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Las Vegas Paiutes fear for the future of petroglyphs

LAS VEGAS ñ For years to come, motorists will see Indian-inspired rock art on the overpasses near the master-planned modern community of Summerlin. But as vandalism continues in Nevadaís Red Rocks, Little Red Rocks and Sloan Canyon areas, Las Vegas Paiutes fear the regionís original rock art ñ ancient figures etched in stone by Paiute ancestors throughout the Las Vegas Valley ñ will be compromised to the point of eclipse.

ìTheyíre being destroyed right now, by vandalism,î said Kenny Anderson, a cultural resource officer and environmental program manager for the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe.

ìWeíre located right outside Las Vegas, less than a mile,î he added, describing the kind of kicks young Las Vegans seek before theyíre of age for the famous strip. ìThey take cars out there [into the desert, near the petroglyph sites] and burn them.î Or they fire paint guns at them in the latest variation on graffiti.

Vandals donít always target the petroglyphs, Anderson said. But recently they did, following an article in a local newspaper that made the petroglyphs easy to find. The loss is everyoneís, in Andersonís view. ìTheyíre special for everybody,î he said of the petroglyphs. ìThey overlook the whole valley, the Las Vegas Valley.î

He predicted that the presence of ancient roasting pits in the region will raise Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act problems as development proceeds in the vicinity of the petroglyphs.

The Howard Hughes Corp., a leading real estate development company, owns the land the petroglyphs occupy. Tom Warden, the corporationís vice president of community and government relations, has met with Las Vegas Paiute Tribe leaders and elders about their concern for the petroglyphs, Anderson said. Warden spoke supportively, and the corporation claims to have met with state and federal officials, tribes and the archaeological community as part of what the promotional trade publication Real Estate News terms ìa volunteer stewardship programî to protect the Little Red Rocks petroglyphs as well as others. Visitors to the petroglyph areas are supposed to have a permit issued by the company.

None of that has slowed down the vandals, however, and Warden hasnít hired guards for the petroglyph sites, Anderson said.

Some of the petroglyphs relate stories of the Paiute past, according to Anderson, and tribal elders fear the Paiute culture is under duress, much like the etchings. ìWe actually go out to look at them,î he said, but said no more because of security concerns.

Warden said the company has owned the Little Red Rocks land for 50 years and has always intended to respect the petroglyphs and preserve them.

ìYes, there has been degradation,î he added, primarily because Las Vegas is now home to approximately 2 million people and Little Red Rocks is among the more accessible of five petroglyph sites in and near the Las Vegas Valley. An explosion in the use of all-terrain vehicles has made all of the petroglyph sites more vulnerable, he said.

ìWeíve spent something north of 1 million dollars trying to prevent this ... to absolutely no avail.î

Howard Hughes Corp. has tried to fence access roads, only to see the fences brought down within 24 hours. Boulder walls, put in place with heavy machinery, have been displaced within days: ìWe donít know how they did it.î Heavy iron gates, sunk in the roadway, have been dismantled and ìNo Trespassî signs are routinely appropriated for target practice.

ìWe donít know exactly what the solution is,î Warden said. ìWeíre at the point now where development is cutting off the easy access for some of these people.î

Development in the vicinity of petroglyphs will be culturally appropriate, including buffer zones and open areas, he insisted, though extensive development in those areas is a decade away.

The protection of petroglyph and other cultural sites is usually associated with federal lands, Warden said. ìWe want to be the example of a good way to do it when it is on private land.î

He said he intends to renew contact with the Las Vegas Paiutes, and repeated the companyís longstanding commitment to work with them in protecting the petroglyphs. ìThe Paiutes in particular, they want to tell the story of the people in this valley.î

LAS VEGAS ñ For years to come, motorists will see Indian-inspired rock art on the overpasses near the master-planned modern community of Summerlin. But as vandalism continues in Nevadaís Red Rocks, Little Red Rocks and Sloan Canyon areas, Las Vegas Paiutes fear the regionís original rock art ñ ancient figures etched in stone by Paiute ancestors throughout the Las Vegas Valley ñ will be compromised to the point of eclipse.ìTheyíre being destroyed right now, by vandalism,î said Kenny Anderson, a cultural resource officer and environmental program manager for the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe.ìWeíre located right outside Las Vegas, less than a mile,î he added, describing the kind of kicks young Las Vegans seek before theyíre of age for the famous strip. ìThey take cars out there [into the desert, near the petroglyph sites] and burn them.î Or they fire paint guns at them in the latest variation on graffiti.Vandals donít always target the petroglyphs, Anderson said. But recently they did, following an article in a local newspaper that made the petroglyphs easy to find. The loss is everyoneís, in Andersonís view. ìTheyíre special for everybody,î he said of the petroglyphs. ìThey overlook the whole valley, the Las Vegas Valley.îHe predicted that the presence of ancient roasting pits in the region will raise Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act problems as development proceeds in the vicinity of the petroglyphs.The Howard Hughes Corp., a leading real estate development company, owns the land the petroglyphs occupy. Tom Warden, the corporationís vice president of community and government relations, has met with Las Vegas Paiute Tribe leaders and elders about their concern for the petroglyphs, Anderson said. Warden spoke supportively, and the corporation claims to have met with state and federal officials, tribes and the archaeological community as part of what the promotional trade publication Real Estate News terms ìa volunteer stewardship programî to protect the Little Red Rocks petroglyphs as well as others. Visitors to the petroglyph areas are supposed to have a permit issued by the company.None of that has slowed down the vandals, however, and Warden hasnít hired guards for the petroglyph sites, Anderson said.Some of the petroglyphs relate stories of the Paiute past, according to Anderson, and tribal elders fear the Paiute culture is under duress, much like the etchings. ìWe actually go out to look at them,î he said, but said no more because of security concerns.Warden said the company has owned the Little Red Rocks land for 50 years and has always intended to respect the petroglyphs and preserve them. ìYes, there has been degradation,î he added, primarily because Las Vegas is now home to approximately 2 million people and Little Red Rocks is among the more accessible of five petroglyph sites in and near the Las Vegas Valley. An explosion in the use of all-terrain vehicles has made all of the petroglyph sites more vulnerable, he said.ìWeíve spent something north of 1 million dollars trying to prevent this ... to absolutely no avail.îHoward Hughes Corp. has tried to fence access roads, only to see the fences brought down within 24 hours. Boulder walls, put in place with heavy machinery, have been displaced within days: ìWe donít know how they did it.î Heavy iron gates, sunk in the roadway, have been dismantled and ìNo Trespassî signs are routinely appropriated for target practice.ìWe donít know exactly what the solution is,î Warden said. ìWeíre at the point now where development is cutting off the easy access for some of these people.îDevelopment in the vicinity of petroglyphs will be culturally appropriate, including buffer zones and open areas, he insisted, though extensive development in those areas is a decade away.The protection of petroglyph and other cultural sites is usually associated with federal lands, Warden said. ìWe want to be the example of a good way to do it when it is on private land.îHe said he intends to renew contact with the Las Vegas Paiutes, and repeated the companyís longstanding commitment to work with them in protecting the petroglyphs. ìThe Paiutes in particular, they want to tell the story of the people in this valley.î