Tribes Rally to Save Petroglyph Site

A Native American petroglyph sacred site is successfully protected by rallying tribes.

In 2010, the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation put their collective efforts into constructing a fence to protect Tutuveni (tu-TOO-veh-nee), a sacred site known as “newspaper rock” to the Hopi, from vandalism.

An Associated Press story reports that over the years random visitors have left various etchings at the site like: “Aaron Myrianna 07,” “The Victor 10-20-85,” “'Van.B,” “Ramon Albert,” “Ariz. Hy. Dept.” Even: “1969-Man Land on Moon.” Other symbols have been chiseled away or painted over.

The site has more than 5,000 Hopi clan symbols that were put there by Hopi groups passing through on their way to the Grand Canyon. Petroglpyhs date as far back as 1200 A.D. and depict historic Hopi tribal groups.

“They would stop at Tutuveni and camp there, and they would peck their clan symbols on those rocks to mark their participation in that pilgrimage. And they did this for four or five centuries at least,” Wes Bernardini, an archaeologist and professor at the University of Redlands who has been studying Tutuveni for years, told the AP. “When people from the same clan would visit the site, they would put their symbols next to the previous symbol that somebody had left earlier. There’s no other site that we know of like that, that shows these repeated visits.”

That’s why the Hopi and Navajo felt it so important to protect it. Even though the effort was difficult because the Hopi sacred site is located on land that is owned by the Navajo.

“It’s something that’s really unique and very special to the Hopi,” Ron Maldonado, supervisory archaeologist for the Navajo Nation, told the AP. “In my mind, it didn’t matter who it belonged to. It needed to be protected, and that was it.”

Today, the chain-link fence that surrounds the site has only a narrow opening for those visiting on foot, and hidden cameras monitor the site. Vandalism and litter has declined considerably since the protections were put in place.

This allows Hopi tribal members the opportunity to preserve their sacred site for generations to come. Patrick Secakuku, business manager at Hopi Junior Senior High School, recently visited the site for the first time.

“I’m really amazed. I didn’t realize there were this many,” he told the AP. “This tells you a lot of history about our tribe, our Hopi people, and for people to desecrate, vandalize…you’re losing a lot of rich culture, history. It’s sad. But how do you control it? You just wish that out of respect they’d leave them alone.”