Yes. Yes! In San Juan County, during my field school years in the mid-80s, I saw shocking pot hunting damage firsthand, sites hit very badly. I’m haunted by memories of human skulls and other remains churned up and tossed aside—men, women, children, including a child’s mummified foot—remains meaningful to diggers only as signs that grave good such as pots, jewelry, or other marketable artifacts might lie nearby. The exposed human remains don’t trouble me so much for their grim “to this we must all come” reminders, though there’s always something show-stopping about coming upon human bones. Nor do they impress me for the disturbing evidence they offer of the pot hunters’ disregard for law. To me, what’s telling is the pot hunters’ complete reduction of a culture and its members to “the good stuff”, the shrinking of life and its cultural contexts to mere “things” having market value. Continue reading “Excerpt from Showdown at Crossfire Canyon: Getting Digs In, Part 3”
Backstory: On 6/11/2009, in a raid dubbed “Operation Cerberus Action”, a large contingent of federal agents descended on San Juan County, Utah, and arrested several Blanding and Monticello residents for the illegal theft, selling, and trade of protected Native American antiquities. Among them was the esteemed Dr. James Redd, a longtime resident of the area. Dr. Redd was indicted, but the day following his arrest, after recording a long message to his family, he took his own life. This tragedy on top of the already shocking show of force resulted in unforeseen effects, some of which are still in play today, in the questionable prosecution of Rose Chilcoat and her husband Mark Franklin, for instance, for allegedly endangering livestock. This post expands on an earlier post titled “Getting Digs In.” The chapter has grown in length, so I’ve broken it into 3 parts.
June 13, 2009. Two days after Operation Cerberus took the town by thunderclap, and a day after Dr. James Redd committed suicide, I came up out of Crossfire and heard voices above me, near the trailhead. The town was still shaking, stunned by shock, outrage, and grief. I felt curious to see who might be coming into the canyon. I glimpsed a woman on the rocks overhead, well off the trail, turning back in response to a companion’s call. Picking up my step to intercept them, I caught up with two retirement-aged women—out-of-towners—as one helped the other over the arched rebar cattle guard at the trailhead. Something about them said, “Colorado”. They didn’t see me approaching, so I greeted them then asked where they were from. They were coy about answering, saying only they were visiting.
“You?” they asked.
I answered that I lived up the road but was not originally from the area. “Are you going to see the cliff dwelling?” I asked. There’s a two-story Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling a little off the beaten trail in the crease between the cliffs’ base and the talus slope. I thought they might be hiking in to see that.
The woman who seemed most willing to engage in conversation said, “Yes.” Then she pointed to the yellow, green and white, heavy-gauge aluminum, BLM sign posted at the trailhead announcing the canyon’s 2007 closure to off-highway vehicles. “But we really wanted to see this,” she said. Continue reading “Excerpt from Showdown at Crossfire Canyon: Getting Digs In, Part 1”
The writer’s dilemma: as much as those of us who think we have something to say also tend to believe we perceive the entire firmament of truth associated with our subjects and can name all its constellations, each of us actually stands on a cliff with limited views. We can only speak to the best of our abilities from those positions, speak of and to what we see now in the best language available to us, knowing that we’re missing something, all the while looking forward to finding the frontiers of insight that form at the edges of our current narrative takes. This letter is such an effort. Given the time I had to register my concerns, the current developing attitudes about the “usefulness” of public lands and oil and gas dominance, limited character space for submitting comments electronically, and my current view from the cliff, I felt pressing need to say my say and wrote a “comment” to the Bureau of Land Management regarding my best understanding of the risks oil and gas development would pose to Crossfire Canyon, aka Recapture Canyon, and those of us living near its edges. Readers may notice that I’m not inclined to outrage or agitation over uncertainty. This may be because I’ve faced so many threatening situations for so long that I’ve learned something about directing my focus and efforts and, in cases where the happy ending failed to develop despite my best efforts, living with unfortunate outcomes and what they truth they reveal. But perhaps something in the comment’s contents will have meaning and effect.
Subject: Canyon Country District March 2018 Oil and Gas Lease Sale
Please withdraw Parcels 29 and 30 (Map 7) from your auction and consider permanently closing both parcels to oil and gas development. Three good reasons exist to take such action: 1) Parcel 29 and part of Parcel 30 border the rural residential area at the end of Browns Canyon Road where I and several families live quite close to their westernmost boundaries; 2) both Parcel 29 and 30 cover an environmentally sensitive area, with 29 taking in part of the canyon bottom that includes a series of 10-year-old beaver ponds and their developing riparian zone, as well as a black bear migration route; and 3) both parcels cover an area of dense prehistoric cultural remains that the BLM has already determined to be at risk and worthy of permanent protection. Continue reading “Dear BLM, Parcel 29 is beloved to me”
What a mystery is the air, what an enigma to these human senses! [T]he air is the most pervasive presence I can name, enveloping, embracing, and caressing me both inside and out, moving in ripples along my skin, flowing between my fingers, swirling around my arms and thighs, rolling in eddies along the roof of my mouth, slipping ceaselessly thought the throat and trachea to fill the lungs, to feed my blood, my heart, my self. I cannot act, cannot speak, cannot think a single thought without the participation of this fluid element. I am immersed in its depths as surely as fish are immersed in the sea.
—David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous
Part One of a three-part post.
August 24, 2013. When I head out today for Crossfire Canyon, I step into a world in motion. Currents of surface wind, smooth in texture, cool to the touch, flood out of the south, curling around every solid body be it person, fencepost, or stone, leaning into every curve in the terrain. Weeds and spindly desert sunflowers undulate in it. As I pass my neighbor’s orchard, waves of wind sound in the apple and pear trees’ leaves, oceanic in temperament, noising like breakers crushing themselves against sand.
Here on White Mesa, the character of the desert air ranges widely from spring’s sandpaper winds that rattle windows and flake shingles off roofs, to the sudden dust-ups of sand spouts or dust devils, to dead still, the odd hour where the air’s quiescence reminds me of a motionless pool deposited in a stream bed after a flash flood has rumbled through. Today’s wind surges without half smothering me. I’ve walked into mesa blasts that grapple with me for my breath. This wind is respiration friendly. Continue reading “Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt. 1) by Patricia Karamesines”
I wasn’t enraged, like a trapped coyote, because I hadn’t been really trapped, but I felt plenty angry as I put the Danger Tree behind me. What a dumb trick, I thought, quite possibly one that could have ignited more trouble. And yes, probably, it had been intended for BLM personnel. That being the case, I was glad I’d triggered the gadget instead of a BLM officer, who might have not only taken its message more seriously but also regarded it as a threat, especially in the wake of the of local agones in which the BLM had played either black hat or white hat roles (sometimes both), depending on the angle from which you viewed their actions. After the 2009 artifact raid, they’d pulled some of their rangers out of back country recreational areas for their safety. The mood of San Juan County residents simmering at the high heat it was, authorities harbored concerns that more radical elements might express outrage over Dr. Redd’s tragic loss and arrests of friends and relatives through violence rather than by the traditional outlets of Fourth of July anti-environmentalist floats, ATV activism and rallies, and the usual long, rambling letters to the editor that typically publish in local newspapers. Continue reading “The Trap, Part Three by Patricia K”
Part One here.
As my mind made sense of the scene, I said something like, “You’ve got to be kidding!” or (don’t laugh) “I’ll be doggoned!” Words along those lines. I took quick stock of my condition: unhurt, and no other sound suggested more surprises to come. The trap was a light affair, probably capable of doing a rabbit or perhaps a fox some harm but nearly toothless against the rigid leather upper and hard rubber sole of my hiking shoe. Yet the sight of my foot caught in an animal trap inspired twinges of shock and panic. I am proud to say that I held those in check. After studying the situation, I pushed on the trap with my free left foot. The device popped off easily and dropped into the dust. I glared at the contraption, feeling an upwelling of anger. Continue reading “The Trap, Part Two by Patricia K.”
Crossfire Canyon is my name for Recapture Canyon, a canyon in SE Utah that has flared up into one of the many hotspots for the debate over public lands use and access. I moved into Recapture’s vicinity at the end of 2005 and have been present for most of the drama that has unfolded. Some of my next door neighbors have been involved, and because I spend a lot of time in the canyon, I have at times been presumed to be involved. Recapture’s nearness to my home and easy access has made it increasingly important to me as “home ground,” even if, at times, it’s not a very peaceful place to roam.
Friday, January 13th, 2012. I hiked out of Crossfire after a pleasant winter stroll through the canyon. Noon had barely passed but the day looked much older. Even though the solstice had begun turning up the light three weeks earlier, in the canyon, daylight still passed stubbed off at both ends. By noon, the low-flying sun made it nearly to the canyon’s west rim, and by one o’clock, five o’clock shadows began darkening the western cliff faces.
On the final upward stretch where the cliff of a small side canyon pinches the trail against a rocky rise, I paused to consider my options. At one of the trail’s narrow points stood a Utah juniper hosting a small video camera aimed across the trail. I wrote about finding this camera and about my reaction to it here. Since discovering the camera just before Christmas I’d begun walking behind it to avoid having my image collected without my consent. Continue reading “The Trap, Part One by Patricia K”