Tag Archives: Tribes

This is Zuni Salt Lake


It’s about forty miles south of the Zuni Rez, almost in AZ.

There’s a ghost town you can barely see in the pic…. used to be a considerable community down in there when it was private land, from the mid-1800s until the 1950s, evaporating salt from the huge concrete beds.  Most of the buildings are still intact, though they’re going away rapidly.

Today it belongs to the Zuni tribe, one section of land, but it’s not in the national trust as part of the Rez.  Tribes have been acquiring a lot of land from casino monies and other ways during the past decades, making the lands acquired ‘tribal’, but not Rez, which puts them into an interestingly ambiguous position insofar as road maintenance and county taxes.

Salt Lake was acquired as a piece of a lawsuit against the US government involving an airplane with a hydrogen bomb aboard that crashed on the Rez, with first responders being Zunis, but which the feds didn’t bother telling them about the bomb, leaving emergency workers exposed to hazardous materials without knowing it.  The tribe got a few million out of that, which they used to purchase 60k acres of land to the south of the Rez, but Salt Lake was thrown in as a bonus.

Salt Lake’s a sacred place for the Zunis, home of Salt Mother.  If you are willing to risk hopping the fence and wandering around down there ….. it’s a volcano crater with a hollow secondary plug you can climb, then a spiral trail leading back down inside … that’s where most of the rituals for Salt Mother are held… but all over that section you’ll pass over various religious items from recent times you’d be well advised to leave untouched.

Salt Lake used to be the place all the warring tribes got their salt throughout history.  A place where a constant truce between enemy tribes existed.

It’s also part of what the power companies would love to strip mine.   The great percentage of the desert surrounding it, from north of Springerville, and Saint Johns, Arizona is government land with shallow coal deposits comparatively inexpensive to ‘recover’.  They’ve already converted the desert on the Arizona side to a wasteland.  Still desert, but more in the moonscape vein than the usual, regular arid country mode.

The people in El Paso and Phoenix need electricity so they can fire up their hair dryers every morning, and keep their homes refrigerated.   Those places have climates uncomfortable to the human skin most of the time and they’d rather savage a few million acres of country they’ve never visited and never will than suffer a few degrees of discomfort and use a towel to dry their hair.

Which the Zuni believe would thoroughly piss off Salt Mother, with considerable resulting pain for the Zunis, and all the rest of us.

They might be right.

The Zuni and a few commie-pinko-obstructionist greenie environmentalists are the only people who give a damn, and the other desert-dwellers in the area would welcome the jobs helping ravage the country around them would bring to the area.  The last time I looked the Zuni tribe was burning up a lot of tribal money trying to stop the mine expansion into New Mexico.  The prospects didn’t appear promising because the New Mexico government, the feds, and the mining interests were stacked up singing songs of human progress and greater good.

Heck, it’s been a few years now.  Maybe they’re already mining it.  Probably easier to ask someone in Phoenix or El Paso whether the hair dryer worked this morning and if it did, assume that desert has gone to the moon.

Old Jules

 

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Wilderness Threats


A man I went to grammar school, junior high and some high school with, then several decades later became reacquainted and huff-puffed a lot of up and down mountain canyons recently began visiting this blog.  If no other reader enjoys the tale, at least he will, because he was there:

The following is copyrighted material from a book I wrote once.  I give myself permission to use it here. [ Crazy Lost Gold Mine-ism]

I’ve never concerned myself much with the dangers of wild animals during my extensive time in the woods.  Mostly they’ll mind their own business if a person takes reasonable precautions and doesn’t go out of his way to provoke them.  In New Mexico backlands of the late 20th century the real threats usually come in the form of humans.  When those happen they usually come as suddenly and unexpectedly as finding one’s self in the middle of a herd of elk.

Grasshopper Canyon and Stinking Springs are on the northern end of the Zunis below Oso Ridge on the west face of the mesa.  Two canyons run north and south, parallel to the face, half a mile apart, separated from one another by steep, narrow walls several hundred feet high.  These two walls consist of coral reef from some ancient time when Oso Ridge was an island.  The canyons aren’t easily accessible, so I prospected there a while.

The land below Oso Ridge around Grasshopper Canyon is checker-boarded in ownership.  Grasshopper is all National Forest, but immediately south is a section of Navajo tribal land.  Adjacent to the Navajo section is a section belonging to the Zuni tribe.  Fences between these sections allow a person to always know whether he’s on public land or tribal land.

I was working Grasshopper Canyon with my friend Keith, a stockbroker from Santa Fe. We separated and worked the arroyos southward parallel to one another, gradually moving toward the fence delineating the Navajo section.  Occasionally we’d call out through the woods to make certain we weren’t out-distancing one another.  The last thing either of us expected was an encounter with another human in those woods.

I was bent over taking samples from the bed of a shallow arroyo, just deep enough so when I straightened I could view the small meadow around me.  I stood getting my breath and stretching the kinks out of my back when I saw a man dressed in cammies backing out of the woods at the edge of the meadow.  He was being stealthy, carrying a .22 rifle in a ready position.  He had twenty to thirty colorful birds hanging on a string around his neck the way a fisherman carries a stringer of fish.  As I watched, almost invisible to him with only the top of my head showing above the arroyo, his eyes searched the woods to his right where Keith was working.  Keith had called out from there a few moments previously.

Still watching Keith’s direction the man backed toward me until he was only a few feet away from me.  “Nice string of birds.”  I scrambled up the bank while he spun and pointed the .22 in my general direction.

My partner’s in the woods back behind you.  You don’t want to be firing in that direction.”  We studied one another.  He eyed the shoulder rig I was wearing and the butt of the 9 mm automatic showing from the bottom.  “’You out here killing songbirds?”

Mister Songbird was a young man and from appearances, a Zuni.  He stared a moment longer before answering.  My impression was that he was considering whether I was a game warden or other law enforcement official.  “I’m getting them for Zuni New Year.  They let us do that.”

We talked for a few minutes, me accepting what he said at face value, and the tension gradually dissolved.  He agreed to get the hell out of the canyon because we were working there and wouldn’t want any shooting.  Besides, we’d probably messed up his hunt with our yelling and bustling around the woods.  I watched him back into the meadow to the south and allowed myself to sigh with relief.

Back in Santa Fe I called the US Fish and Game Department.  I thought there was a remote chance the feds were really allowing Zunis to kill protected species birds on National Forest land.  If so, I was prepared to be indignant.

When I told my story the fed was silent a moment.  “You are a lucky man,” he observed.  “You confronted an armed man committing multiple Federal felonies and he didn’t shoot you.”

*     The following didn’t make it into the final draft of the manuscript: The fed also observed the Zuni lad would have spent a lot more years in prison for killing those songbirds than he would have for killing me.  I drew a good bit of comfort from knowing that.

Eventually logic won out over the other appeals of the Zuni Mountains as a location for the lost gold mine I was searching for.  Although the Zunis were handy for me, being only a few hours drive from Santa Fe, they were too far from Tucson.

Also, too many prominent landmarks in the area would have immediately brought the original survivors back.  The route I imagined them following would have taken them within sight of Los Gigantes and enough other one-of-a-kind eccentricities to make the location unmistakable.

Even the Big Notch and Little Notch in the Continental Divide can be seen from miles to the west.  There’s nothing else similar to it in North America.

Marty Robbins – Little Green Valley

http://youtu.be/WT5qegD28Wo