Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Grand Canyon, Its Political History, and This Blog

My interest in discussing this blog not having been acceptable to the organizers of the upcoming Grand Canyon History Symposium (they "wanted to ensure that all selected presentations stay focused around the topic of the Grand Canyon"), I still wish to put out my ideas about the suitability of blogging about the Canyon and its political history. Since this post is embedded in the blog with all the entries that I would have used to illustrate its value, I only have refer to various entries and topics; the reader can check them out.

My emphasis to start would have been that this blog is for sharing , one voice in a conversation about the Canyon that is Making available episodes, comments, and opinions about the political history of the Grand Canyon and what that history may indicate for the Canyon's future., as the blog header says. Here I would have talked a bit about the many entries I have made about the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park. This is a perfect history blogging topic, heightened NPS right now is carrying out a review of the boundary, assembling what it calls a meta-file that brings together all that NPS believes is validly applicable to determining where the boundary is. In other words, the topic is rooted in the history of the past 130 years, is a live topic for the administering agency, will continue to be history-in-the-making since there are disputes that will not be settled (I bet), and is of immense practical importance now and in the future--since as I say in a number of places in my blog, the Canyon is the center of one web in the American politico-legal system, which accepts as a principle that lines-on-the-ground are essential in determining rights and responsibilities. (And of course, though this would be a digression, many of the "lines" that make up the GCNP's boundary are very far from being of the surveyor type. Not to mention that the wet-foot/dry-foot boundary between the Park and the Hualapai lands fluctuates all the time.)

Anniversary Two

Anniversary Number Two; Updated Table of Contents

September 20 is the anniversary of this blog. I have added 73 entries, for a total of 183. A year ago, I grouped the entries into categories. Here, I will repeat that summary, expanding it by interleaving what I have done in the past year.
The categories are more or less alphabetical; I have placed the Havasupai, Hualapai, and Southern Paiute together. 
If there is a - between two dates, then all the entries in that range are on that subject. (2) indicates there are two entries on that date. 

ABC's: Basic considerations:  2009 Sep 26
2011 May 11

Archeohistory (pre whitefolks) 2009 Sep 26

Boundary segments, Park 2010 Jul 12 - 24, Sep 1 - 28, Oct 1-2 
West end 2011 Mar 27
Boundary mapping, River 2010 Feb 7 - Mar 7, Apr 4, 30, May 11, 19

Dams 2009 Sep 22
2010 Apr 4 - 30, May 2 - 7, 16, 17, 29 - Jul 6, Aug 2, 8,
                                          Oct 7 - Nov 17                
Ingram Journal 2011 May 21, Jun 3

Geology, west end 2011 Mar 22, Apr 2
Mars                                            Mar 27

GC, National Park origins 2009 Sep 20, 22, Nov 1, Dec 2(2), 3, 5(2) - 28
2010 Jan 7, 18(2), 22 - 31, Mar 20, 21
                                                 Nov 21
GCNP 1920's Enlargement 2010 Nov 29 - Dec 28
2011 Jan 4
Fixes 1940-50's 2011 May 13, 26, 30
Overview                                     May 30
GCNMonument 2 2011 Jan 12 - Mar 12
GC, Western & the NRA 2011 Apr 25 - May 5
The Rim; Mather Pt.             2011 Sep 3, 4, 12 (2)
Stories Sep 15

Havasupai 2009 Sep 21(2)
2010 Jan 5, 6, Feb 8
2011 May 11, Jun 6 - Jul 27
Hualapai   2009 Sep 27
Southern Paiute 2009 Sep 29, Oct 20

Maps & reflections 2009 Sep 28, Oct 23 (3), Dec 3,

Miners 2009 Oct 2, 4, Nov 30

Migration Etc. 2011 Jul 29 - Sep 2, 10, 19 (2)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Migration 6: A Summary, and Some Conundra

Migration 6: A Summary; and some Conundrums 

Chris Stringer & Peter Andrews, "The Complete World of Human Evolution", 2005, provides a well-illustrated ride through the findings and ambiguities, telling me more and less than I want to know. Lots on apes and bones, but not on such as language, although it is called a defining characteristic that was likely not present early in our time.

As a leading proponent of the Out of Africa model of human spread, Stringer is of major importance for my picture of Homo sapiens as a species that moves, spreading out over the world, migrating. Interesting that when we use that word in reference to non-humans, we are describing repeating patterns, e.g., birds that fly south for the winter, and return north with spring. Human migration is, particularly by its opponents, on the other hand decried as a one-way flood. And of course, that is what the major debate among evolutionists is: what is the best model to describe how and when we got all over the world.

Here is their time-line for the model which has Homo sapiens developing from previous forms over about 400-150 Kya (thousands of years ago). About 160 Kya, we had spread throughout Africa, although much about that is "still tantalizingly unclear". Then, perhaps 100 Kya, we went across south Asia and to Australia by 60 Kya. Europe has evidence for 40 Kya, and the Americas, 15 Kya or even farther back. There are regional variations, with "relationships unclear". There was overlap with Neanderthals, who were throughout Europe, over to east of Caspian Sea. Did that overlap bring war, avoidance, coexistence, trade, interbreeding? Also "unclear:. Whatever, they were gone by 25 Kya. 

Migration 5: Mind and Monogamy

David J. Linden, "The Accidental Mind", Cambridge 2007, is a great read explicating the idea that the brain is not some magnificently designed grand achievement, but an accretion of evolutionary choices. In talking about sexual behaviors and the mind, he offers me the chance to connect the matter of relationships on the individual level into the context of us as migrators.

Linden summarizes, p. 148, with a question: 
"So, why have humans evolved such a distinct cluster of sexual behaviors with concealed ovulation, recreational sex, long-term pair bonding, and prolonged paternal involvement?" 
By the first, he is referring to the human lack of obvious estrus, so that sex had to become frequent to insure conception. The second behavior follows as a strategy maximizing the chance of conception: sex is so much fun, lets do it a lot. Though not mentioned, this is as true of the female as the male, so that the maximization is carried out by both individuals in coupling; both or either can be libidinous, attracted, and initiate the action. His third item, "long-term pair bonding", is out of place in his question about human evolution, since he is emphasizing biological rather than cultural evolution. The question of the origin of pair-bonding, marriage, can only be solved when we consider the time when males tying women to them became paramount, a recent cultural development. And "paternal involvement" ought to be written "parental involvement", since human child-rearing is one of the functions, not just of one or two individuals, but rather of the mutually supportive group, the social organization we so successfully evolved in. So what is my answer to his question of "why we evolved such sexual behaviors"?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lets Be Serious For A Moment

Scattered, and I do mean scattered, thoughout the files are a few items that deserve to be preserved (or not, depending on your degree of humorlessness) on their own. Two of these items come from that most serious of men, Superintendent Tillotson. First, there is this from 1933-- the condition of this document reminds me of how technology has changed in the 35 years since it was copied--, shortly after the Grand Canyon National Monument was established by Hoover's Proclamation:
The first paragraph is a classic, and Tillotson likewise in his note at the bottom that the "Area of floors is 273,145 acres". He adds that the Director's office should be billed, but his final comment is unreadable, even after repeated assaults using PSE8.

Monday, September 12, 2011

On the Edge III: The 1990's, heading to the 1950's

The development of the Mather Point area described in my previous posts has its origins at least in the 1970's, a time when I was very active trying to convince the Park Service not to spread intense development outside the Village. In particular, many of us thought that there could be work done at Mather to bring about a more natural condition as an approach to a first-time rim view. That discussion seems to have been put on hold in the 1980's, to be revived in the 1990's, a time when I was not active. However, I do have a copy of a major document from 1995 -- a Draft General Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement. It provides five alternative views, and given the date, perhaps provides us a midway point view between what the Mather Point area has actually become, and the proposals of the 1970's that we did not think were good enough.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Migration 4: Civilization, The Chinese View

The view of Homo sapiens as the migrating primate spreading out of Africa and penetrating much of the Earth in a few tens of millennia is summed up in maps like this one from Wikipedia, based on sampling of mitochondrial DNA. From http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/37/Map-of-human-migrations.jpg .

This single-origin thesis is challenged especially by Chinese work, in a view set out in "The Formation of Chinese Civilization", Chang Kwang-chih et al., 2002. Chang writes that theory in The West sees production and technology as the driver of civilization's development, whereas the Chinese see political processes as most important. However, their work seems most useful for the period beginning with the Neolithic revolution brought on by the invention of domestication. For what is presented in the book is a case study in the suppression of the mutual-support, migratory, hunting/gathering social organization humans had known in its spread up to 15 millennia ago. That is, the evidence and arguments presented in that book  show how the organization we now have, so foreign to the mutual-support migrating band, developed, layering over the genetic-based predilections that had made us such successful migrants. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

On the Edge II -- Mather Renewed

Last June, Grand Canyon National Park celebrated the completion of much work to bring Mather Point out of the throught-the-windshield era of Park visiting. The covering press release can be found here:
The release links to photographs, too, which I have used below. I have not yet visited the site, nor did I make any efforts on this matter, unlike in the 1970's, when development planning was a big item on the agenda. So here I want to collect some NPS materials to get oriented about this significant change to the First Look.

Way back, 1957 and earlier, this was a simple place, Mather just another overlook, over on the right. Mission 66 to upgrade and add to NPS and visitor facilities was just underway.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

On The Edge I: An Introduction

Once I was standing at Mather Point, Grand Canyon National Park's premiere introductory view, and overheard someone say, "Well, I liked Zion better; the view from the bottom of the canyon is so good."

The Grand Canyon and its the Park are fortunate, in my eyes, that viewing from the bottom still involves a natural, back-country, often wild, kind of experience. The Grand Canyon is pre-eminently a rim experience for the casual visitor. And there is no one experience: Out west in Hualapai land, at what Martin Litton (q.v.) liked to call Batchit View, there is mass industrial tourism, Las Vegas style: highly mechanized, swiftly moving, and dependent on tricksy stuff like the Hong Kong entrepreneur's skywalk. 

But the Hualapai booty-required view is way outmatched* by the dusty drive and rock walk to Toroweap: Straight down, no handrails. And from there you can see remnants of one Grand Canyon dam I approve of, a great lava plug the making of which Powell vividly described. That drive is a freeway compared to the Kelly Point road out the Shivwits: 5 mph if you are reckless. And you end up this magnificent back-country trek thrust way out into and above the entire western Canyon. Fine camp, too. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

MIGRATION 3. Our Faustian Bargain: Domestication's Aftermath

There is probably nothing new to say about our choices as to origins. Born in sin, condemned to die?  Born in innocence, going to glory? Aggressive, ravening conquerors, triumphant over all the world? Basically well-intended, but falling to the ever-present 7 Deadlies? A golden age, followed by a silver, then leaden? Or progressing ever steadily toward utopia? Was the heinous third (1914-45) of the XXth-century an aberration, an example from which we have (not) learned, or business as usual? Hobbes or Rousseau? All these possibilities mist over any new entry in such a grand debate about human nature. The scientists dealing with early times cut through some of this by dealing with what they dig up or analyze in the lab or by computer. Yet they too feel the temptation to use the details, almost always contested in their interpretation, to construct a version of our story. And so even they fall into the pit of limited possibilities. 

I am clearly in the group that sees an Old Golden Age brought down by our succumbing to the wiles of the Great Tempter. Although there is little enough evidence about how we lived and what our attitudes toward life were pre-15 millennia ago, I am quite content to think well of us. We had language, well-honed economic skills including cooked food, the urge to travel, story-telling, art, music, dance, fire, clothing, shelter, trade, education. I am content to think we did without warriors, religionists, jealous husbands, neglectful parents, border guards. The mutually supportive small band was something we had evolved successfully into,-- language, omnivirousness, and sex the primary pillars of our often-wandering existence. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011


A reminder: Grand Canyon blog though this is -- and I will get back to the Havasupai et al.-- I hope that some of this digression is useful in showing my view of what was, what we came from and are based in, to lay the basis for understanding what is and what is happening, and not just at the Canyon.

WE MIGRATE, ALL ACROSS THE WORLD, IN ALL ITS ENVIRONMENTS, ALL THE TIME, AS WELL AS DOWN INTO IT AND UP ABOVE IT. Migration is built into our genes as a survival technique, a positively selected-for characteristic of Homo sapiens as we evolved over the past 100-200 millennia. We searched for food, we gathered and hunted, and we moved about in order to maximize our chances of survival. There is everything human about the ability to pick up and move, to look for another herd of antelope or another patch of berries, to check out a more interesting residence across town, or a better job a few states away, or a life out of poverty half the Earth distant. We move, we travel, we tour about, we trade, we migrate. So, yes, the debate today over "migration" contravenes our very biological essence, but more on that later. First, there is something even more important, if not unique, about us, Homo sapiens.

WE MIGRATE IN OUR MINDS!! It is in our genetic, biological make-up that these brains (klutzy kludges as they are, according to neuroscientist David Linden's The Accidental Mind) of ours work as projectors and introjectors of the outside world; the world imprints our minds; we image the world. To do this, we have language & mind, curiosity & questioning, what-ifs & narrative/fantasy, and these capabilities made us the inventors of agriculture, ships, the electric light, and the iPad. And made us the migrators that took us out from Africa, and all across the world. So were we ferocious conquerors, beaters of chests, massive men dragging our women & children as we stomped across the new worlds, bellowing & conquering as we went? No way!