When I moved to the Bandelier National Monument in the summer of 1985, I was struck by how much Frijoles Canyon was world unto itself. In the early morning sunshine, nestled under red rock cliffs, it seemed a place that existed outside modern concepts of time. Life continued there at its own pace, beyond the perils of the world around it. Opening and closing again within the space of a mile and one half, Frijoles Canyon became a prism through which to view a timeless world. Layers of humanity overlapped in the confined area between the north and south mesas. What was there must have always been there, from the community house ruins of Tyuonyi to the administrative structures built by the CCC camp. Even the electric power lines and security alarms seemed to belong to an undisturbed frozen moment.
As the stream of cars arrived each morning, afternoon, and evening, I realized that my early morning sense was an illusion. Frijoles Canyon was part of the larger world that surrounded it, and the site itself reflected that reality. The whirring of automobile engines, the noise of children shouting, and the people in each and every mystical place reminded me that while the canyon offered spiritual sanctuary from the world around it, it was not immune to the same kinds of pressures.
Ironically, I discovered by talking to visitors that many of them felt something special about the area. They, too, sought the serenity of its timelessness and felt lucky to have the opportunity to experience it. Yet they and I realized that our mutual presence eroded the unique qualities of the place. By seeking its spirituality, we encroached upon what we came to find and inexorably altered it.
This is the story of the tensions inherent in the process of bringing the unique places of the North American continent to the public, and of the seekers who came to Bandelier and linked it to the modern world. It begins in the open spaces of the plateau and spans the twentieth century, ending in a world crowded by people searching for something different than their everyday world held. It is the story of the efforts of the National Park Service to preserve and protect the unique qualities of the canyon and its surroundings.
My work has benefited from the assistance of many people. I would like to thank Superintendent John D. Hunter and his staff, including Kevin McKibbin, John Lissoway, Ken Stephens, Virginia Robicheau, and Rory Gauthier, for their patience and cooperation throughout the course of this project. They and everyone at the park answered my numerous queries, directed me to other sources, and generally tolerated an intrepid researcher asking strange questions in their midst. Their thoughtful suggestions have helped me tremendously. Chris Judson's insightful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript helped shape its focus. Dave Paulissen, Al de la Cruz, Sari Stein, and everyone else at the monument provided constant support and friendship, and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to know the people who live and work at Bandelier. To all of you, many thanks.
Oral history interviews have played an important part in shaping this manuscript, and for these additional insights, I would like to thank those who gave of their time to allow their thoughts to be recorded. Richard Boyd of Chama, New Mexico, Paul and Frances Judge of Albuquerque, and Homer Pickens shared their many memories of the Bandelier area with Virginia Robicheau and I. Dr. Milford R. Fletcher of the Park Service enlightened me about resource management and its ramifications. By telephone or letter, former Superintendents, Linwood E. Jackson, Fred Binnewies, and Jim Godbolt also offered their help. Linda Aldrich of the Los Alamos Historical Society, Theresa Strottman of the Museum of New Mexico History Library, and Laura Holt of the Laboratory of Anthropology offered the benefits of their experience in the study of the history of New Mexico. Barbara Greene Chamberlain provided a major hand in the editing of the manuscript.
Finally, I would like to thank the person whose efforts have had the most significant impact on this study. Melody Webb, the Southwest Regional Historian, has offered not only insightful criticism and thoughtful advice, but has also done much more to improve both this study and my scholarship. A young historian could find no one better under whom to work.
To all of these people, I am grateful. Any mistakes that remain are strictly my own.
Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006