Here’s Part I, Part II, and Part III. Now for the finale!
It Is Not Yours IV
Lucca Daniel Green 17 January 2023
And the points of arrowheads, their knapped blades, an ancestor’s lithic-faced tools— what burdens bear these flints of pioneering opportunists who made sharpened weapons of stone for the slaughter of foods and fiends alike, satiety and safety in one. Their presence is a potent claim to belong to these mountains around and the pebbles underfoot. We are on Native land.
The number of potential artifacts I’ve found just on the surface here is astonishing. First, I found what would seem to be a Clovis Point. Since then I’ve found many other potential blades.
Beyond sharpened blades I’ve found a number of rocks that give the impression of being shaped intentionally and worn down by frequent use. A chief indication to my eye are fingertip-sized divots, barely discernible but for a noticeably different texture, smoother than the surrounding surface. After finding several, I notice that they tend to be nearly the same size and they show wear in the same places: one end is vaguely squared while the other is worn down more on one side than the other.
Whether these are artifacts or ‘JARs’ (Just A Rock), the overall possibility, the feasibility that they could be artifacts, whether from Tohono O’odham, Hohokam, or even earlier peoples, is enough for me to begin to understand the profound history of this space. Tucson has been inhabited for many millenia, since 2100BCE at least, but only recently by such an appropriative, extractive and generally exploitative bunch as the Europeans.
I found a map from the 1850s a while back that shows the land on which I’m writing this right now was once a farm field. An irrigation trench ran along the edge of the plain at the base of the hill behind my place; it either ran through what is now S. Silverbell Ave. or else alongside it, in what are now my neighbors’ yards. Were these recent fields, or were new-comers growing crops in long-established fields? A thought frequent in my mind these days wonders at what kind of artifacts would be typical of an agricultural site with an irrigation ditch.
Since I live near one of the oldest inhabited areas in Tucson, at the base of Sentinel Peak, aka Cuk-ṣon, ‘Black Base,’ a place sacred to me personally and I’ve no doubt sacred to the Natives who once lived here, I’m often struck by the irreverence so many people show to these spaces.
Garbage strewn about, layers of broken beer bottles everywhere, so much plastic……
I get the feeling that we reverence myths (that we don’t take the time to understand) and we trash what is sacred.
I guess this is another case of ‘for they know not what they do’—nor to whom, I would add, for whose benefit or at whose loss.
But meanwhile this rock-based exploration I’ve been on lately led me suddenly to understand that these lands have an ancient past as vibrant as any other, recalling Thucydides’ observation about what future peoples would think of the Spartans with their ephemeral structures and how they would view the Athenians with their city of marble, but both were great powers.
But that ancient past is still alive today in whatever traditional knowledge survives among Natives. And I wonder about this landmass suddenly called the Americas by European Imperial powers only a few centuries ago, what it could be like if Europeans had adapted to Native cultures rather than imposing their own with proselytizing fervor… This is one thing I would absolutely change if I could change only one thing in our species’ history.
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