Who Has The Right To Control The Land? Government or Individual?
In an earlier hub, I celebrated the National Park System and offered its birthday up to you the reader to celebrate in your own way. We should honor those who came before us who had the intellect and foresight to set apart portions of this land to remain celibate, to remain as they are in order to preserve them for our future generations to enjoy. As the old saying goes, they ain't making any more land. We must preserve parts of it in order that we not waste or destroy what we have and to offer up to our descendants the opportunity to study it, to know it, to enjoy it. To do otherwise is both selfish and foolhardy, with a side order of shortsightedness tossed in for good measure.
Along with the need to preserve our past for our future comes a responsibility to balance the current needs of the people with the possible needs of those who will someday walk in our footsteps. What we do today most definitely will have an impact on how we are perceived by the generations to come. If we protect areas which have no cultural or historical significance they will scoff at our ignorance; however, if they are of importance they will thank us for having the insight to save these areas for their enjoyment and for allowing them to delve into those mysteries with tools we cannot imagine, thereby gaining further knowledge and understanding into how our ancestors lived and what occurred in our country before we set foot upon its lands.
The Bears Ears
A battle on just this subject ensues as we speak. An area in Utah known as The Bears Ears is under attack. Our government desires to set it aside, to preserve both it and its treasures for our future while another group desires nothing more than to use and abuse its land for their own personal satisfaction. Threats of violence are on the horizon and a decision must be made.
An area totaling roughly 2 million acres east of Blanding, Utah is a unique and culturally rich environment which is being systematically plundered by unscrupulous individuals for their own personal profit even as it is being destroyed environmentally by those looking to have a "good time". Cultural relics of a bygone age dating back thousands of years ago are literally being ripped out of the rock faces that surround this desert area by thieves who will then sell them for money. In addition to this heinous act, area residents and visitors are tearing up the landscape in pursuit of a far baser form of fun, that of personal satisfaction. Motorcycles, all terrain vehicles and four-wheelers are romping through the landscape destroying the earth itself as they seek pleasure by destruction.
Meanwhile, those with a claim to the land, the Native Americans who lived and flourished here through the years are losing another battle to the interloping conquerors. They wish the land to remain as it is for their culture in order to preserve some semblance of a tie to it. It is contained within their history and their religion yet it is being ransacked by those who have no more thought to history other than to see what they can make off of it.
- A major Native American site is being looted. Will Obama risk armed conflict to save it?
The president and Republican lawmakers debate how to protect the Utah land known as the Bears Ears.
The dry environment of the Cedar Mesa area is a wonderful preservation tool for those artifacts which have stood the test of time. Weather has not effected the pictographs here, nor has it touched the multitude of other artifacts which reside in its canyons and caves. Yet it takes nothing more than a human armed with a rock saw to cut the pictographs from the walls of the canyons with a desire to sell it on the open market for profit to remove a portion of the culture from these lands forever. To me, this is plunder, it is theft, it is a heinous act of pure greed.
And now, as our government tries to halt this theft others who desire to keep the area open for their use threaten armed actions in order to continue doing what they desire to do. They say it is their God given right, that Big Government has no place in their state, that they know best how to take care of the problem. Do you agree? Do you believe that an area so rich in history is an open market to steal from, to destroy, to vandalize?
I read and hear daily about how our younger generation is so selfish, thinking of nothing but themselves. They want, they demand and they get angry if they don't get what they want. Basically, it sounds like a good old temper tantrum to me. But it doesn't stop there. I see it in smokers who demand to be able to poison their bodies even as they ignore the health warnings associated with the tobacco industry. They are incensed that we non-smokers do not wish them to force their life decision on us, that we wish to breathe clean air instead of the polluted, foul-smelling fumes they produce. It is their right to smoke if they want to.
It is that very thought process that is in play in Utah now: I want, I want, I want. To hell with what is right or healthy or would benefit someone else, I want it NOW!
The American Antiquities Act of 1906
On June 8th in the year 1906 that forward looking President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law this act, detailing the preservation of lands deemed appropriate by a President by the means of creating national monuments and parks with the specific intent of preserving lands that are culturally significant. This was done to bring a halt to the systematic theft of antiquities from "Indian" ruins on Federal Lands in the West. So called "pot hunters" were destroying the history of the Indians by seeking out and sacking the well preserved ruins which inhabit the lands in the American Southwest. This provided the means to halt this destruction and allowed the government to step in and protect the heritage that is so fragile.
This is what our government is attempting to do today and it is being met with not only resistance, but the threat of armed resistance. The people of Utah who desire the status quo to remain are battling to force our government into capitulation and forfeit these lands so that they might profit by them for themselves. They desire the pot hunting to continue, they desire the destruction to continue, they desire to be allowed to reap the profits made by these endeavors and more. They say it is their right to do with as they see fit.
But what of those who are tied to the land such as the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Zuni peoples? These tribes have inhabited this region for untold millennia and are not only tied to it, it literally is interwoven in the very fabric of their lives and history, to say nothing of their religion yet they are not being given a voice in the future of their past. The very personages who have the most to lose are not being heard by the parties who will make the decision.
One of my favorite authors, Douglas Preston, has seen this land first hand from the back of a horse and describes it in terms that fill the heart with longing, to see and to preserve it. Some areas have not been touched in hundreds of years, others have such religious significance to the tribes that only on the most sacred occasions do the tribal elders approach and visit them. Yet we have a group of people who think nothing of roaring up these same canyons on their motorcycles, destroying the landscape and taking no prisoners. Another group see this as their own personal warehouse to take from and sell for profit to collectors across the globe. pillaging the land much as the conquistadors did, taking pots and native relics rather than gold but still making large amounts of money off another culture's history.
What is it in us that leads us to believe that anything not personally owned by someone (oftentimes even if it is) is ripe for the taking? An area undeveloped is an area to play in, to destroy with our new toys? Something which has been in place for hundreds or thousands of years is something we must have in our home as decoration? Why? Why must we be so very selfish as to believe we can own something? What is it about us that demands we seek out and have stuff that is nothing to us but a pretty little nothing but is something precious to others?
Rarely do I agree with the direction our government is proceeding in our world today, but in this case I wholeheartedly endorse the thought of protecting our past. The land we have been entrusted with is unique and it is not up to us to decide how to use it, rather it is our duty to preserve that which is unique and precious.
It began with the hunter gatherer civilization coming into contact with the farming civilization. The White People saw this open land as an opportunity and took it from those who used it without owning it, (Native Americans) who believed no one can own the land. It continued with the ranchers running cattle on the open range even as the farmers sought to protect a portion of it in order to raise their crops and provide sustenance for their families. It continues today in the opposing groups who seek to alternatively profit from it or preserve it.
What do you think?
How The Native American Views Ownership Of The Land
"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children."
"One does not sell the land people walk on." Crazy Horse
"We do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us?"
I love the thoughts behind these words even as I understand the need for land in the current civilization and times. But this need to own every single grain of sand is wrong. This thought that it is appropriate to abuse this land is wrong. We are here for a short time; we can use it without abusing it. We can enjoy it without destroying it. We must save it to savor it and allow our children to know and understand its importance as a resource as it relates to our history.
These iconic areas are filled with riches that we cannot possess: we must leave them as they are and do our best to preserve that which will never come again. This area and its relics are much like land itself: it cannot be created again. After all, they ain't making any more of it.