Especially in light of the recent publicity around the climbing route that was bolted through a Fremont rock marking site near Arches National Park, it’s worthwhile to revisit our relationship to the cultural landscape that surrounds us.
Undeniably, the archaeology in southeast Utah is captivating. In 2017, Utah’s legislature named rock art the State of Utah’s Works of Art. In Moab, as many guides and rangers can attest, visitors to our area are drawn to places of archaeological interest. Native inspired tchotchkes, t-shirts, post cards, textiles, and books are sold up and down Main Street. Especially in light of the seemingly never-ending recreational opportunities in southeast Utah, and as primarily non-Indigenous observers of rock markings, artifact scatters, or precontact architecture, it can be easy to fall into the trap of seeing those places through “vacation brain” as part of the recreational landscape. The cultural landscape, however, is the living history of past peoples and their descendent communities still maintain deep, meaningful, and symbolic relationships with their homelands. In Moab, we are on the homelands of the bands of the Ute and Paiute, the Hopi Tribe, The Zuni, and The Navajo Nation who, despite the despair of the Covid-19 pandemic over the last year, vaccinated many non-Native southeast Utah residents this spring, including myself.
As we interact with the cultural world around us, it is important to maintain a sense of deep respect for the cultural places we encounter and its relationship to living peoples. Those places are not on the landscape for our enjoyment. The Respect and Protect/Tread Lightly principals tell us to educate ourselves, respect the rights of others, avoid sensitive areas, do our parts, leave no trace, and be responsible. Over the next month, in coordination with Utah State History, numerous events and programs will be put on throughout the State; many of which are local or available online including an in-person Sego Canyon Rock Imagery Tour with BLM archaeologists Lori Huntsaker and Ami Schlosser on May 22nd and a virtual brown-bag lunch lecture about “Graffiti Bustin’!” on May 5th.
For more information about Utah’s Archaeology and Historic Preservation Month Events visit: https://history.utah.gov/event/brown-bag-lecture-graffiti-bustin/
And for more information about Respect and Protect/Tread lightly, visit: https://treadlightly.org/campaigns/respect-and-protect/