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For thousands of years, humans have occupied and stewarded this land.With respect to most of these people, their contribution to the historical record is unknown, but some have played a more public role.
Traditions of hunting, fishing, gathering, and wood cutting are still practiced by tribal members, as is collection of medicinal and ceremonial plants, edible herbs, and materials for crafting items like baskets and footwear.Cattle rustlers and other outlaws created a convoluted trail network known as the Outlaw Trail, said to be used by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.These outlaws took advantage of the area's network of canyons, including the aptly-named Hideout Canyon, to avoid detection.These early farmers of Basketmaker II, and III and builders of Pueblo I, II and III left their marks on the land.The remains of single family dwellings, granaries, kivas, towers, and large villages and roads linking them together reveal a complex cultural history.The traditional ecological knowledge amassed by the Native Americans whose ancestors inhabited this region, passed down from generation to generation, offers critical insight into the historic and scientific significance of the area.
Such knowledge is, itself, a resource to be protected and used in understanding and managing this landscape sustainably for generations to come.
The Indian Creek area contains spectacular rock art, including hundreds of petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock.
Visitors to Bears Ears can also discover more recent rock art left by the Ute, Navajo, and Paiute peoples.
It is also the less visible sites, however -- those that supported the food gathering, subsistence and ceremony of daily life -- that tell the story of the people who lived here.
Historic remnants of Native American sheep-herding and farming are scattered throughout the area, and pottery and Navajo hogans record the lifeways of native peoples in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Clovis people hunted among the cliffs and canyons of Cedar Mesa as early as 13,000 years ago, leaving behind tools and projectile points in places like the Lime Ridge Clovis Site, one of the oldest known archaeological sites in Utah.