Monday, January 17, 2011

Cultural Void

I have been listening to the debate over the prosecution of "pot hunters" in the Utah desert Southeast.

This post isn't about whether the gatherers (modern day "pot hunters" - not the hunter-gatherers of ancient civilizations) deserved their prison sentences.  My interest here is in why the pots were left and why we have the notion that we can take anything laying around.

The pot hunters say they are entitled to the pots because they found them.  Isn't that like saying "I found this money in this bag so I can keep it?".  The law requires you to surrender any unattended property for a reasonable amount of time to give the rightful owner the opportunity to claim it. 

I know the Anasazi aren't coming back for their pots, but the gathering of ancient artifacts from federal lands is strictly prohibited.  In addition the "pot hunters" destroy valuable information when they take their finds.

As part of the background for the article on the "pot hunters" the journalist interviewed an archaeologist who speculated the pots were left because the ancient people had to leave quickly.

Doesn't this assume a lot?  Doesn't this assume that if the ancient people could have, they would have taken all their possessions when they left this area?  Doesn't this also assume that if someone isn't holding onto something tightly there is an overriding reason they left it behind, meaning that people wouldn't just leave things behind?

What I mean is that the settlers of the US who pushed west during the 18th and 19th centuries thought of the land as free and available to them.  As long as someone hadn't come along earlier and claimed it, they could have it.

As I understand it, the Native Americans believed, and still believe, the land was to be used by all and they were only stewards, charged with keeping it in good shape for the next group to come along and use it.

What if the Anasazi left those pots, assuming someone would inhabit this area later, and could use them?  I know this goes against centuries of manifest destiny thinking but wouldn't it be better to think of our natural resources as shared rather than owned?  

I know some of this comes from my hippie upbringing but in my opinion there is a respect for nature that is lost in this conquering mind set.  Part of getting along with others is trying to understand where they come from rather than trying to subjugate them. 

In light of the recent events in Tucson, maybe if we tried to see where others are coming from and understand their motivation we could find some common ground, rather than point out, in hurtful and inflammatory language, our differences.

I guess Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's words have again impacted me this day that we celebrate his birth and influence on our society.  If you have a chance read his "I have a dream" speech. It will send chills up your spine.

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