Canyons of the Ancients

Through the strength of the spirits, our ancestors built these dwellings here. That’s what makes them so significant. We want to encourage others to preserve these dwellings for future generations to come and observe because our cultural and traditional ways bring the soul nourishment. – Ernest M. Vallo Sr., Eagle Clan, Pueblo of Acoma, 004

Painted Hand Pueblo

Canyons of the Ancients, comprised of just 176,056-acres, contains the highest density of known archeological sites in the country. I feel like we should just be able to leave it there.

Humans have been part of this landscape for at least 10,000 years and the monument protects the remnants of these communities. On the landscape, the monument is home to thousands of petroglyphs, kivas and cliff dwellings. Included among the many ruins, are great kivas and multistory buildings perched on rocks and under cliff faces. These structures were sophisticated infrastructure built at line-of-sight intervals.

Even with the amazing ruins experienced on the landscape, it is hard to get a complete sense of the density of archeological sites. For that, visit the Anasazi Heritage Museum. I generally prefer the outdoors to museums but this museum is definitely a must-visit. It provided visual context to the lives that were lived on this landscape before us. The museum has tons of 5,000-year old artifacts (arrowheads, jewelry, pottery and more), a life-size replica of a pithouse and oral histories, and provides a ton of ways to interact and understand these objects from microscopes to video games to usable loom.

Michelle picking up trash along Hwy 10

After visiting some of the ruins, we spent the afternoon picking up trash along the Monument’s border, Highway 10.

Visiting these sites reaffirmed that we were not the first or last people who will inhabit these lands and that we should care for them so that in another 1,000 years these lands and artifacts will still be around for other cultures to enjoy and marvel at.  Because of this, I am glad that Interior Secretary Zinke recently announced that he would not make any changes to Canyons of the Ancients. I only hope that he recognizes that the other monuments under threat also protect important and irreplaceable cultural sites that should continue to be protected.

Our Pueblo beliefs tell us that stability and movement are in a cyclical relationship, such that one will surely follow the other. And so it is with the earth and the canyon. – Rina Swentzell, Santa Clara Pueblo, 2005