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Monday, April 8, 2013

Heathens In Valley Of The Gods: On Genocidal Arrogance

It's hard for me to wander through southeast Utah, what with its Monument Valleys, Valleys of the Gods and Canyon-lands, replete with Anasazi heritage and cultural artifacts, without waxing a tad melodramatic. So sue me. Here, today, among landscapes that played across a black and white childhood TV...the one that introduced me to John Wayne, John Ford, and various heroines de jour, it's possible to lose a century, maybe even two, in the blink of a mile. We are running out of places like this. I mean no disrespect to the "Williamsburgs" and "Plymouth Rocks" out there, but they have been turned into something resembling Disneyland...Epcot towns where food-fare is a bigger draw than history, places where re-enactments fall short of what imaginations could better do. It's like the difference between "the book" and "the movie." Too many people doth spoil a "ghost town," Pilgrim.   

Utah's Cedar Mesa is one of the few remaining natural areas where you can get a Mesa Verde experience without the circus. It's the kind place where one's imagination is engaged in an effort to put together the puzzle pieces of Anasazi life, instead of listening to umpteenth time regurgitation by amateur authorities...the one's that keep revising history to suit "new information" (see/read "House of Rain," by Craig Childs). As an aside, and while I have a Pulpit and Mic...this makes a curious mind wonder about the steady dribble of "new information" regarding the origins of "Man" (see/read "The Source Field, by David Wilcock). I get a revengeful prick of glee when know-it-all types are forced to reconsider "facts" in light of "new information (grin).

You can be damn near alone with your thoughts just driving to Cedar Mesa. Signs along shoulder-less strips of asphalt designates that I'm one of very few on the "Trail of the Ancients." Through Goldie's pristine windshield, a remote back road less traveled heaves and sinks in waves of red...twisting and turning like a serpent. On the horizon, Mother Earth curves into blackness...intermittent storms pass in veils of black virga; "All the windshield is a "stage," and I love the drama. 

Lightning arcs suddenly...jagged forks striking out like a rattlesnake's tongue, sensing for it's next victim, an innocent passerby at the intersection of "Right Place" and "Wrong Time."

Lightning and rain were god-speak to the Anasazi; they became dependent on weather as they transitioned from hunter-gatherers to  farming. A more stationary life necessitated semi-permanent dwellings. Long before they were carpenters (hogans) the Anasazi were masons...Masters of stonework evidenced by work-of-art cliff dwellings that dot south and east facing canyon alcoves of Cedar Mesa. Some of these stone and mud-mortared structures are as proud, practical and plumb as anything built today. 

After corn and beans were introduced to the Anasazi (probably by traders from points south) they were often able to raise in excess, and lay away in storage granaries enough get them through winter. For obvious reasons, flat-bottomed canyons with flowing water and rich soil were highly prized. That is where we stumbled across most of the cliff dwellings we found...unchanged except for stream flows which are now intermittent at best. Contending with drought, and its counterpart, flash floods, likely played a key role in Anasazi Spirituality...a plea to the gods to take favor, or pity, on their plight of attempting to scratch out a "living" in such a harsh land of weather extremes.  

When I say that the Anasazi were "spiritual," I meant as opposed to religious. It's something we could take a lesson from today. They constructed Kiva's, usually round, for sacred, ceremonial services, much like we go to churches, usually rectangular, for fellowship...the difference being Kiva attendance was more a matter of real-time life and death, whereas church attendance is more about the after-Life...whether we would rather "retire" in Heaven, or that other place, the one hotter than Phoenix on the Forth of July (ahem).   

Kiva proceedings provided all the order, structure, and explanation the Anasazi needed; it worked for centuries...millenniums. The Anasazi were highly intelligent and resourceful. but more important than that they were adaptive. They adapted to what "worked" when conditions changed...moved on when resources ran low, especially water. 

Then, "Along came Pastor Jones," passing out Bibles and telling indians they were going to "Phoenix in a hand basket" if they didn't change their ways. It broke their "Spirit," which is to say, their culture, which had served them well since times before Jesus was even born. "Salvation" was the last thing they needed. In fact, "Salvation" was to be their damnation. 

I don't claim to be an authority here, and this might step on some "religious toes," so to speak, but think about it; "Salvation" (religion) has killed more people than it ever "saved," be it war, disruption, or disease. Yes, Gimme that Old Time Religion...the sociologically vicious displacement and/or substitution of one perfectly sound, successful, and meaningful Spiritual hierarchy, for another's Religious hierarchy which has no relevance, basis in Past, Soul, nor Culture. 

Historically speaking, it has proven to be little more than genocidal arrogance on the part of the "Professors." They meant well, I'm sure, as all religions do...claiming to have a monopoly on truth. It's bumper sticker material, "Save the world; Kill a culture." That pretty much sums it up. Now you tell me, who are the real "heathens?"   


  1. Love the contrasts of the pictures. The expansive horizons broken by huge outcroppings is amazing. It is heartbreaking to know what is long gone due to the ignorance of those civilizing forces. It horrifies me me to find 'history' written to protect the ignorant.

  2. I contend that the popular claim of spirituality rather than religion is a distinction without difference. Either you believe in some sort of supernatural force that you can harness with your rituals and wishing or you do not. At its core, it is about supernatural power - or in more prosaic language - the wish that one had power over nature and using it to have real power over people.

    The Anasazi had a well developed and organized religion with shamans and rituals that tried to get the supernatural powers (re gods) to do their bidding with ritual. That the Christians tried to supplant that religion with their own religion (often at the point of a sword) does not make the Anasazi religion any less of a religion. This was the racist contention of the Manifest Destiny doctrine of the US Indian wars and mistreatment of the indigenous peoples. They claimed the Indian had no religion - a patently false claim that denigrated the Indians and allowed a justification to abuse them.

    The endurance of that closer-to-nature religion is seen in the continuance of it in the extant pueblo peoples such as the Hopi and Zunis. One could draw a conclusion that the old religion - the really old religion - satisfies in a way the now predominant Levant religions do not. Or it is just a cultural thing they are clinging to.

  3. Now you tell me, who are the real "heathens?"
    easy your last 11 photos you keep takeing all the photos of god you like you post am we see am

  4. Today's "Pastor Joneses" also decided that the Anasazi should be "renamed" the ancient pueblo peoples, so as not to infer that they might have been enemies or perceived negatively!!

  5. It is a shame what one culture is capable of doing to another in the name of hypocracy.

  6. Thank you for putting into words what is in my head...Along with gorgeous photos too.

  7. I tend to side with Tesaje in the matter of word choice - religion vs. spirituality.

    Having said that, the largely forced "Christianizing" of the indigenous peoples colonized by Europeans most certainly broke the "spirit" of those cultures.

    There is a very fundamental difference between the notions at the foundation of the Abrahamic religions and those of so-called pagans and the religions of the indigenous peoples. That is the relationship posited for man and the rest of nature. In the former case the creation myth culminates with man being granted "dominion" over all of the creatures of the earth (and by extension, the very earth, itself). For the people that the European invaders encountered in North America, such a notion was utterly foreign - as was and by extension, the idea of "owning" land. It was that trait that US Senators, intent on "removal" of the Indians from wherever they might be found, used as indisputable evidence of the Indians "savage" nature; sub-humans in need of eradication.

  8. I'm so far behind in blog reading, I'm almost ashamed to post two months after you wrote this.

    Your thinking and writing are sublime. Good job.

    We are currently living in San Antonio and have toured the local missions learning about said "Christian" (read Catholic) conversions of local peoples to the Catholic church. The reason: Spain wanted control of the land. Basically, the church rounded up the native peoples, cast off their culture, their language, their names, and their "heathen" ways. As you said, disease decimated many of them.

    So, so sad. The church definitely did not have the best interests of the native people in mind.


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