Stewart, an animal advocate and former veterinary technician, who has tirelessly worked to promote a plant-based lifestyle, animal welfare issues, and support for organizations like Farm Sanctuary.

The Stewarts have worked to slowly and meticulously transform Bufflehead Farm, purchased in 2013, into a safe place for rescue animals. They currently have four pigs, including two piglets rescued from the side of road in Georgia last summer.According to the New York Times, four sheep will also soon arrive — as well as many other abused or neglected farm animals in need of a home.

The couple eventually plan on opening Bufflehead Farm to the public, but by appointment only to start. For Mrs. Stewart, educating about what they’re trying to do at the sanctuary will be a big part of that outreach. “Our hope is to get a lot of school groups in,” she added.]

Bittersweet Chocolate

[Three separate false advertisement class action lawsuits have been filed by California consumers against The Hershey Co., Nestle USA Inc., and Mars Inc., claiming these chocolate product manufacturers failed to inform the public that they make their chocolate snacks and treats using cocoa beans harvested by child slaves in Africa.

Furthermore, all three class action lawsuits point to a study performed by Tulane University that found that 4,000 children, many of whom were kidnapped or sold into slavery, were allegedly forced to work on cocoa plantations off the Ivory Coast.

The Mars, Nestle, and Hershey child slavery class action lawsuits were filed after Nestle and a group of other popular food manufacturers petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Ninth Circuit ruling that permitted three former child slaves, who previously were forced to work at a Mali cocoa plantation, to sue these food giants.]

Read the full report | FULL CLASS ACTIONS

SLAVE

Ayn Rand on Racism, Slavery and Native Americans | Speech and Q&A at West Point’s Graduating Class of 1974

AYN

Racism, Slavery

To begin with, there is much more to America than the issue of racism. I do not believe that the issue of racism, or even the persecution of a particular race, is as important as the persecution of individuals, because when you deprive individuals of rights, if you deprive any small group, all individuals lose their rights. Therefore, look at this fundamentally: If you are concerned with minorities, the smallest minority on Earth is an individual. If you do not respect individual rights, you will sacrifice or persecute all minorities, and then you get the same treatment given to a majority, which you can observe today in Soviet Russia.

But if you ask me well, now, should America have tolerated slavery? I would say certainly not. And why did they? Well, at the time of the Constitutional Convention, or the debates about the Constitution, the best theoreticians at the time wanted to abolish slavery right then and there—and they should have. The fact is that they compromised with other members of the debate and their compromise has caused this country a dreadful catastrophe which had to happen, and that is the Civil War. You could not have slavery existing in a country which proclaims the inalienable rights of Man. If you believe in the rights and the institution of slavery, it’s an enormous contradiction. It is to the honor of this country, which the haters of America never mention, that people died giving their lives in order to abolish slavery. There was that much strong philosophical feeling about it.

Certainly slavery was a contradiction. But before you criticize this country, remember that that is a remnant of the politics and the philosophies of Europe and of the rest of the world. The black slaves were sold into slavery, in many cases, by other black tribes. Slavery is something which only the United States of America abolished. Historically, there was no such concept as the right of the individual. The United States is based on that concept. So that so as long as men held to the American political philosophy, they had to come to the point, even of a civil war, but of eliminating the contradiction with which they could not live—namely, the institution of slavery.

Incidentally, if you study history following America’s example, slavery or serfdom was abolished in the whole civilized world during the 19th century. What abolished it? Not altruism. Not any kind of collectivism. Capitalism. The world of free trade could not coexist with slave labor. And countries like Russia, which was the most backward and had serfs liberated them, without any pressure from anyone, by economic necessity. Nobody could compete with America economically so long as they attempted to use slave labor. Now that was the liberating influence of America.

That’s in regard to the slavery of Black people. But as to the example of the Japanese people—you mean the labor camps in California? Well, that was certainly not put over by any sort of defender of capitalism or Americanism. That was done by the left-wing progressive liberal Democrats of Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

[Massive applause follows, along with a minute in which the moderator asks Ayn Rand to respond to the point about the genocide of Native Americans. She continues.] 

If you study reliable history, and not liberal, racist newspapers, racism didn’t exist in this country until the liberals brought it up—racism in the sense of self-consciousness and separation about races. Yes, slavery existed as a very evil institution, and there certainly was prejudice against some minorities, including the Negroes after they were liberated. But those prejudices were dying out under the pressure of free economics, because racism, in the prejudicial sense, doesn’t pay. Then, if anyone wants to be a racist, he suffers, the workings of the system is against him. 

Today, it is to everyone’s advantage to form some kind of ethnic collective. The people who share your viewpoint or from whose philosophy those catchphrases come, are the ones who are institutionalizing racism today. What about the quotas in employment? The quotas in education? And I hope to God—so I am not religious, but just to express my feeling—that the Supreme Court will rule against those quotas. But if you can understand the vicious contradiction and injustice of a state establishing racism by law. Whether it’s in favor of a minority or a majority doesn’t matter. It’s more offensive when it’s in the name of a minority because it can only be done in order to disarm and destroy the majority and the whole country. It can only create more racist divisions, and backlashes, and racist feelings. 

If you are opposed to racism, you should support individualism. You cannot oppose racism on one hand and want collectivism on the other.

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Native Americans

But now, as to the Indians, I don’t even care to discuss that kind of alleged complaints that they have against this country. I do believe with serious, scientific reasons the worst kind of movie that you have probably seen—worst from the Indian viewpoint—as to what they did to the white man.

I do not think that they have any right to live in a country merely because they were born here and acted and lived like savages. Americans didn’t conquer; Americans did not conquer that country.

Whoever is making sounds there, I think is hissing, he is right, but please be consistent: you are a racist if you object to that [laughter and applause]. You are that because you believe that anything can be given to Man by his biological birth or for biological reasons.

If you are born in a magnificent country which you don’t know what to do with, you believe that it is a property right; it is not. And, since the Indians did not have any property rights—they didn’t have the concept of property; they didn’t even have a settled, society, they were predominantly nomadic tribes; they were a primitive tribal culture, if you want to call it that—if so, they didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using.

It would be wrong to attack any country which does respect—or try, for that matter, to respect—individual rights, because if they do, you are an aggressor and you are morally wrong to attack them. But if a country does not protect rights—if a given tribe is the slave of its own tribal chief—why should you respect the rights they do not have?

Or any country which has a dictatorship. Government—the citizens still have individual rights—but the country does not have any rights. Anyone has the right to invade it, because rights are not recognized in this country and neither you nor a country nor anyone can have your cake and eat it too.

In other words, want respect for the rights of Indians, who, incidentally, for most cases of their tribal history, made agreements with the white man, and then when they had used up whichever they got through agreement of giving, selling certain territory, then came back and broke the agreement, and attacked white settlements.

I will go further. Let’s suppose they were all beautifully innocent savages, which they certainly were not. What was it that they were fighting for, if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their right to keep part of the earth untouched, unused, and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves about.

Any white person who brings the elements of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it is great that some people did, and discovered here what they couldn’t do anywhere else in the world and what the Indians, if there are any racist Indians today, do not believe to this day: respect for individual rights.

I am, incidentally, in favor of Israel against the Arabs for the very same reason. There you have the same issue in reverse. Israel is not a good country politically; it’s a mixed economy, leaning strongly to socialism. But why do the Arabs resent it? Because it is a wedge of civilization—an industrial wedge—in part of a continent which is totally primitive and nomadic.

Israel is being attacked for being civilized, and being specifically a technological society. It’s for that very reason that they should be supported—that they are morally right because they represent the progress of Man’s mind, just as the white settlers of America represented the progress of the mind, not centuries of brute stagnation and superstition. They represented the banner of the mind and they were in the right.

[thunderous applause]

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

[The book Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q & A includes Rand’s Manifest Destiny-esque defense of settler colonialism among some of the “best of her” public statements. Ayn Rand Answers was edited by philosophy professor Robert Mayhew, whom the Ayn Rand Institute describes as an “Objectivist scholar,” referring to the libertarian ideology created by Rand. ARI lists Prof. Mayhew as one of its Ayn Rand experts, and notes that he serves on the board of the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship. The transcript included in Prof. Mayhew’s collection is full of errors, however, and reorders her remarks.

A recording of the West Point commencement address was available for free on the ARI website as early as April 2009. Up until around October 18, 2013, separate recordings of the speech and Q&A were still freely accessible. By October 22, nonetheless, ARI had removed the recordings from its website and put them up for sale.

Some copies of the 1974 recording have circulated the Internet, but in order to verify the quotes and authenticate the transcript, I ordered an official MP3 recording of the event from the Ayn Rand Institute eStore. (After all, I was working on a piece involving Ayn Rand, so I figured it was only natural that I had to buy something.) The quotes in this piece are directly transcribed from the official recording of Rand’s West Point speech and Q&A.]    Read the full article here | ALTERNET
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Tragic Lovers of Steel

[The 8-meter-tall steel sculpture by Georgian artist Tamara Kvesitadze is not only a stunning example of mechanics and design, but also a depiction of eternal love between nations. The structure symbolizes the story of Ali and Nino, two lovers from different religious backgrounds. Every night at 7pm, the two figures begin changing positions, moving towards one another until they meet in a brief embrace, before passing through and continuing on their path. At night their dance is lit up with colourful undulating lights, creating an emotional mood and a stirring sight in the seaside boulevard of Batumi, Georgia

Originally designed in 2007 with the name A Women and Man, the sculpture was installed in 2010 and subsequently renamed Ali and Nino, inspired by the novel written in 1937 by an Azerbaijani author using the pseudonym Kurban Said. It tells of a tragic love affair between a young Muslim Azerbaijani man and a Christian Georgian princess during the First World War. Theirs is a story of passionate love torn apart by culture, religion, and war, and has been hailed as one of the romantic novels of all time.]

Moving Sculptures Kiss and Cross Paths Every Day to Visually Tell a Tragic Love Story

Hugh Laurie and James McAvoy to Star in Unseen Hitchcock and Orson Welles Thrillers

[Sherlock and Doctor Who writer Mark Gatiss will direct Laurie in Hitchcock and Lehman’s The Blind Man, a thriller about a blind pianist who receives the surgically transplanted eyes of a murder victim. Laurie, who has a successful recording career as a jazz pianist, said: “The first time I read [The Blind Man] it was like finding a pre-war Bugatti in a barn. We swept off some of the chicken droppings, cranked the handle, and it started first time. It was a thrill and a delight to be involved.” The script was discovered by radio producer Laurence Bowen in a research institute in Texas, along with handwritten notes and letters exchanged between the writers, who had previously collaborated on 1959’s North by Northwest.

Meanwhile, McAvoy leads an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness, based on a 1939 screenplay by Orson Welles, written shortly before he began work on Citizen Kane. Welles had intended to play both the hero and the antagonist, appearing not only as the megalomaniac ivory trader Kurtz, but also as Marlowe, who travels up the Congo River to find him. McAvoy will now star in both roles. Welles’s script has only been performed once before, in a one-off 2012 stage-production by the Turner Prize nominated artist Fiona Banner.]    Read the full article here | THE TELEGRAPH

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