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Protecting places

Letter from Becky Donlan

Native American Sites – June 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine


My name is Becky Donlan, and I and my partner, Nick Standing Bear, formed a Colorado non-profit last year “Native American Research and Preservation, Inc.” Our purpose is to educate the public regarding Resource Protection Laws and to preserve and protect the many prehistoric archaeological sites in our area. We began as individuals volunteering as site monitors for the USDA/FS. Close friendships developed with archaeologists and several like-minded individuals. At the encouragement of a Native American archaeologist, Ken Frye, we developed a PowerPoint presentation, “Sacred Stones.” This presentation tells the story of stone structures from South Park to the San Luis Valley, relating their meaning from the Native American standpoint. Our hope is to reach the public through this perspective and thereby encourage people to respect these places.

We work with the Pike/San Isabel Forest Service, Rio Grande Forest Service, Colorado State Archaeology Office, State Land Board, Smithsonian archaeologists Dennis Stanford and Pegi Jodry, New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA), and Doug Harris of the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office. We are members of the Colorado Historical Society, San Luis Valley Archaeological Network, Program for Avocational Archaeological Certification (PAAC), Garden Park Paleontology Society, and Historic Salida, Inc.

Our meeting with many of these organizations and people came about as the result of research on some stone huts in the San Luis Valley. We’d heard just about every imaginable theory known to man about what they could be. Then we sent photos to the Smithsonian and NEARA. (Seems there are many stone huts back East.) The Smithsonian paid us a visit in January and we all went to the huts, but instead of answers, the mystery only deepens.

Another unsolved mystery is on a friend’s property. It is a reverse ‘S’ shape, low stone configuration about 300 yards long, which she calls “The Snake Nest.” A large boulder resembles a snake head with its mouth wide open, trying to swallow another large boulder. There are high cliff walls partially surrounding the area, which resonates with wonderful echoes. If you have an open mind, you can hear the ancient drums echoing off the cliffs. The Snake Nest is aptly named, as there are plenty of rattlers serving as guardians of this mysterious site.

In Salida on March 22-24, we sponsored activities to support the Longest Walk2. This historic event embarked Feb. 11, 2008 from San Francisco and will arrive July 11 in Washington D.C. It is in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Longest Walk of 1978, which resulted in historic changes for Native Americans. We are honored to have been a part of this endeavor and appreciate the help of many generous people in Salida and the San Luis Valley who provided donations of funds and food. We could not have done it without them.

Our PowerPoint presentation has been seen from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming to the East Coast. (We do not discriminate, we bug everyone on an equal basis.) We never dreamed we would be blessed with the opportunity of reaching so many interested people. The Smithsonian has given our presentation to an independent filmmaker who is working with New England tribes on a documentary of sites in their area. We are excited at the prospect of sharing knowledge and ideas with so many people across Turtle Island (what the Native Americans call North America).

We would love to hear from others who know of more ‘mysteries.’ We work with archaeologists to document these places, and to save them and interpret them. We invite you to share your stories with us. Nothing is too far-fetched, believe me. (We’ve even heard a herding dinosaurs theory.) And we will not reveal your identity or location unless you give us permission to do so.

Anyone interested in seeing our presentation or who would like to join our organization can email either of us or give us a call: Becky Donlan, 719-539-2913, or Nick Standing Bear 719-539-4964

Becky Donlan