Great Bend of the Gila. I have typed those five words thousands of times this past decade-plus.
Today, they are also the bedrock of an expression of gratitude: thank you, Representative Grijalva, for introducing the Great Bend of the Gila Conservation Act yesterday (August 16).
The Great Bend of the Gila National Conservation Area would permanently protect nearly 330,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands located southwest of Phoenix.
If your only experience of this area is driving on Interstate 8, you may need some convincing (date shakes, anyone?). The Gila River was once vibrant and flowing, and its waters brought abundant life to this stretch of the Sonoran Desert. People thrived here for millennia, and at least 13 Tribes have deep ties to this landscape. Trails extend for miles, with only an occasional piece of broken pottery or stone tool to confirm that people—not just wildlife—walked here. Routinely.
In the mid-1970s, I sweated gallons out here—though a bit farther off the banks of the Gila—for much of my dissertation fieldwork. I camped out for weeks and recorded the subtle traces ancient human footsteps left on desert pavement.
One night, under a full moon, we easily traced a trail for over a mile, even though the trail crossed numerous small washes that required us to relocate it on the other side. We didn’t need our flashlights—never even turned them on.
Well-trod trails tell many stories and inspire our imaginations—but trails with history this deep are also fragile. A single pass by an off-road vehicle on an unauthorized route could destroy traces of thousands of lifetimes, forever. Multiple passes would mean obliteration.
The Great Bend landscape is fragile. It is threatened. It deserves respect and permanent protection.
For a more thorough consideration, please visit the Respect Great Bend website. Explore the images and additional information. And then click on the Take Action button. There is a letter to sign to thank Chair Grijalva and show you care about protecting the Great Bend of the Gila. Please sign up for email updates so you can help out and keep up with the Campaign’s progress.
President & CEO, Archaeology Southwest
Rep. Grijalva Introduces Great Bend of the Gila Conservation Act
Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today introduced the Great Bend of the Gila Conservation Act to protect one of the most culturally significant and ecologically fragile landscapes in the southwestern United States. The bill will establish the 330,000-acre Great Bend of the Gila National Conservation Area, the 47,000-acre Palo Verde National Conservation Area, and nearly 60,000 acres of new wilderness. The area designated by the Great Bend of the Gila Conservation Act, located in the Sonoran Desert in southwestern Arizona, includes numerous cultural, historical, and natural resources, many of which are considered sacred to Native Americans in the area. At least 13 federally recognized tribes retain cultural connections to this landscape. House Natural Resources Committee (press release) | Read More >>
Skylar Begay, Coordinator, Respect Great Bend, said, “As one of the coordinators for the Respect Great Bend campaign, I have spent ample time in the Great Bend of the Gila and can personally attest to its layered and multifaceted beauty. This place was, and is, home to Indigenous Peoples and to plant and animal relatives. In my role, I have seen passionate support for the protection of these values from Tribes, conservation organizations, and local residents, as well as people all over the Southwest. The Respect Great Bend Coalition thanks Representative Grijalva for his leadership in getting this place permanently protected.” Respect Great Bend (press release) | Read More >>
More Ancient Footprints Identified
On a hot Thursday in July, two archaeologists bumped along a dusty road in the middle of the Great Salt Lake Desert. One was Daron Duke, an archaeologist with the Far Western Anthropological Research Group. The other was Tommy Urban, a researcher at Cornell University. Last year, Urban was part of a team that discovered ancient footprints in White Sands National Park that date back to 23,000 years ago — 10,000 years before scientists previously thought humans arrived in the Americas. Gazing out onto the arid landscape, Urban remarked how similar the Great Salt Lake Desert looked to the New Mexico national park. The two chatted about the footprint discovery, and Duke asked Urban what the tracks had looked like before excavation. “He just looked out the window and said, ‘They look kind of like that,’” Duke said. Anastasia Hufham in the Salt Lake Tribune | Read More >>
Botany as Archaeology
I am interested in showing how the plants on the landscape could be considered physical evidence of human habitation and history: a living, botanical archaeology. Not all of the traces of ancestral Indigenous presence were made of stone and bone: these wild gardens—a collaboration of humans, plants and place—also tell the story of thousands of years of lineage. This spring, I ventured out to visit Pee hee Mu’huh with a particular focus: to do a survey of the First Food plants there. My intention was to track the patterns of their presence, and to describe the human relationship in those patterns that can still be seen there. Nikki Hill in Counterpunch | Read More >>
Continuing Coverage: Report Calls for Restricting Oil and Gas Extraction near Heritage Places
Every year, millions of visitors descend upon national parks in the United States to experience the vastness, natural wonders and dark skies of these great outdoor spaces. But looming near many of these landscapes, which are rich in fossil fuels, are oil rigs and gas wells that are increasingly encroaching on their borders. A new report by preservationists highlights the need for vast reform to federal oil and gas leasing programs, arguing that several parks and monuments risk becoming “islands in a sea of development” that threatens not only scenic views but also sacred Native sites, biodiversity and the health of nearby communities. Claire Voon in The Art Newspaper | Read More >>
Blog: Flying over Palavayu
For two early mornings in Spring, Hopi leaders, elders, and advocates joined with EcoFlight, American Rivers, and the Grand Canyon Trust to fly over Palavayu, or the Little Colorado River. This is no small feat for a 340-mile-long river. The primary purpose of the flights was to offer Hopi elders and cultural leaders—the people who’ve mostly experienced Palavayu through song, culture, and religion—an opportunity to behold the river and Hopitutskwa, the Hopi ancestral lands, in their entirety and to engage in conversations about their protection. Troy Honahnie, Jr., and Rachel Ellis for American Rivers | Read More >>
August Subscription Lecture (In Person, Santa Fe)
Aug. 29, Nicolasa Chavez, Growing Up Coyota: Castas in New Mexico. Southwest Seminars | Learn More >>
REMINDER: August 18 Webinar: The Full Story of Pueblo Grande (or at Least a Few Chapters)
With Laurene Montero. Pueblo Grande is one of Arizona’s last remaining Hohokam villages with an intact platform mound. The site’s importance to Tribal communities is recognized today and it continues to yield information regarding the past and its connection to the present. Third Thursday Food for Thought series (Old Pueblo Archaeology Center) | More Information and Zoom Registration >>
REMINDER: Aug. 24 Webinar (Monthly Series): Fieldwork While Female
With Dr. Bonnie Pitblado. Join us on Zoom for the first event in our free “Fieldwork While Female” speaker series. Hear from Pitblado about her research and experiences as a woman in science. Dr. Pitblado is an archaeologist with interests in the initial peopling of the Western Hemisphere more than 13,000 years ago, and particularly in the earliest human use of the Rocky Mountains. She has spent 25 years exploring when, why and how indigenous people began using the high-altitude environments of the Rockies, and is both passionate about, and committed to community-engaged archaeology. Sam Noble Museum (University of Oklahoma) | More Information and Zoom Registration >>
Aug. 25 In-Person Event (Oro Valley AZ): Book Launch Celebration for Michael Chiago
Western National Parks Association and the University of Arizona Press invite you to a special book launch celebration for Michael Chiago: O’odham Lifeways Through Art. This book offers an artistic depiction of O’odham lifeways through the paintings of internationally acclaimed artist Michael Chiago Sr. Ethnobiologist Amadeo M. Rea collaborated with the O’odham artist to describe the paintings in accompanying text, making this unique book a vital resource for cultural understanding and preservation. Western National Parks Association and the University of Arizona | Learn More >>
Sept. 2 In-Person Event (Flagstaff AZ): Meet Authors Morgan Sjogren, R.E. Burrillo, and Charlie Bynar
5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Please join us during First Friday for a local author book signing! Purchase a copy or bring your own to have signed by some of your favorite local authors! Bright Side Bookshop | Learn More >>
Sept. 9 Webinar: Arizona Crossroads: A New Book Series Exploring Arizona’s History
Arizona Crossroads is led by a team of three editors, Anita Huizar-Hernández, Arizona State University, Eric V. Meeks, Northern Arizona University, and Katherine G. Morrissey, University of Arizona. Throughout its history, Arizona has long served as a crossroads between Native peoples, settler colonists, and immigrants from around the world. It has been a contested site among peoples, nations, and empires; it is also a place where events, decisions, and struggles have had far-reaching consequences beyond its shifting borders. As the series title suggests, we welcome books that deepen our understanding of Arizona as a diverse crossroads and meeting ground within broad national and transnational contexts, whether topical, thematic or geographic (the region, the nation, the borderlands). University of Arizona Press and Arizona Historical Society | More Information and Zoom Registration >>
Save the Date: New Mexico Annual Archaeology Fair, Oct. 15
It will be held at the Bernalillo Community Museum, 118 Calle Malinche, Bernalillo NM 87004.
Our friends at SAPIENS have a brand new website—check it out!
Remember to send us notice of upcoming webinars and Zoom lectures, tours and workshops, and anything else you’d like to share with the Friends.