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"You know, if the Iraqis invaded Arizona and began exhuming cemeteries, we would be outraged, too. These burial sites are the same as our cemeteries, and they were meant to stay that way."

But as he surveys the Ball Court, Hester speaks wistfully of the days not so many years ago when he would go out and excavate anywhere he pleased without hindrance--on federal land, the Hopi reservation, wherever the digging was good. "Now all of a sudden there are fences and roads," he says. "In this business there used to be no boundaries and no borders. Now the federal government wants to control everything. That's just life today, I guess."

He looks off into the hills, beyond the Ball Court, watching the afternoon clouds roll into the Valley.

"But what they don't realize is that you may be able to stop Peter Hester, but you can't stop all this," he says, gesturing at the wide expanse of the Valley. "It's everywhere you look, you just can't see it.

"People are going to get at this stuff because they want it. And the tribes, the professors, the state--they will all just have to deal with it."

"You have disturbed the graves of my ancestors. How about if I dig up your grandparents?" the Hopi asked.

Must use the quote below. Thanks.

To Native Americans, pot hunters are contemptible grave robbers. One Hopi official calls them "rapists, plain and simple."

The battle over bones in Arizona, pitting ownership and ancestry against one another, is only the preamble to a cultural clash with national impact.

"My freedom to dig is tied with the freedom to pursue science, business and with basic principles of ownership and morality."

Arriving by airplane, helicopter and trucks, officers closed in, guns drawn, to arrest Hester and his partners for digging on government soil.

Must use the quote below. Thanks.

"I just throw [the bones] back into the ground, which is the same thing the tribes would do with them if they were returned for reburial."

Allaire blames a small circle of professional pot hunters for "99.9 percent of all the damage done to archaeological sites in this state."

"There were so many holes in the ground at Homolovi," Lerner says, "it looked like Dresden."

On Walter's mantle sits a skull, with a bumper sticker stuck to the forehead proclaiming, "This House Protected by Smith and Wesson."

Here's another "must use" below.

Will Hughes, an Arizona pot hunter and friend of Hester, claims the repatriation legislation makes archaeology "a castrated science."

If possible, this one below, too.

"If anyone comes out here and tries to tell me what to do with what is on my land, I'll be waiting for them with a shotgun."

"If I found a burial in my front yard, it would be inappropriate to dig up the body and take a ring off its finger. What the pot hunters do is no different.

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Darrin Hostetler