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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended August 13, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 15Aug00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Mountain Meadows Relics Raise New Controversy

BERRYVILLE, ARKANSAS -- Six buttons recovered last summer at the site of the Mountain Meadows Massacre have led to a new controversy between the LDS Church and some of the descendants of the victims. The Church plans to donate the buttons and other relics to a Berryville, Arkansas museum in September. But some of the descendants say that the Church doesn't own the relics, and therefore can't make the donation.

The buttons were accidentally uncovered along with the remains of 29 of the victims during construction of the most recent memorial at the site in spite of efforts to not disturb any of the remains. The remains were reburied at the site on September 10th, , but other evidence, including the buttons, a bolt and fragments of pottery, were retained.

Some of the descendants have now asked the state of Utah to rule on the ownership of the artifacts, saying that the LDS Church should not be given ownership. "What we have to ask ourselves is, is this finder keepers? If so, other graves will be disturbed as well," said Scott Fancher of the Arkansas- based Mountain Meadows Monument Association. The association is seeking to have the LDS Church-owned land and neighboring land owned by private individuals designated a national landmark and placed under US Government control.

The LDS Church's Glen Leonard, director of the Church Museum of History and Art, says he has now asked the archaeologists employed by the Church to rule on the legal issue of ownership. He says the Church just wants to return the relics, "We made a decision long ago that these artifacts should be returned to the people of Arkansas. They belong to the ancestors there, and those were our plans all along," he said.

Leonard says that he has been told that under Utah law the artifacts belong to whoever owns the property where the items were discovered. But Fancher says that the law shouldn't allow that. "We have always contended that the whole area is a graveyard, not an archeological site. There are several other grave sites out there, and under this philosophy, they can just keep digging."

The current plan has the Church donating the artifacts to the Carroll County Historical Society Museum, which has already purchased a special display case for the artifacts. "Its wonderful that these items will be returning to Arkansas after all these years," said Shirley Pyron, president of the Carroll County Historical and Genealogical Society, which runs the museum. "It's only a little handful of all that's left of 140 lives. It's not much, but it brings home to us that this event really did happen."

Relics of 1857 massacre to be returned to state
Little Rock AR Democrat-Gazette 7Aug00 N1
By John Magsam: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


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