As some of you know, I recently took an amazing trip to Sedona and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with a close friend. I had never been and I fell in love with the landscape, the sky, the rocks, I could go on and on…
However, one thing I noticed and did not love were the not-so-subtle colonialist plaques, memorials, exhibits, etc all honoring settlers. For all of the Native Americans who have lived on this land for millennia, preserving it impeccably and honoring it as sacred, I did not see one sign in their memory or honor.
Take Rachel’s Knoll in Sedona for example. Rachel’s Knoll is a scenic viewing spot that our amazing guide Rahelio took us to. It is a knoll on top of Long Canyon where you can view many red rocks, canyons and valleys. I was surprised however by the sign we found (pictured below):
“Rachel’s Knoll is named after Rachel Patty Lunt. Rachel was a remarkable woman who worked hard and long to acquire and preserve this property. She was so inspired by its beauty and desired to share that inspiration and beauty with visitors from all over the world. Rachel’s Knoll is her “gift to mankind.”
Ok, let’s break this down. Several different tribes of Native Americans have lived in and around Sedona since 8000 BC. In the 1860s, when gold was found in Prescott, many white settlers came to this area and forcibly moved Native Americans with troops on horseback, disrupting centuries of peaceful land worship there… But a rich privileged white woman named Rachel gets to “buy” the land (hint: that’s a European concept) and pronounce it as her gift to humanity… Seriously?
One of the reasons why I felt compelled to write this post is that white centrism/ eurocentrism has been wired in us as being the norm, but when one thinks critically about it, what were are really engaging in is a lot more than that. And in the end, people go home talking about this supposedly great place that Rachel had a vision for and ignoring the centuries that this land was hailed (and not owned) by indigenous peoples.
In the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, I found more on white worship and colonialism: Buckey’s Cabin.
“The consummate entrepreneur, Buckey improved the Bright Angel Trail and camp at Indian Garden and promoted the Grand Canyon railroad to benefit both his tourism and mining interests.”
It seems like the common theme here is that white settlers act in their own interest – taking stolen land, mining it, commodifying it, and yet they are the ones being honored and remembered? I mean, what does this say about the character of our country when we are honoring people who pillage, who act exclusively in their own self-interest, who take advantage of people and land around them and then dishonor others who have long stood for community and ecological sustainability?
I’m not very surprised. I understand that the US is a country of settlers who have long spread colonialism and white centrism, but I think that now is the time for us to start thinking critically about our troubled history and what we choose to honor and dishonor.