New Mexico’s Death Tourism

The tombstone of Smokey Bear in Capitan, NM.

New Mexico has become part of the growing trend of “Death Tourism.” The graves of Smokey Bear in the Capitan Mountains and Billy the Kid at Ft. Sumner have become travel destinations. Around the globe historic places associated with death and tragedy have historically been touted as destination trips. Tourists want to experience the dark history of the mummies in Guanajuato, Mexico. The catacombs in Paris, the genocide museum in Rwanda and the tombs of ancient Egypt are incredibly popular.

Native American Memorial

Also located at Ft. Sumner is the Bosque Redondo Memorial. It’s creation in 2005 is a remembrance to the hundreds of Mescalero Apache and Navajo Indians who died there from 1864 –1868 under the “auspices” of the U.S. government. Coincidently, the Bosque Redondo Memorial is located on Billy the Kid Road.

Protecting the Dead

In the late 1800s through the following century the study of Native peoples included the dis-internment of burial grounds causing turmoil for the tribes, not just in the lack of respect for their ancestors. The human remains and artifacts found at these burial grounds often ended up as museum exhibitions. In 1990 the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act took effect, which prohibits and provides protection for indigenous people on the issue of archaeological mortuary studies both current and past. NAGPRA also monitors projects and museum collections as it relates to human remains.

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