Nine Mile Canyon, Utah

News from Stone Pages (July 24.04): Court backs natural gas probe of Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon

A federal judge gave the go-ahead Wednesday for a company to search for natural gas near Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon, renowned for its ancient rock art, ruling that the work would not threaten the ancient etchings. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed the challenge by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance to the exploration plans in redrock slot canyons adjacent to Nine Mile Canyon, saying it failed to prove that damage would be done by the gas work.

Seismic exploration, using sound waves to penetrate the earth and search for gas deposits, is already under way in portions of the 57,000-acre project area. If the tests show a likelihood of gas in the area, then the company will file the necessary paperwork to develop the gas reserves. Diane Orr, a Salt Lake City photographer who has climbed and hiked Nine Mile Canyon photographing the rock art panels, said she already can see the difference in the area from the traffic that the exploration has spawned.

In May, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Nine Mile Canyon area one of its most endangered places in the country because of the proposed gas development. The Bureau of Land Management says Nine Mile Canyon has more than 10,000 American Indian images etched into the canyon walls, making it the richest collection of rock paintings in the nation. Source: Salt Lake Tribune (22 July 2004)

The National Trust site, which has some images of the petroglyphs, states National Trust named Nine Mile Canyon one of America’s 11 most endangered historic places…Located in a remote part of Utah, Nine Mile Canyon is often called ‘the world’s longest art gallery’ as it contains more than 10,000 images carved onto canyon walls by Native Americans. This area is actually 40 miles long. These petroglyphs and pictographs are attributed to the Archaic, Fremont and Ute people begun about 1700 years ago.

The Religion & Ethics Newsweekly has an interview about how the drive for new energy development collides with the obligation to protect a sacred place.

Larry Sasputch, a spiritual leader of the Ute Indian tribe said: They call it rock art, because that’s all it is to them. It’s just like looking at our dances and stuff, that’s entertainment — it’s art, and that’s as far as they carry it. They don’t understand the symbolism. They don’t understand the spirituality. All they understand is what they see…. It’s really how native people think. Everything is connected to the Creator. This here is our church. These cliffs, they’re as high as any cathedral. They’re all natural. They’re what God put here. All those other churches and cathedrals — that’s man-made. This is already here.

Jerry Spangler is an archaeologist who has written a new roadside guide to the sacred sites of Nine Mile Canyon. Like others, he worries that the rumble from the seismic testing and the trucks and the dust will damage the carvings and drawings. He says,’ I think the risk to Nine Mile is too great. [It] is unlike any other place I’ve ever read about, let alone known about. We know of approximately 1,000 sites in Nine Mile Canyon today. We think we have maybe 5 percent identified; that’s absolutely amazing.

More images of the rock art:
by Max Bertola
by D.Heyser
Utah Outdoors

July 24, 2004 in Rock Art & Archaeology by Marja-Leena