Hundreds of ATV riders in Utah threaten sacred Navajo burial ground to protest federal government

Illegal route runs through protected Native American land, forced military veterans retreat to relocate.
By Matt Bradwell   |   May 10, 2014 at 2:30 PM
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SALT LAKE CITY, May 10 (UPI) -- Protesters who say the Bureau of Land Management has no right to criminalize use of ATVs in Utah's Recapture Canyon plan to demonstrate today by illegally riding their vehicles through the protected land - a move that has drawn the ire of Native Americans and displaced a veterans retreat.

"It is sad that irreplaceable treasures of importance to all Americans would be sacrificed on the altar of anti-government fervor," Jerry Spangler, executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance said in a statement. "It is worse that protesters would be so blinded to their own insensitivity as to what others consider to be sacred treasures of their past."

Willie Grayeyes, chair of a nonprofit that lobbies to protect Navajo land, was offended at both the protesters' dismissive attitude toward Native American culture and their disrespect for the American veterans who had to move their long-scheduled retreat to ensure it could be held in peace.

"This opportunity for healing, to help these men and women has been postponed due to the threats of illegal activities by San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman on behalf of those who desire to drive their ATV toys over the sacred ruins of others," wrote Grayeyes in a letter to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Contrary to the beliefs of many, southeastern Utah was not an empty place that no one wanted just waiting to be inhabited by European settlers or discovered as a recreation playground, but rather it was and remains our home.

The protest, organized by San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, is already drawing comparrisons to the recent standoff with embattled Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Although Lyman organized the event and will likely participate, as a county commissioner he cannot officially endorse the ride as it is a criminal activity. Recapture Canyon can be legally traversed via foot or horseback.
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