Thursday, 1 November 2012

Looting Them and US

The Wall Street Journal article discussed in the post above (Justin Scheck, 'Artifact Prices Draw Looters' Wall Street Journal November 2, 2012) also mentions the case of a California collector Norman Starks who had been accused of disturbing Indian artefacts on Federal land though he was in the end not convicted. The newspaper explains that the looting of ancient sites for collectables: 
troubles tribal members, who generally say that Indian artifacts should remain where they are. "This is our identity," said Darrel Cruz, cultural-resources director for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. [...]  In recent years, his tribe has encountered disturbed graves and stolen petroglyphs, he said. 
 There is an interesting "them and us" thread running through this. Here the ancient artefacts in US soil are being preserved not for "us all", but for a "them living among us who are disturbed by it". This might go some way to explaining some of the (to us Europeans) odder opinions one comes across in a US milieu about cultural property and who it "belongs to", which seem at odds with other US statements and opinions about everybody's place in the world.

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