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Visit With Respect

Around 4 days ago we visited a gorgeous Ancient Puebloan ruin site known as Riverhouse. The land surrounding the ruins seems incredibly unassuming: there is a small stretch of green near the river, but just 20 feet from the riverside the whole landscape turns into dry, sandy, parched desertland. The tiny trek from the river to the site is barely three minutes, and the whole time walking there I found myself being tricked into thinking the site wouldn’t be terribly impressive. After all, I couldn’t find myself or anyone at all being able to live in such a landscape.

When the building complex finally came into view, I was amazed to find a ruin unlike any of the sites we had yet to see. The ruin is impressively built into a hillside that thrusts into the underside of a mesa. Even from the bottom of the hill, I was able to see the large pictograph of the snake above the buildings, lending Riverhouse it’s other name: Snakehouse.  The ruins consist of one kiva as well as a couple one-story and for the first time we’d seen, two-story buildings. From afar the structures look more than majestic enough, yet the closer you get, as the smaller pictographs and pictograms come into focus, I found myself enamored with the ruin.

Now you’re probably wondering why I haven’t included a photo of this memorable sight, which leads me to what I really wanted to write about today: Visiting With Respect.

With all the sights we have had the opportunity to visit, we have come with the mindset of visiting with respect. Visiting places like the ones that we have, it is important to remember that they are sacred to many indigenous peoples today. We are walking through, gawking, leaving a footprint on places that used to be someone’s home. Even more, the environment I described before is unbelievably fragile. Have a couple people walk through land that isn’t a trail, and for years where the people walked there will be a trail where there hadn’t been before. It’s behind these principles that I don’t post a picture, because we simply don’t have any. Would taking countless pictures of this historic home to post, causing more people to come visit, really be visiting with respect? The answer seems pretty clear. I would like for anyone reading this to keep the idea of visiting with respect anywhere they travel, and to make it even easier I am going to outline the “tips” given to us before we travel to these areas.

Cultural Sites-

  • Leave all artifacts (Don’t take stuff that isn’t yours!)
  • Don’t touch rock art or make your own (the oils on your skin degrade the art)
  • Don’t disturb fossils or bones (You could potentially damage important artifacts)
  • Don’t build cairns (Building cairns can lead to people getting lost as well as starting new trails that destroy the environment and lead nowhere)
  • Go to the bathroom away from the site ( You don’t want excrement near sites, you know?)
  • Camp and eat away from archaeology
  • Steer clear of walls (The walls are fragile and stepping near them or leaning on them can lead to walls collapsing)
  • Historic artifacts aren’t trash
  • Leave grinding on grinding stones to the past (Grinding stones, while really cool, were made and used by the indigenous people in the past. Leave it that way)

Desert Respect-

  • Stay on designated roads (The ecosystem and life in the desert is very fragile, so driving or walking on non-designated roads or trails will kill any life-forms trampled on)
  • Guide children through sites (Children can be pretty foolish, I should know because I was myself, so keep an eye on them just in case)
  • Pay your fees
  • Don’t build fire rings
  • Use rubber tips
  • Don’t bust the crust (Same thing as the designated roads guideline, but to add more detail, the “crust” is something called crypto. Crypto grows on the dirt in the canyons and desertland, but at a rate of 1 inch in 100 years. Even worse is the fact that stepping on it just once kills it immediately; and for any more life to grow the crypto needs to be well established)
  • Know where pets are allowed
  • Gps reveals too much (Posting everything you do invites more people to visit a landscape where the more people visit, the more damage the environment receives. Not only that, when people tend to visit just off posts and GPS locations, people don’t look up and know how to visit with respect)
  • Enjoy archaeology without ropes

Visit With Respect