Monday, June 22, 2009

Tragedy in remote southeast Utah

Read the New York Times report here of a physician in Blanding Utah, population 3,162, who committed suicide last week, a day after he was one of 22 people named in a federal indictment for "stealing, selling and trading Indian artifacts."

The story drew my interest in part because I have driven through Blanding twice in the last five years, both times on vacations in the Southwest. Last fall, my family and I spent several days just south of there in Bluff, population 320, which served as a base for visiting Hovenweep National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument, Monument Valley, and Goosenecks State Park. All of San Juan County --which is truly vast--has only about 15,000 residents, and a population density of 1.8 per square mile. I blogged about my trip here. As William Yardley's report indicates, Blanding is indeed a place from whence Indian "ancestral lands ... stretch out ... in every direction."

Given that Dr. Redd is reported to have been so generous in providing his services to American Indians, passing judgment and calling the rights and wrongs of these events is difficult. One aspect of loss is clear: physicians serving remote rural communities are in short supply, and now there is one fewer in southeast Utah.

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