Marginalizing the Past

Visiting the museum at Pueblo Grande was a fantastic place to begin our Tohono O’odham excursion; I mean, what better place to start than the beginning? It was fascinating to get a glimpse into the life and culture surrounding the Hohokam tribe and to learn about their great successes and eventual decline. It was even more interesting being able to walk the same grounds upon which this historic civilization once lived. Seeing first hand the results of the hours upon hours of physical labor that the Hohokam people had to have put into their architecture, agriculture, and irrigation was truly remarkable and deserving of the utmost appreciation. However, even with the intrigue that comes from learning about these people, it was hard to avoid a certain sense of sadness seeing how marginalized the archaeological sight was. 

The corner of protected area with modern buildings in the background

What was once over one square mile of Hohokam lands was now reduced to one, undermanned museum area that stretched for barely a percent of what it once was. Where homes, burial sites, and trade centers of these historic people once stood now is the home of commercial buildings, highways, and antiquated railroads. It was nearly impossible to to look anywhere on the protected site without being reminded of the rapid urbanization that has covered most of the once nature-centered civilization. To me, visiting Pueblo Grande, while fascinating and worthwhile, was a reminder that urbanization is not always positive and that more effort has to be put into the conservation of our historic sites.

Historic Pueblo Grande ruins with railroad in the background

5 Replies to “Marginalizing the Past”

  1. It was a little bit weird for me to see a highway in the background at Pueblo Grande. This post gets at the larger point of just how much Indian culture and land that European settlers washed away in their conquests, as a Manifest Destiny justified pilfering and killing. The fact that we have Hohokam remains at all, however, given how long ago they went extinct, is amazing within itself, as it would have been very easy for Europeans to completely destroy them. As for conservation, I think we are now at a point in history where some people are starting to take it very seriously, and use the levers of government to protect ancient sites. This is progress within itself.

  2. An important point and perspective you have taken – I found it difficult to imagine the full impressiveness and accomplishment of this Hohokam village because of the effects of urbanization as well as the lack of preservation of the land. Did you also find it puzzling as to how the museum openly shared that they were not in possession of most artifacts from the site, and that those artifacts are spread out across the world, leaving little trace of one of the earliest (and most successful) civilizations of North America?

    1. Per both of your thoughts, Abby and Evan — I agree and felt similar feelings. Most of us know at least some of the story behind American Indian colonialism and the dark history that comes with it, but I’d be interested to learn more about the history of American colonization and the destruction (or lack thereof, but we know there wasn’t a lack thereof) of archaeological sites and pieces. Likewise, it would be interesting to know the methods of city planning behind and around the preservation of these sites.

  3. I also very much thought that the significance and the actual impact and wonder of how vastly spread and great of a civilization the Hohokam truly were was lost through urbanization and the lack of remains/work done to preserve them. Furthermore, I’m worried that with undermanning there has been a reduction in passionate archeologists and anthropologists surrounding these cultural centers and this was somewhat confirmed when the guide mentioned he was with the last group of southwestern archeologists and proceeded to name the last few of them.

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