Mark's piece is interesting, but what draws my attention is the discussion and commentary that follows the article. These comments refer to the recent arrests, suicides, and protests in Blanding, Utah, following the indictment of about 20 people for looting archaeological sites on federal land. The arrests and deaths continue to make national news. In my opinion, the entire mess is unfortunate.
From the very first comment on Mr. Havnes's article, Tribune readers make assumptions about my interest in the Davenports and their pottery shop. One implies that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which I'm not. The Tribune's readers comments, like the thousands of vitriolic comments written after the main articles about the arrests, show how high emotions have risen over the events in Blanding. The entire event has become a scene where people can act out the Mormon/Anti-Mormon/non-Mormon, inside/outside, majority/minority social politics of the state.
I hope people reading about my research will discover it on their own terms, instead of the stage as set in Blanding. I find so much potential in what we are going here. With this project, I have tried to show the exciting opportunities for community-based, public archaeology in Utah. There are about 45 sites in almost 30 different cities and towns where we could continue joining communities to study the potters and clay workers of the nineteenth century. Such research is powerful because it creates empathy in society. If the e-commentary and the blogosphere are any indication of the role of archaeology and preservation in Utah's cultures and communities, then the people in this state need to draw upon all the empathy they can muster.