Our First Week on the Path

It has taken a while to find a place to reflect on our first week on sabbatical. We are now in Joseph, Oregon at the Wallowa Lake Lodge for our first opportunity for rest and reflection. The past week has been a blur of driving through the gorgeous landscapes of Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Oregon.

After leaving Taos last Sunday we spent the night in Chama, where we saw a shaggy bear atop a dumpster on the way into town. Monday, after our last taste of New Mexico beans and green chile, we drove through Durango and up to the picturesque Silverton, Colorado, an old mining town. We were surprised by the American flags everywhere you looked. Maybe, it was because it was just after Fourth of July but the whole town was festooned with flags.

Americanismo was alive and well in Silverton, Colorado

We wandered down the street, the whistle of the narrow guage railroad sounding off every little while and found the Mining Museum. I liked this image of what used to be called a pan handler (panning for gold that is.)

Pan Handler

Having a Native Americn perspective on our minds the sign out front of the museum that gave the history of the area caught our attention. It read:

“Captain Charles Baker led a party into this wide valley in 1860 in search of silver and gold. The land was owned by the Utes and off limits for settlement until the siging of the Brunot Treaty in 1874, when the floodgates opened and prospectors by the hundreds poured into the ‘Shining Mountains.'”

From a Ute perspective the story was surely more painful and complex as we were to see when we visited the Chief Ouray museum the next day.

From Silverton, we traveled over a gorgeous (and scary) pass into Ouray, Colorado. In the hot springs there closely guarded by a doe we soaked while the blessed rain came down that night.

On our way out of Ouray the next morning we pulled off near Montrose to see the museum built on the grounds where Ouray and his beloved Chipeta last lived before being moved to the distant reservation in southwestern Colorado.

Chief Ouray and Chipeta

Ouray, it turned out, was half Apache, half Ute and was raised in Taos in an Hispanic Catholic family. The homesite, where he had an Hispanic servant, a door bell, crystal and china, was Ouray’s attempt to prove that Indians could live in a “civilized” way.” One of the quotes inside the museum caught my eye. Ouray said, “The homeland of the Ute People will always be homeland in our hearts even though it is inhabited by others now.”

As we drove through the rain on to Provo, Utah we talked about how inexorable the replacement of Indians by Whites in the West was. Whether they fought or cooperated, the outcome was the same.

In the next few days we’ll catch you up with our travels. We noticed Marilyn Bowen, a Nez Perce Presbyterian Commissioned Lay Pastor has commented on our blog. We’ll fill you in with the details later. Thanks, Marilyn for a wonderful visit.


About Carol Mell

Photo Encaustic Artist
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