Forensic Dogs

I was asked to tell a story and in the next breath warned that “not everybody would be happy if you told it”. We both agreed (separately) that since I’d had the privilege of seeing something not everyone gets to see, it’s better that it’s used to build awareness.

The museum staff was invited to go out to the field today to watch forensic dogs survey the areas that will be impacted and developed for the Ocotillo Wind Project.

Our guide strongly believes in the use of forensic dogs in modern archeology. If she had her way, they’d be used on every build site.

Why wouldn’t you use them, our guide asked, they help with 3 key things:

  1. Helps Native American remains to be treated with dignity as law requires.
  2. Actively involves Native Americans in the telling of their history.
  3. Gives archaeology a new perspective. In some cases, archeologists are running tests to prove what the tribes have known for generations. If Native Americans were involved in the process, there would be much less theoretical guessing and much more accuracy in building our nation’s history.

The dogs alerted at two locations over the 4 hour period we were there. We were standing in the shadow of the Coyote Mountains, a sacred site that is part of the creation story.

A handler gets an alert. The remains are flagged and a second dog is brought in to see if they give the same alert.

Documenting the alert. This site will be carefully monitored during construction.

A practical woman who knows her audience, she pointed out that not only the dogs helping human remains be treated with respect, it’s cost effective. For a minimal cost for 3 days of work, the contractor could save themselves the time and cost of dealing with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGRPA). If included in the early surveys, the dogs could notify engineers of locations to avoid during design. They should be a standard tool in site surveys. Get the word out!

We worked till sunset and the dogs will resume at 5am tomorrow. They can only work when the ground temperature is below 100 degrees and these days that happens early. I was reminded that this sunset could be one of the last without wind turbines in view.

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