Mesa Verde, The granddaddy of all cave dwellings
Dec 2, 2020 at 4:00 AM in Explore
Part Two: Honoring Native Americans
As you savor spoonfuls of turkey soup and the last nibbles of pumpkin pie, The Map Geek would like to bring to your attention some of the highlights of Native American culture located within our Discovery Map destinations.
Let’s back up a bit to shine a light on Thanksgiving, a national holiday officially proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War in 1863. First celebrated on Thursday, November 26, 1621 between the Plymouth Colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans in what is today Massachusetts, this day of feasting and giving thanks emphasizes celebrating the harvest and sharing its fruits as a sign of unification. The Map Geek wishes you the very best as you do just that on many occasions throughout the holiday season and into next year. We have come together so much over good food and drink since the start of this pandemic and now we must continue to do that in a safe and responsible manner. We have so many blessings in our lives and now is a good time to continue to give thanks for them all.
In between your feasting, you might want to head out and visit some of the sites, establishments and places of interest featured in this story. Be sure to look them up ahead of time for opening hours and COVID requirements, since the landscape for many locales can change as fast as a brisk breeze blowing in from the ocean.
Let’s begin with Cape Cod, Massachusetts where the pilgrims first dropped anchor after their sixty-six-day voyage across the Atlantic. Discovery Map International boasts many destinations along the Cape, including Chatham & Orleans, Dennis, Brewster & Harwich, Eastham & Wellfleet and Falmouth, Mashpee & Woods Hole. Largely known for their summer tourism, many of these destinations also cultivate bounty found on our holiday tables; cranberries from Harwich and oysters from Wellfleet are just a couple examples. It is said that lobster was also served up at the original Thanksgiving Day feast, a sweet-tasting crustacean that’s showcased in restaurants, fish and seafood markets and other fine purveyors from the Lower Cape all the way out to the Outer Cape and many areas in between. In Falmouth, there’s even a well-known sweet shop that serves lobster-flavored ice cream.
Driving through the boggy landscape of the interior of Cape Cod and cruising alongside its windswept sandy beaches offers an overview of Native American names worthy of a college history class. Mashpee, Sagamore and Pocasset are easy to pronounce whereas names such as Sippewissett, Catuit, Coonamessett and even Wampanoag require a bit more tongue twisting. Go to Native American Travel to plan a tour through this part of Massachusetts, which will inform you about the history and traditions of the Wampanoag Nation and its sixty-nine tribes.
In the Discovery Map write up for the Grand Canyon, the significance of Native Americans is underscored in numerous ways. Natives lived within and around this part of Arizona as early as 1200 BC. Known as the Anasazi, vestiges from these Ancestral Pueblo people tell the story of how folks lived in and around the Canyon during ancient times. If you go on a hike or a river trip in the Canyon, you’ll likely see petroglyphs that vividly illustrate their way of life. Trading posts and the Grand Canyon go together like fry bread and beans. Since the arrival of the white man, trade with the natives has been an integral part of life. That tradition continues today in the beautiful gift shops located throughout the Grand Canyon as well as in specialty stores throughout the area; these places serve as authentic outposts for Native American arts and crafts such as jewelry, weavings, sand paintings, pottery, kachinas and much more. Go to Grand Canyon National Park Trips for a comprehensive overview of the tribes, significant sites and other important Native American highlights in and around the Grand Canyon.
American Indian history and culture also greatly punctuates the spectacular red rock landscapes in and around Sedona, Arizona. From a Jeep tour to Native American ruins to a hike up to cliff dwellings and petroglyphs, there are many ways to access the stunning nature of this rugged land and to learn about “the first Americans.” Check out Sedona, Arizona Tourism for ideas. Sedona is also renowned for its fine selection of art galleries and boutiques. There you can find a treasure trove of Native American arts and crafts from tribes located in Arizona, New Mexico and beyond.
Perhaps the granddaddy of all cliff dwellings is located in Mesa Verde National Park, in southwestern Colorado. About forty-five minutes outside of Durango, in the direction of Telluride, the stunning natural beauty of this large park delights at every season. In addition to terrific hiking and touring (by car or in one of the park’s chauffeured buses), there are awe-inspiring cliff dwellings to visit both on your own or in a guided tour during the fair weather-season. Mesa Verde, a park that protects nearly 5,000 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, has beautifully preserved the heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people that lived here for over 700 years, from 1300 to 600 BC. Since these sites are considered to be among the most important and best preserved in the United States, The Map Geek can’t help but wonder why this story is not as well known as that of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Maybe we need to establish a feast day to draw attention to it!
You can experience more Native American history and culture – ancient and more recent – in and around the great western town of Durango, Colorado. Check out Visit Durango as you plan your trip. Know, too, that you’ll find some terrific galleries and boutiques along main street that showcase all kinds of quality Native American arts and crafts.
If you head north into the mountains from Mesa Verde and drive about an hour and a half to Telluride, you will have traveled along one of the most scenic routes in America: the San Juan Skyway. Once a huge swath of Ute territory, it’s easy to imagine the natives hunting and fishing on these wild lands. Up in Telluride, the Utes laid claim to this breathtakingly beautiful slice of heaven long before the ski bums and miners established their footing here. You can learn about this piece of history at the Telluride Historical Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate and a gem of a museum housed within the old miner’s hospital. You might even learn about the infamous Ute Curse that was placed on Telluride. This tiny mountain resort town has succeeded extremely well despite the Curse. However it is believed to have been wiped away since reparations were recently made to the Ute people.
About an hour-and-a-half-drive outside of Telluride through more spectacular alpine landscapes, a visit to The Ute Indian Museum in Montrose, Colorado, ranks as a big must-see. Recently renovated, in addition to their exhibits, the museum also boasts a lovely gift shop and often hosts special events and presentations.
Native American people may be found throughout the United States in every corner and in lots of places in between. Go to Tacoma, Washington in the far northwestern corner of the U.S. to learn about the natives of the Pacific Northwest. Tacoma Art Museum prides itself on serving the diverse communities of the Northwest through its exhibitions and programs that showcase the art and artists of this rich region.
New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, is home to many vibrant Native American communities. As you travel between our two DMI destinations: Santa Fe and Albuquerque, you can visit a variety of Pueblos where the natives live and work. Be respectful when you go to these villages, since this is the real deal–not a Disneyland-like version of American Indians. During December and into the new year, they often have celebrations such as special tribal dances, which are spectacular affairs. The cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque offer many opportunities to embrace Native American culture in their museums, galleries, boutiques, restaurants and colorful open-air markets. The Map Geek will pick up with these magical New Mexican destinations in our next blog post that will highlight Hispanic diversity within the DMI family of maps.