Over the past four weeks on this course, we have discussed the tumultuous state of the Colorado River Basin. We have examined the area through many different lenses — small farmers, large farmers, small town, city, etc. — the most pertinent being the lens of native peoples. The history of their genocide and displacement over the past two hundred years is hard to hear about. The system of suppression and white supremacy that has destroyed the land and eradicated important spiritual markers is disturbing and makes me feel sick. And, through all of this, native people like Ava Hamilton take to time to talk with us about the way their cultures connect with the land.
Prior to this trip, the word ‘connection’ would have been too strong to describe my relationship with the land. I tried to take the time to admire the beauty of our country and the world, but when I was done, I would go back to ignoring it. I lived the quintessential American lifestyle, with ‘the land’ being a synonym for ‘wilderness’. The land was a place to be virtually untouched by humans where the ‘natural beauty’ was preserved and only visited as an escape from my modern life. I viewed land as an object on which my home was built rather than my home itself.
In the past four weeks, I have learned that the land is a living thing that does not end when one returns to the suburbs or the city. It is not an object that can be owned as our capitalist society claims — what one does with their own land affects everyone else — it cannot be an independent asset. Our land is resilient, but when people overuse it, it cannot always be used again. The native people in the US had a symbiotic relationship with the land in which they took only what they needed and gave back more than they took. In our society, we take more than we need and give back less than we took — it is quite simply unsustainable.
As I learn more about how people interacted with this land before white settlers came, I am realizing just how toxic my relationship to the land is. I take so much and give almost nothing in return. I see land as an object for purchase instead of a place to nurture a healthy relationship of love and gratitude. I thought that I was leaving my home when I came on this trip, but instead I have begun to connect with the land and have thus arrived home. I have been welcomed in with open arms to the sound of the land saying, “Welcome Home!”