July
13th 2009
Where in the world was Historiann?

Posted under: American history, fluff, happy endings, local news

mayflowermohawklakeWell, from this photo on the right, you’d think I might have been in the Eastern U.S. this weekend.  Mayflowers?  Mowhawks?  What the heck, since I was in fact near my own home sweet ranch here in Colorado! 

All I can think is that when many of the trails in national parks were named around the turn of the previous century, it was also the time of the Colonial Revival and Playing Indian, as Phil DeLoria has described it.  Plus, plopping Eastern names on Western places was a way of extending concepts of (Anglo) American sacred space to the newly conquered West.  I wonder if any recent graduates with quality training in Public History and/or who have worked with the National Park Service might weigh in on this question…?  All I can guess is that it probably felt a lot less threatening to name a lake in the Rockies after Mowhawks instead of Utes, Cheyennes, or Arapahoes. 

columbines

The wildflowers in the mountains were incredible this weekend.  Here at left is a photo of our state flower, the columbine, growing wild on the trail.  It’s been such a rainy summer that the mountains are strikingly green and lush–my hike Sunday actually looked more like the Appalachians than the Rocky Mountains.

 

meadowSorry I can’t show (or tell) you more:  it’s classified, but I can say that this is where we keep our secret stash of water!  Don’t tell Arizona, or those thieving bastards in California, either.  (Hope you all had a great weekend, too!)

5 Comments »

5 Responses to “Where in the world was Historiann?”

  1. Paul on 13 Jul 2009 at 9:07 am #

    The naming is just weird – when I first saw the picture, before I actually read the text, I actually thought “Oh, is that a park in the Berkshires?”

    No National Park Service work or quality training in public history here, I’m afraid – just an ex-history major who never became a historian but who now works at a major archival institution.

  2. Mary on 13 Jul 2009 at 9:29 am #

    Based on my experience extensively researching the creation of Mesa Verde National Park (established 1906-a full ten years before the Park Service), I would say Historiann’s hunch is right on.

    From what I can tell, the two prevailing ideas about wilderness that existed during the twentieth century were a) the wilderness needed to be conquered and b) the wilderness need to be preserved because it was an environment untainted by mankind and industrialization. In Nature’s Altars, Susan Schrepfer aptly argues that anglicizing the names of mountain peaks helped European men “conquer” them. In other words, whites could claim ownership of a mountain once they renamed it and erased its previous history. The same attitude existed at Mesa Verde. Virginia McClurg, the woman responsible for Mesa Verde’s preservation, showed up at Cliff Dwellings in the 1880s and simply went around remaining the structures as she saw fit. One became “Cliff Palace” and another became “Balcony House.” These names were meant to attract visitors and readers who had read about European and Chinese architecture and had no connection to the structures historical use.

    However, as the nineteenth century (and the frontier) came to a close, many Americans started to worry about the nation’s shrinking wilderness. I think this is where you get what DeLoria is taking about in Playing Indian.. No longer afraid of Indian attack, European Americans wanted to be Indians and rediscover “pure” nature. Willa Cather wrote about Mesa Verde in these terms during the 1920s. Still, Europeans never quite resolved the discrepancies between these two ideas. In the 1950s, Mesa Verde published a children’s comic book about Red Arrow, an Ancestral Puebloan boy who lived in Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings. In these comic books, Ancestral Puebloan society resembles suburban America far more that it resembles Indian culture. Essentially, park staff had once again anglicized Mesa Verde.

  3. Indyanna on 13 Jul 2009 at 9:41 am #

    I flew south over the Catskills yesterday. Actually over Adirondack Park as well, but I was too busy glazing over some stupid “Duty Free” catalogue to realize it. Looking down on these pleasingly forested lumps of land stretching westward, it was clear they had to be the Catskills. (Reality is so weird after you’ve stored it in the labeled images cognitive space).

    So, to the point. That sign is a vestige of a world when all the world was a summer camp, and the “branding, naming, and imaging” office was in Morristown, NJ. Or, more darkly: You stumbled on a missing footnote from Gov. Andros’s 1677 “Covenant Chain” development map. The “Continental Falls” part says it all. The Mohawks were going to take everything east of the Continental Divide, leaving the other four nations to divide everything west of that. The New Englanders would get some stupid lake off to the right of the camera field. All the great hegemons have come from the East!

  4. Historiann on 13 Jul 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    Mary–excellent! Thanks for your information-filled comment. I was hoping someone like you would weigh in on this. I wasn’t actually in a National or a state park, but my guess is that these trails might have been laid out around the same time (or a little after) Rocky Mountain N.P. I was hiking around a lot of ruined mines and on some old logging roads, so it may be that that area wasn’t reclaimed for recreation until ca. 1920s-1940s, maybe by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

    Welcome, Paul, and welcome home, Indyanna! Who named the Catskills–I assume the Dutch, what with the “skill” suffix. (What is a catskill, anyway?)

  5. Indyanna on 13 Jul 2009 at 1:20 pm #

    This is just an informed guess, but “kill” in Dutch was a term for a body of flowing water, viz. Schuylkill, Achter Kill, the amusing crick that runs by Staten Island, Kill van Kull, and the always-intriguing “Murderkill.” (Not a redundancy!). Great to be back in “town” (or burgh!)