Wupatki National Monument

Sunrise at Wupatki Pueblo
Sunrise at Wupatki Pueblo (from the National Park Service website)


The Wupatki National Monument protects 56 square miles of dry, rugged land on the Southern Colorado Plateau. Here, a part of the Puebloan people called Wupatki lived in the midst of this vast dry area, which included trading routes both north and south, east and west.

The choice of a place seemed brilliant from my observation, nestled between two ridges with a much larger mountain range at their back. The land now is immensely dry, and scientists believe that some water was obtained from wells and from rain water that was trapped and stored. The ruins of the pueblo construction once held up to a hundred people. Of particular interest were two ball courts with a blowhole beside each one. The game described sounded something like women’s field hockey.  A hard rounded ball made out of rock hit by players with sticks.
Both of my speculations were taken by Casandra, a Park Ranger, and Rick, a volunteer, as just that- speculation. I also had the idea that the Blowhole could have served as a shower, which people would have used after a ball game (if you would like to see a video of the blowhole, please click here). This again received some questionable expressions, but we carried on an intriguing conversation.  When I pressed the question of the place and structures being built for defensive reasons, I received a rather clear answer from Casandra, “No weapons of war were ever found here.”
A picture of a Wupatki Blowhole from Philip Coppens
I did not push the point, but thought of making a statement that these weapons for defense or offense would have been of great value and probably carried off when the Wupatki moved away after the eruption of the Sunset Crater eruption, which impacted a large area.
One thing was clear to all us.  The Wupatki were ingenious pioneers establishing a creative place along trade routes. A spirit of awe is overwhelming when all things are considered: the climate, the distance from established communities, the weather (which includes the “monsoon season”-when violent thunder, lightening storms, damaging hail, and winds plagued the land and people with destruction).
But, finally, The Great Eruption would destroy their small civilization. Descendants of the Wupatki would later be found among the Hopi, Zu, and Navajo people.
My conversation with Casandra and Rick then diverged and deepened into an area of dialogue which has always fascinated me: the idea that Native Americans lived in a way where conflict was not present until the white man arrived. My conviction for many years has been that conflict is always present in the human situation. Perhaps it is sometimes repressed, perhaps sometimes diverted to others, perhaps it is used to fuel experiences which people believe are genuinely good. (This is not a bad thing. From my home experiences as a child, in a family identified as a ‘good family,’ the ‘Wright’ family, conflict was present. I have observed for a long time, that although in many places where altruism is a goal, conflict is present in the practical actions of people I observed. We all have are self-centered interests.)
What has so grasped and impressed me in these travels is how the Native Americans (Indian) are persevering today, much like the Wupaki, with there drive to achieve and be prosperous, with their uncanny ceremonial celebration with the beating of the drums and dancing centerpieces, where the spiritual depths of their long history in the Southwest is continuing to enrich the spiritual power within us all, when we are open to the power of those who have lived on land we call America for thousands of years.

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