Tuesday, January 17, 2006

To publish or not to publish?

Resolution by the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET 2003:022) (click on it to enlarge)

The one topic that has always accompanied studies of rock antiquities (in New England) is whether the site location, once discovered, should be made public. On the one hand public awareness is desirable so that sites will be protected (by the public rather than a small group of enthusiasts - who cannot possibly keep track of all the development going on and all the sites that are in daily jeopardy). On the other hand sites have been known to be vandalized. If we are right that these sites are sacred to Native Americans, then it is really none of our business and it is not up to us to reveal the locations to the public. For several hundred years Indian religious activity was punishable by death or enslavement, and perhaps it is hypocritical to take an interest now. On the other hand when you find something no one else living knows about (and I mean nobody) then you definately want to tell somebody about it. So I want to discuss the ground rules. If you disagree, post a comment and we can try to hash it out. During a brief period when I participated in NEARA board of directors meetings, this was a topic that came up again and again and I fault the organization for not coming up with some kind of answer - it is needed. If you do not agree, then post a comment. I'll admit, my bias is to make public as much as is possible. Above is what the Indians are saying about the subject.

Note the paragraph about "threatened by development". I think this suggests the idea that it is better to lose a few sites and increase public awareness of all sites than it is to lose them all through ignorance. So there is a lot of pressure to keep things secret but public awareness is a very important goal also, and it may be worth some sacrifice.

Anyway here are some guidelines, for discussion:

  • If a site is believed to be a burial site, its location cannot be discussed
  • If a site is fragile, its location should not be discussed.
  • If a site is already public (eg Benfield land, Spring Hill), its location can be discussed
  • If a site is about to be destroyed, its location can be discussed
  • If someone thinks a site could be publicized without great risk or for some other good reason, its location can be discussed. For example, sites along Rt3 which are visible from the car, with large hard to move rocks that have no likelihood of covering "treasure", cannot be easily vandalized under the eyes of hundreds of commuters. And if they were vandalized, it might be worth it.

What this last guideline provides for is for sites that are already in plain sight and probably cannot be harmed too much. If any sites qualify as "to be sacrificed for a greater good" it should be these.

1 comment :

pwax said...

The greater good being public awareness.