The site of proposed Rockin’ River Ranch State Park sits on a beautiful wooded stretch of Arizona’s Verde River. The land is believed to contain a Hohokam village site dating back to 750 AD, with important archaeological material underground. Yet to avoid delays in the park’s construction, Arizona State Parks and Trails Director Sue Black asked her archaeologist to lie about these historic materials. He did not. Instead, he helped get Black fired for violating the Arizona Antiquities Act.
For the Phoenix New Times, reporter Steven Hsieh tells the whole infuriating saga of Black and her staff favoring development over the Parks Department’s mission. It’s one more capitalist insult to the long and rich cultural history of North America’s Indigenous people. Rockin’ Ranch wasn’t the first park whose artifacts the agency didn’t mind damaging. But it would be the last one Black disregarded.
Not long after he was hired, it became clear to him that Black and her allies, especially Keegan, did not value his role as a compliance officer. Parks leaders pressured Russell to treat antiquities sites not as cultural resources in need of protection, but as obstacles to development.
Records obtained by Phoenix New Times show Arizona Parks built gardens, trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, and cabins on several archaeological sites without following procedures intended to protect Arizona’s cultural resources.
At Tonto National Bridge State Park, parks personnel cut a traditional indigenous structure known as a gowah ring in half while developing a cottage. Parks also reportedly built a garden on a site believed to be the only remaining example of Apache cultivation in the Southwest.