Last fall I visited the Chaco Culture National Historic Park in New Mexico which is now celebrating its 25th anniversary as a World Heritage Site. I stayed awake in my tent at night and thought how wonderful it was to be surrounded by the remains of a culture that was active so many years ago – between 850 and 1250 AD. I looked up at the same stars they would have seen and ran my hands across the smooth stone that they would have touched. The remains of a small cliff dwelling were just yards away from my campsite and I wondered about who had stayed there. Maybe they listened to the ancestors of the same coyotes that broke the silence of my night, their yips bouncing off the canyon walls.
Gallo Campground Cliff Dwelling
Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde and Canyon de Chelly and other sites in the southwestern part of the US are widely known and celebrated. People travel great distances to see them and experience them. Yet here we are with all these secret places, just as old, some thousands of years older, mostly forgotten and barely studied.
And while it is so inspiring to visit these cultural sites, how lucky are those who own property that contains an ancient mound, one that they can see every day? To turn out the light at night and feel its presence in the dark. To drink the morning coffee while listening to the birds singing from its branches. To watch children play chase up and over its summit. Day in, day out, knowing the following generations will be able to do the same.
Fish Creek Mound C.
We are so fortunate to have these sacred places among us. Yet so many of us have traveled all over to see the remains of other great cultures without ever visiting, or even taking an interest, in our own.