National Monuments: Voices of the Vanished Ones, Preserved

VOICES in The Wind

Though modern ears seem deaf to primal song,
Ideas seek – and probe – subconscious minds.
Where spirits walk, old muted voices long
To search – as dust now gathered by the winds –
And speak in silence, whispering to those souls
Their sacred manifests of unsung dreams.
Then Suffrage of the land – through Gray Wolf’s howls
And breath of noiseless Deer – expresses themes
As surely as the murmur of the trees
Announces wind and wingéd life, in kind.
And silently as Eagle rides the breeze,
These messages – the Sum of Life – remind:
Man’s aimless, modern Din shall ne’er transcend
The Wild – and Ancient – Voices – in the Wind.

That was my summation, a decade or more ago, after having spent thirty years exploring the “out there” country of Arizona, including frequent visits to secluded national monuments that protected both historical sites and ‘special’ landscapes. And while I’ve never visited the latest pair of Obama-designated National Monuments — Gold Butte in Nevada and Bears Ears in S.E. Utah — I do totally and completely understand the grand value of each and every Antiquity Act designee that’s “out there” today. My hope is that we as a nation don’t stop here, but that we find every last square inch of land in need of absolute preservation, and then DO IT! And to hell with each and every wingnut that protests or tries to halt/overturn preservation whether past, present, or future.

Today’s Voices, a quick sample:

“I am designating two new national monuments in the desert landscapes of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada to protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archaeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes. Today’s actions will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes.”
(President Barack Obama; December 28, 2016)

“We have always looked to Bears Ears as a place of refuge. The rocks,
the winds, the land — they are living, breathing things that deserve
timely and lasting protection.”
(Russell Begaye; President, Navajo Nation)

“Obama’s decision to create the national monuments means that the area,
that contains some Native American artifacts, will be protected
from energy drilling in the future.”
(Nikita Vladimirov, The Hill)

“It’s just terribly arrogant, he unilaterally — he is taking 1.35 million acres,
that’s more land than there is in the entire state of Delaware,
and re-designating it as a national monument.”
(Rep Jason Chafetz, R-Utah)

“This arrogant act by a lame duck president will not stand.”
(Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah)

“. . . the president’s midnight proclamation cherry picked provisions of the
Public Lands Initiative and disregarded the economic development and
multi-use provisions necessary for a balanced compromise.”
(Jason Chafetz, R-Utah)

“We look forward to working with President-elect Trump to follow through
on his commitment to repeal midnight regulations.
(Rep Jason Chafetz, R-Utah)

“By significantly restricting access to a large portion of public lands in Utah, the President weakens land management capabilities and fails to protect
those the Antiquities Act intended to benefit.”
(Sean Reyes, State Atty. Gen., R-Utah)

“President Obama is a courageous man. I could not be more grateful to him
and his team for working with me to make this happen, and for everything
he has done to protect public lands in Nevada. By designating Gold Butte a
national monument, President Obama has shown once again why he
is one of the greatest environmental presidents in American history.”
(Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada)

“Today’s actions will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that
future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these
scenic and historic landscapes.”
(President Barack Obama)


Obama perfectly summed up the undercurrent intentions of the 1906 Antiquities Act which, in spite of today’s Fascist (Tea Party) rejection of same, serves as the major tool to enable preservation of “scenic and historic landscapes” by Presidential decree and NOT via far-more-difficult-to-secure Congressional action. Today’s Republicans see absolutely zero benefit in preserving anything other than their own power and position. Landscapes? If they’re that good, there’s gotta be money in NOT preserving them. Historic sites? Ain’t nothin’ but a bunch of Injun crapola, and we beat them red skinned worthless bums 150 years ago. Who cares about shit they done way back when?

In the last 8 years, President Obama has preserved, via the Antiquities Act, more than 550 million acres in 29 newly-designated National Monuments, more than any President has ever done: an impressive statistic. For those of us who cherish the ‘voices’ offered by the wind, by the vanished ones, Obama’s accomplishment stands tall and far above the sacrifices demanded by (political/commercial) gluttonous greed.

Following are a handful of photos I’ve taken over the years, visual descriptions of the centerpieces in nine of Arizona’s eighteen (the most in any one state) National Monuments. The first seven are of historic or ancient ruins, followed by a composite from a National Heritage Site in a National Forest, and finally a pair of Monumental ‘historic (volcanic) landscapes.’ Taken together, they vividly spell out — at least in my mind — the grand purpose behind the 1906 Antiquities Act, AND the fantastic consequences thereof.


Tumacacori National Monument/Historic Park  tumacacori-profile-aa

Mission San Jose de Tumacacori was founded by Jesuit Spanish Missionary Father Eusebio Kino in 1691. In 1768, Franciscans, upon the order of the King of Spain, took over from the Jesuits and in the early 1800’s completed the mission church pictured above. Tumacacori National Monument was established in 1908 By President Theodore Roosevelt and was redesignated a National Historic Park in 1990. The above photo was taken in 1977.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument (Hohokam) ▼casa-grande-1

The “Casa Grande” or ‘Big House’ was built by the aboriginal Hohokam People who were residents of Arizona’s Gila Valley some 1000 years ago. The Casa Grande, the four story adobe centerpiece of a Hohokam village and agricultural complex, was probably built in the thirteenth century, then abandoned circa 1450. One of the first Europeans to visit the ruin was Father Eusebio Kino in the late 1600’s. The National Monument status of the site was granted in 1918; the above photograph, circa 1978.

Tonto National Monument (Salado) ▼tonto3-aa

The Tonto cliff dwellings pictured above were constructed some 600-700 years ago by the Salado People in cliffs high above the Salt River near the NE margin of the Sonoran Desert. They were abandoned, presumably, in the early fifteenth century. Today the site looks down upon Roosevelt Lake, a Salt River high dam reservoir that provides water for the Phoenix metro area in the Salt River Valley some 60 or so miles downstream. The Tonto ruins were designated a National Monument in 1907.

Tuzigoot National Monument (Sinagua) ▼tuzigoot

The Sinaguan Tuzigoot ruins pictured above are located on a hilltop in central Arizona’s Verde Valley, about 120 feet above the nearby Verde River itself. The ruin is an elongated set of masonry walls which enclose 110 rooms. In the center of the complex is a 2-3 story ‘tower’ that most likely had a public function. Tuzigoot National Monument was designated by FDR in 1939.

Montezuma Castle National Monument (Sinagua) ▼montezuma-castle

Montezuma Castle, also in the Verde Valley, is a Sinaguan Pueblo situated in a sheer limestone cliff, about 100 feet up from the valley floor. It’s one of the most well-preserved cliff dwellings in North America; it’s five stories tall and has a total floor space of approx. 4000 square feet, and is an overall engineering masterpiece considering that it dates back to approximately 1200 AD. It was designated a National Monument by T. Roosevelt in December 1906, one of the first accomplishments of the 1906 Antiquities Act.

Walnut Canyon National Monument (Sinagua)▼walnut-canyon

Atop the Colorado Plateau near today’s city of Flagstaff, Arizona, the Sinaguan cliff dwellings are built into cliffs some 185 ft. below the 7000 ft. canyon rim and about 175 ft. above Walnut Creek at the bottom of the canyon. There are some 25 separate rooms, constructed in limestone caves from local limestone and sandstone rocks. Construction is assumed to have begun circa 1100 AD, with occupation ending around 1250. The site was declared a National Monument in 1915.

Wupatki National Monument (Sinagua and Anasazi) ▼wupatki-main

Wupatki, located NE of Flagstaff and in the shadow of the San Francisco Peaks consists of numerous settlements variously built by the Sinagua, Cohonina, and Kayenta Anasazi Peoples. It’s believed that some 2000 people settled there circa 1100 AD to practice agriculture following the eruption of Sunset Crater some ten miles to the south. The area contains a number of sizeable and well-preserved Pueblos, and was designated a National Monument in 1924.

V-Bar-V  National Heritage Site, Coconino National Forest (Sinagua) ▼vbarv-collage

The V-Bar-V wall of Sinaguan petroglyphs is located in the Verde Valley some two miles below the cliffs that define the edge of the Colorado Plateau. It’s not a National Monument  but is, rather, a designated National Heritage Site administered by the Coconino National Forest. The red sandstone ‘wall’ contains some 1023 petroglyphs, some of which are pictured above. The site is considered sacred by today’s Hopi People, presumed descendants of the Sinaguans.

Sunset Crater and Chiricahua National Monuments (Scenic Historic) sunset-crater-chiricahua

Sunset Crater, an extinct volcano which erupted circa 1060 AD lies between Walnut Canyon and Wupatki National Monuments described above. Today, the bulk of the area is covered either by lava flows or volcanic ash; a few trees — Ponderosa Pines, mostly — grow there amidst a substantial number of ‘skeleton’ trees such as shown above. Sunset Crater was designated a National Monument in 1930.

Chiricahua National Monument (designated in 1924) is located in SE Arizona, in the Chiricahua Mountains and near the Coronado National Forest. The major landscape of the National Monument is covered with stone (rhyolite tuff) pillars, the eroded remains of a massive volcanic event that took place some 27 million years ago. More recently, it was the domain of the Chiricahua Apache People. The grave site of Apache Chief Cochise is rumored to be in the area, though its location remains unknown.


President Obama has vibrantly carried forward the concept of the Antiquities Act. His recent designations of Gold Butte and Bears Ears National Monuments demonstrate for all to see that his interest continues to be the preservation of that which, in this country, is worthy of preserving and NOT meant to serve simply for the satisfaction of greed and commercial gluttony. Sadly, however, it now seems preservation will likely no longer be an option, that beginning in about one week on day one of the Trump Presidency . . .

The Republican party’s control of both the White House and Congress, for the first time in a decade, forms a unified political block that could reopen numerous battles over national parks, forests, refuges, and other protected federal lands. In addition to ANWR, conservationists, environmentalists, and other observers fear the GOP will again push for oil drilling at the foot of Arches National Park, throw open the gates of national forests to timber and energy interests, and roll back environmental rules protecting the air, water, and animals on and around these lands.

This predictable anti-Public Lands assault by Republicans must be stopped at all costs, then reversed for perpetuity. The insanity implicit in the destruction and/or commercialization of Public Lands anywhere amounts to an atrocity of the highest order — the complete and 180 degree opposite of what ought to be of highest priority, i.e. land preservation. I mean, whose voices are more worth listening to? Trump? Teabaggers? Chafetz? Mike Lee? Bulldozers? Oil drilling rigs? Howling wolves? The Ancient Ones? The Wind?

I’ll take the latter three and shut out the worthless ones, i.e. all the rest.



The voices of the Vanished Ones still speak
Through missives born of dust and scribed in stone,
Available to all who dare to seek
Their enigmatic wisdom – practiced – gone.
They understood the message in the winds,
In waters issued forth by rain and creek;
And too, in governance of thinking minds
Which found, in night-time sky, the means to seek
And so to know the times to glean, to sow.
They learned the paradox, the consequence
Of bounty’s waste; with Nature thus a foe,
Their cities turned to dust. There’s no defense
Of aftermath which overuse portends:
Diminishment of resource – Means – the Ends.



About frugalchariot

How Frugal is the Chariot That bears the Human soul. (Emily Dickinson)
This entry was posted in Arizona, Environmental Conservation, Land Preservation, Photo Essays, Photos, Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

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