Residents in the vast southeastern Utah outback that once teemed with pre-Columbian Americans worry the heritage and rich culture of their homeland will be stolen twice: once by black-market American Indian-relic peddlers, and then by the state of Utah.
During Gov. Gary Herbert's visit to Blanding, one of the poorest regions of the state, residents pleaded with him to keep open the Edge of the Cedars Museum State Park.
The ancestral Puebloan site and official archaeological repository houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Pueblo, Navajo and Ute artifacts. It also is one of five state parks recommended for closure by legislative auditors because of budget concerns.
Gallery owner Jan Noirot asked the governor to stop the closure during his visit to the park on Wednesday, part of his weeklong tour of rural Utah.
Herbert, during his tour, heard mostly about concerns of rural farmers, ranchers and small-business owners about the needs of their regions. But this plea was different. It was about the importance of not only the future but also the past.
Noirot told the governor of the time she found a cooking pot in a cave. She was so concerned that thieves would make off with the relic that she contacted the federal Bureau of Land Management. Archaeologists carefully removed the fragile corrugated pot and discovered two rare prayer sticks.
The Mesa Verde pot, likely from the 1200s, and sacred prayer sticks are now part of the museum collection. But if the facility is closed down, all artifacts will have to be moved elsewhere, perhaps out of state. And the lack of resources to preserve and protect the relics could make it easier for thieves to pilfer the landscape.
Herbert praised the museum but was noncommittal on funding. The Legislature has a hearing on the state park system Wednesday.
Speaking of heritage • Dilworth, located near the Country Club area of Salt Lake City, is known as an academically strong elementary school in the Salt Lake City School District. But geography might not be its strong point.
When the school was rebuilt several years ago, I wrote about the beautiful multi-colored map of the United States that was painted on the playground.
There was just one hitch: Rhode Island was missing.
Well, it seems, they have redone the map and Rhode Island is now labeled, with an arrow pointing to its alleged location.
The only problem now is the actual area of Rhode Island, sandwiched between Connecticut and Massachusetts, is still missing.
The land mass the arrow points toward is actually Long Island, the most populous part of New York City and home to two of the Big Apple's five boroughs Queens and Brooklyn.
Maybe if they repaint the map one more time, the third try will be the charm.
Classroom poltergeists • I received an email recently from what appeared to be a Canyons School District employee that chastised the press for not digging into the practices of "intimidation, cover-ups and administrative abuse" by Canyons Schools Superintendent David Doty. The email asked: "Why isn't any more investigative reporting being done?"
About an hour later, I received another email from the person who purportedly sent the original one.
"Please disregard any email sent to you from this computer account," it said. "My computer was compromised over the weekend, and apparently you were sent some information critical of Canyons School District. I apologize for the breach of my email security."
Let's hope the culprit playing those computer games did not do so during class time.