If you spend a lot of time trekking across the landscape of the lower Gila River, chances are you’ll meet some interesting people.
Archaeology Southwest Preservation Anthropologist Aaron Wright has trekked the lower Gila a lot in recent years. That’s why many of us now know Dax Hansen—a very interesting person, indeed.
Dax’s Oatman Flats Ranch is set in an area rich with millennia of human history. The Gila River supported many generations of farmers who left behind trails, rock images in abundance, and subtle traces of thriving villages.
That history and the remarkable landscape are why Archaeology Southwest and our growing coalition of partners are intensely advocating for the permanent protection of the Great Bend of the Gila.
The stories of today’s residents also add value to this landscape—a landscape diminished by its loss of a flowing river and all that its waters supported.
Dax is literally rebuilding the soil, conserving the water, and rediscovering the desert-adapted plants and crops that can thrive in such aridity and heat.
He’s full of optimism. He works hard. And he’s taking on big challenges. We learn a lot during each visit with Dax.
For a taste of our recent good times, I hope you enjoy Arizona Republic reporter Jake Frederico’s story about his own visit to Oatman Flats Ranch on the dry Gila River west of Gila Bend. We’ve linked to that article below. It’s a great read.
Until next week,
President & CEO, Archaeology Southwest
Banner image: Skylar Begay. Bill Doelle gives head skritches to one of the fearsome Guard Burros at Oatman Flats Ranch.
Threats to Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon
… Crude oil production in the Uinta Basin is hitting all-time records and is projected to keep growing for the foreseeable future. And that means heavy tanker traffic through Indian Canyon, where U.S. Highway 191 is in need of major upgrades, lawmakers say. … A winding unpaved road already passes through Gate Canyon, but Duchesne County leaders want to spend $20 million in state money to widen, pave and straighten it. Such a project would effectively put an incessant stream of oil-tanker traffic through Nine Mile Canyon, Utah’s famed rock art haven, critics say. Brian Maffly in the Salt Lake Tribune | Read more »
Developers are seeking billions of dollars in tax breaks for a new oil railroad in Utah that will threaten the Colorado River and be a risk to the health and safety of millions of Americans while damaging Joe Biden’s climate credentials, campaigners say. The 88-mile proposed Uinta railway is forecast to quadruple crude oil production in the Uinta Basin by connecting it to the national rail network and coastal refineries. … One option involves flattening a section of the nine-mile canyon, known as the largest prehistoric art gallery, to build a road fit for a steady flow of heavy oil tankers; the other is the 88-mile railway. Nina Lakhani in the Guardian | Read more »
Thanks to PAT reader Christopher Purcell for flagging this developing story.
Continuing Coverage: The Fate of Spruce Tree House
The public is invited to comment on a proposal to stabilize and reopen Spruce Tree House, a premiere archaeological site at Mesa Verde National Park at risk of collapse. The impressive village nestled inside a massive west-facing alcove was constructed by Ancestral Puebloans between 1200 and 1278, and features 120 rooms, eight kivas and two towers. But the millennia of geologic forces, wind, rain and freeze-thaw that formed the sandstone cave has reversed course toward its impending demise. … The park’s proposed preferred alternative is to stabilize the arch and reopen the cliff dwelling for public visitation similar to the access available before the 2015 closure, which allowed self-guided tours into the site, according to the environmental assessment. Proposed stabilization work would be limited to the sandstone geologic formation in which the cliff dwelling was constructed. Jim Mimiaga in the Durango Herald | Read more »
Indigenous Principles Inform Regenerative Agriculture in the Great Bend of the Gila
Regenerative agriculture is a holistic land management approach with principles that date back to Indigenous farmers. Instead of letting the land fallow or repeating a cycle of planting water-intensive crops that cannot survive the harsh conditions along the lower Gila River, [Dax] Hansen has worked to develop strategies to make less water go further. He has successfully introduced arid-adapted crops, integrated livestock on his land and used non-traditional farming methods to improve soil health and biodiversity. … Agriculture has been an integral part of this land—and the river—for centuries. Indigenous people have lived along the river for at least 2,000 years, establishing complex agricultural systems long before European settlers reached the areas in the 16th century. Jake Federico in the Arizona Republic | Read more »
ICYMI: Check out Respect Great Bend’s new Story Map on this culturally and ecologically rich region of the Sonoran Desert »
Continuing Coverage and Commentary: “Hot Mess” at New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs
If I want to point out one person as a model of what a state employee should be, I need look no further than [Eric] Blinman. Yet now he’s been removed from his leadership role at the Office of Archaeological Studies and is out of a job. It’s not that uncommon to see excellence punished, but it’s rare to see it punished so severely. If Blinman’s removal was the only decapitation within the Department of Cultural Affairs, it would be easy to lay his dismissal at his own feet. However, his removal is part of a pattern. David Phillips in the Albuquerque Journal | Read more »
Job Opportunities: US Forest Service
The Forest Service is advertising for 9 tribal relations positions in New Mexico, Arizona, and southwestern Colorado (plus one each in Wyoming and Nebraska). Please note that some of these positions have multiple possible duty stations to choose from. These positions are open to all U.S. citizens. Individuals with a wide range of professional and academic backgrounds including (but not limited to) anthropology/archaeology are encouraged to apply. Closing on March 27.
Scholarship Opportunity: ASNM Awards
The Archaeological Society of New Mexico (ASNM) is currently accepting applications for the 2023–2024 ASNM Scholarship Awards. These scholarships are available to students majoring in Anthropology with a focus in Archaeology. The subfields of Cultural Anthropology, Linguistics and Physical Anthropology may also be considered if the student’s work pertains to the American Southwest. Graduate and undergraduate students enrolled at Eastern New Mexico University, New Mexico Highlands University, New Mexico State University and University of New Mexico are eligible. Awards range from $500 to $1,000. The deadline for applications is March 31, 2023. Awards will be announced by April 15, 2023. Archaeological Society of New Mexico | Learn more »
Video: Creating Color in the Chaco World
With Kelsey E. Hanson (University of Arizona). In her current work, Kelsey is particularly interested in how specialized knowledge is cultivated and circulated in communities and how this is encoded in material culture. Drawing from anthropological archaeology, Indigenous philosophy, and conservation science, Kelsey’s dissertation research problematizes paint technology to understand the circulation of specialized knowledge in the rise and fall of the Chaco World of northern New Mexico (A.D. 850–1300). San Juan Basin Archaeological Society | Watch now »
Video: Was There a Turquoise Trail?
With Dr. Alyson Thibodeau (Dickinson College). This presentation considers what the archaeological record can tell us about mining, procurement, and exchange of turquoise by ancient peoples living in the Southwest and how geochemical measurements provide new insights into the sources of turquoise artifacts. Special attention is given to the turquoise mines of the Cerrillos Hills, New Mexico and to the question of whether turquoise from the Southwest was traded to Mesoamerica. Arizona State Museum | Watch now »
Video: One Hundred Years Plus of Prescott Culture Archaeology
With Andy Christenson. Christenson briefly reviews the history of research on post-1100 archaeological sites in the Prescott area and examines some of the results of reanalysis of selected parts of previous collections from Fitzmaurice [Pueblo]. He has been particularly interested in what archaeological materials on room floors tell us about activities at the site in the latter part of its occupation and what its inhabitants may have done to formally close the village upon leaving it. Third Thursday Food for Thought series (Old Pueblo Archaeology Center) | Watch now »
Video: Culturally Modified Tree Training
Editors’ note: Most field archaeologists know about CMTs, but we thought many of our other readers might enjoy learning about them. This 17-minute video features Tribal experts showing archaeologists and cultural resource teams the importance and uses of CMTs. Although the setting is the Pacific Northwest, the discussions of place and connection are universal and inspiring. And CMTs are everywhere! Produced by FEMA, Oregon DOT, Historical Research Associates, Inc., and WSP USA | Watch now »
Blog: Why I No Longer Call It “Art”
I’ve been thinking about the power of words, especially those pertaining to petroglyphs and pictographs, for quite some time. With the annual meeting of the American Rock Art Research Association (ARARA) taking place in Tucson this [past] weekend, I felt the time was ripe—and maybe right, we’ll see—to elaborate on why I’ve come to avoid the term “rock art.” Buckle up; we have some rocky terrain to cover. Aaron Wright at the Preservation Archaeology blog (Archaeology Southwest) | Read more »
Now in Paperback: Indigenous-Colonial Interaction in the Americas
Routledge Handbook of the Archaeology of Indigenous-Colonial Interaction in the Americas, edited by Lee M. Panich and Sara L. Gonzalez. Routledge, 2023. Learn more »
Free to Download: Mesquite, a Training Manual for Growers, Harvesters, & Artisans
The recently-released Mesquite Training Manual is intended to help desert dwellers gain satisfying livelihoods and livable wages in a restorative (rather than an extractive) economy. It was developed by Dr. Gary Nabhan in collaboration with the Borderlands Restoration Network, Regeneration International, Mission Garden, and master artisans. Southwest Center (University of Arizona) | Download in English or Spanish »
March Subscription Lectures (Santa Fe NM)
March 20 Thomas Dalton Dillehay, Peopling of South America: Recent Prospects & New Directions; March 27, Nicolasa Chavez, Semana Santa Ritual Ceremonies. Southwest Seminars | Learn more »
REMINDER: March 16 Online Event: cyberSW, a Digital Gateway
With Jeffery Clark and Joshua Watts (Archaeology Southwest). cyberSW is a large graph database and open-access web platform to facilitate exploration of the US Southwest/Mexico Northwest archaeological record by a variety of audiences. The current version of cyberSW contains standardized information, at the archaeological site level, of room counts and occupation span from more than 22,000 settlements, 16 million ceramic records, 17,000 geochemically sourced obsidian artifacts, and 1200 sites with ceremonial or public architecture. This presentation will discuss the history of cyberSW, demonstrate some of the capabilities of the current web platform, and explore short- and long-term future directions. Audience participation and feedback will be encouraged. Third Thursday Food for Thought series (Old Pueblo Archaeology Center) | Learn more and register (free) »
REMINDER: March 20 Online Event: Rain and Fertility Symbolism in the Rock Art and Cultural landscape of the Trincheras Sites of Northwestern Sonora
With Julio Amador Bech. Examined collectively and in conjunction with ethnohistoric, ethnographic, and astronomical data, we suggest Trincheras archaeology reveals a complex cultural system that provided the community with collective goals transcending the immediate needs of food, shelter, and defense. The archaeological remains within their landscape settings are microcosmic expressions of a larger cosmological scheme involving increased rituals related to rain production and fertility. They demonstrate the cultural uniqueness that human action on the landscape adopted in these sites and reflect the complex cultural relations that this tradition had with its neighbors from northwestern and western Mexico as well as with the American Southwest. Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society | Learn more and register (free) »
March 23 Online Event: Colorado Ute History and Colonial Land & Water Appropriation
With Amorina Lee-Martinez. The history of how Colorado’s rivers were allocated, dammed, and diverted is inextricable from the history of US conquest in Colorado. Amorina researched the history of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Dolores Project, which built McPhee Dam and diverts water from the Dolores watershed to the San Juan watershed for agricultural and municipal use. Importantly, the Dolores Project honors Ute Mountain Ute reserved water rights. The history of Ute people, Colorado conquest, and Dolores River management in southwest Colorado offer insights into the current dynamics of who does and does not benefit from the systems of watershed management in the Colorado River basin. Crow Canyon Archaeological Center | Learn more and register (free) »
March 25 & 26 In-Person Events (Wupatki National Monument, Flagstaff AZ): Sacred Scarlets
Come out to the Wupatki Visitor Center for a unique experience and presentation by Kelley Taylor of Sacred Scarlets, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Scarlet Macaws and studying their role in southwest archeology. Learn about the extensive, fascinating, and mysterious use and trade of these tropical parrots, known as Scarlet Macaws throughout the southwest by Ancestral Puebloan people, including those living at Wupatki Pueblo. The presentation will feature Sedona and Bonita, two captive-bred Scarlet Macaws, as educational animal ambassadors. Wupatki National Monument | Find out how to get there »
March 31 Online Event: The Altar Valley Conservation Alliance: Collaborative Conservation in a Polarized West
With Tom Sheridan, Sarah King, and Mary Miller. Founded in 1995, the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance (AVCA) is a grassroots collaborative conservation organization of ranchers southwest of Tucson, Arizona. At a time when “Cattle Free in ’93” was a goal of some environmental groups, who wanted to remove cattle from federal and state lands, the AVCA positioned itself in the “Radical Center,” bringing ranchers, environmentalists, and agency land managers together to seek common ground on Arizona range lands. Southwest Center (University of Arizona) | Learn more and register (free) »
April 4 Online Event: Archaeologies that Matter
With Kisha Supernant (University of Alberta). Dr. Supernant will discuss “Archaeologies that Matter: Heart-centered Practice, Indigenous Knowledge, and Restorative Justice in Canada.” Archaeology Café (Archaeology Southwest) | Learn more and register (free) »
Remember to send us notice of upcoming online and in-person lectures, tours and workshops, and anything else you’d like to share with the Friends. Thanks!