Judge hands down decision on Anasazi Valley property

IVINS – There is a land dispute brewing in Southern Utah and it has nothing to do with grazing cattle. On an 80-acre parcel of land called the Anasazi Valley a group named Sunhawk Productions, Inc., have been in litigation against attorney/trustee David L. Watson, and developer Terry Marten of Kayenta Development.

The story dates back to 1985 when a woman named Sheila Dean Wilson purchased the property, along with the water rights, that sits next to the Santa Clara River below cliffs strewn with ancient petroglyphs. As she surveyed the land she soon found remnants of Native American peoples including, pottery shards, pit houses and human burial sites.

A replica of a large tipi sits on the property at Anasazi Valley, Ivins, Utah, May 12, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

In an effort to preserve the land and create a space to educate people on the Native American history and culture, Dean founded Sunhawk Productions, Inc. a nonprofit organization designed to create a learning center and performance space where the cultural heritage of the ancient Puebloans – who, according to Betty Jake self-proclaimed steward of the land, date back to 3,000 B.C. – could be passed on.

Since that time the valley has played host to many local school groups, Boy Scouts, tourists, potluck dinners, drum circles, spiritual and traditional ceremonies and showcases replicas of a variety of Native American dwellings including tipis, a Hogan and a longhouse.

“Our purpose here is mostly to bring to the community something that is wonderful,” Jake said, “a place where all people can come and learn to respect each other and the Native American culture.”

Jake said she came to the Anasazi Valley to help Wilson create a Native American learning center, along with the Sunhawk board, and their desire is to create a peaceful space where they can be still and listen to the ancestral voices and pass their lessons on to the community.

Shanan Anderson, governor of the Sunhawk board, echoes Jakes desires:

“Our mission is to preserve the land and all that dwell within it; the animals, water, rocks, plants, earth, air and all the people who visit. Everything on this earth has life and to protect them is to protect us. Giving respect to all living things is our strife in the valley and passing this along to our Native youths through the teachings of our elders and knowledgeable tribal teachers.”

But that goal – according to Sunhawk Productions, Inc. – has been threatened by Marten of Kayenta Development who has been accused of entering into a deal with Watson to have the property quick-deeded to him and of desecrating the land with development debris.

Marten however, tells a very different story.

When Wilson passed away in 2000, the property was left in a trust and given to the care of Watson, a St. George attorney and trustee for Sunhawk. According to Marten, it wasn’t unitl 2005 he was approached by Watson because the property was facing foreclosure.

“Watson, as trustee, did what he thought was right and gave the property the opportunity to be a benefit as a cultural center,” Marten said, “that was what Wilson wished, but she died leaving obligations on the property including back property taxes and interest.”

An example of an Iriquois longhouse is built on the property at Anasazi Valley, Ivins, Utah, May 12, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Marten, who hadn’t been involved up to this point, but knew Wilson and of her desires for the valley agreed to sign a promissory note with the bank and allow Sunhawk extra time to come up with the money to fulfill Wilson’s obligations.

The agreement was set to last 15 months, said Marten, but by 2007, although Sunhawk had now formed a legal organization, the money still had not been paid.

“It was almost comical at this point,” said Marten.

By 2008 the bank was getting nervous and wanted their money so Marten liquidated several of his own properties to pay the loan.

“They (Sunhawk) had had over three years to get the job done,” said Marten, “it was time to look at other options.”

Marten said he never had any intentions to develop the land and is all in favor of keeping it as open space and even approached several municipalities including, the city of Ivins, the Bureau of Land Management, and the City of Santa Clara to try and incorporate the property in the reserve but the timing was not right.

“Between 2008 and 2012 everything was on hold,” he said.

In 2012, enough was enough and Marten made arrangements to acquire the property. Marten had spent nearly a million dollars at this point.

The Sunhawk board disagreed with the arrangement saying parts of it were done illegally and without the board’s consent and to that end they entered into litigation against Watson and Marten.

“To lose Anasazi Valley to developers would be a great loss in our continued struggles to protect our sacred lands all over Southern Utah and the United States,” Anderson said, “our voices go unheard when money is a more powerful weapon in this battle for our rights to preserve our dying culture and our sacred lands.”

A small tipi sits at the end of the path of choices at the Anasazi Valley, Ivins, Utah, May 12, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Sunhawk further claimed that Marten was desecrating the land by using the property to store construction debris from his developments.

While Marten agrees that he does use some of the property – approximately one acre of the 80-acre parcel – as storage, he counters that he has all the legal paper work from the County Commissioners office to use that space as storage and that it is no way desecrating the land.

“Anybody that thinks I would desecrate the land needs only to come out to Kayenta,” Marten said, “or any of my developments and see what we have done and see if they think we have desecrated the land.”

Marten maintains that he has no intention to develop on the land and would even like to see a cultural center there but does not believe that Sunhawk Productions is the group to get the job done.

The case that was being heard by Judge Marvin D. Bagley of the Sixth District Court recently ruled in favor of Marten and Watson.

Though the final order is yet to be drafted, both Anderson and Jake have said they will appeal.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

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  • lisa May 25, 2014 at 10:31 am

    May be He did, but wouldn’t it have been appropriate for the Judge to have Marten adhere to the promise to preserve the land. I don’t know all of the legal freedoms given to contractors to do as they please with native land marks, but why can’t the State jump in? I actually already thought it was State owned in order to preserve this place. So sad if this place ends up to be a contractor’s dream to build a home community.

    • Scott May 27, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      I too have been there and thought the same thing… Keep the house’s off the land.. Make these people do the wishes of the lady whom set it aside …

  • banana May 25, 2014 at 11:51 am

    hands down, what was the decision? re-read

  • Tribeof8 May 25, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    I am glad to see this story getting some attention in the local press as I have been reading about it in national outlets for months. I feel a cultural center, trails, and other educational family outings would benefit both parties. If the settlement does lean in favor of development then I feel a percentage of the sales should go to Native American scholarships, or other beneficial programs.

  • Dixielambs May 25, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    The headline says that a judge has handed down a decision… would it be too much to ask to have that decision revealed in the story?

  • Jake May 25, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Most people think this is government owned land, but it is not! The federal government owns much of the surrounding area and in the late 1990s the BLM created the Santa Clara River Reserve on this surrounding federal property; there are trails and such are on this BLM Reserve. The private land next to this reserve is the subject of the article, and contains many important artifacts and sites. If people really carried about the land, they would donate it to the government and let it become part of the reserve too.

  • Ruffled Feathers May 25, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    The taking away of the Native American land apparently has not ended. This is wrong for Kayenta Development to bully this land away from the Shivwit Natiion. The man with the most Money (Terry Martin) has the most power. There must needs be some federal protection of the sacred Anasazi site. five to six hundred Native American writings that date up to several thousand of years ago are found on this site as well as ancient sites have been found, along with pottery pieces and arrow heads and not to mention the numerous scattered ancient burial grounds along that property. This decision is an injustice to the Native American People and culture and is a continuation of another avenue to continue to steal their land.

  • Fair is fair May 26, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    I think a cultural center would be great! Perhaps a group could raise enough money to create such a place? Perhaps the State or Federal Government would like to protect the land? Ha! The reality is, nobody wants to take responsibility to protect it because it take money to do so. They just want to point fingers or get something for free. I don’t think Marten wants the land but has lost a million dollars (which they were supposed to raise money to pay back) trying to help these folks out. Since the loan was not paid back, the land is used as collateral. That’s just the system we have agreed to and we all have to live by.

  • Kayenta Resident May 26, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Apparently people are not reading the entire story here. Terry has no desire to develop the land. He put up a significant some of money to try to keep it from going to the bank. What do you think would have happened to it then? If this land is going to be managed by a developer, Terry is the guy you want for the job. I’m sure he will respect and preserve the area.

  • A. Nony Mouse May 27, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    I think they should put in a trailer park on that land. Low rent mobiles for low income people!

  • Kurt May 27, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    As a contractor that made my living in the Kayenta Drvelopment for about 19 years and as a long time Ivins resident I would like to weigh in on what is going on with the Anasazi property. Though I may not always agree with the methods of Mr Marten I must say he has brought a lot of innovation and class to his developments and has done a lot to boost the favored status of Ivins City. He raised the bar of what a community could be and so others like Entrada, The Ledges, The Cliffs, and the list goes on and on copied his Southwest Style yet failed to match the quality with quantity of homes per acre. As the Kayenta Development morphed into what it is today a need to relocate the means of construction required a suitable obscure place. He relocated it to a small parcel adjacent to the highway at the entrance to the Kayenta property on the Anazazi property. He went to a lot of expense to shield it from the view of those passing by to protect the visual integrity of both properties. The Anasazi property has always been an important cog in the wheel of Kayenta’s success because for many years it was their chief soarce of water for the development. I feel Mr Marten has demonstrated over the many years that his vision can be trusted and he will help to bring to Southern Utah something special with that property to enhance it and protect it. And as the saying goes

  • Kurt May 28, 2014 at 7:14 am

    As the saying goes when it comes to a developer………the one with the most property in the end wins……… But the reality is you must do the right thins with that property for all to win in the end.

  • Eric June 20, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    If Mr. Marten plans on not developing the land then get his construction equipment off of the land. I have been there. His construction equipment is a eyesore.

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