The Arizona Republic reported this week that the state Parks agency may have bulldozed archaeological sites in a rush to develop state parkland. Four Native American state lawmakers have called for a criminal investigation.
The lawmakers also called on Gov. Doug Ducey to immediately fire Parks Director Sue Black to prevent further harm to Native American archaeological sites on state parklands, reported AZ Central.
The lawmakers asked in letters sent Tuesday that acting U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Strange and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate alleged violations of the state Antiquities Acts, which outlines how archaeological and paleontological discoveries on state land should be reported and handled. It prohibits defacing protected sites and artifacts.
In a letter to Ducey, the lawmakers also asked for a separate state investigation of the allegations and that it be publicly released to restore “any trust lost among the tribal nations of Arizona.”
The state on Monday launched its fourth investigation of Black. The probe followed The Republic report in which former Parks archaeologist Will Russell said he repeatedly cautioned Parks officials, including Black, that the agency’s development work on cabins and trails might violate the law and destroy Native American artifacts. Russell provided records to support his allegations.
Russell said that in one case, Parks unearthed ancient stone tools and caused “irreversible” damage to a site dating back 12,000 years, according to agency memos.
“There are dozens of archaeological sites that have been wrecked” because Parks officials didn’t want to delay development plans, Russell told The Republic. Russell left his job with Parks on Oct. 15 and now works for another state agency.