A Rock of Ages

In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day, I visited a petroglyph site in the Nevada desert, and took that photo today. This area was once a lush green shore of a lake at the time the glyphs were carved, and they represent a significant aspect of the religious culture of the original people of North America. They’re OLD. Some of these glyphs were being carved about the time that Ezekiel was writing his prophecies in ancient Israel. Others were carved within the lifetime of the first colonists.

It would do us well, we children of European American immigrants, to remember that we were very much NOT the first inhabitants of this land. We colonized it.

I cannot help but mourn the incalculable value lost by the destruction of cultures with millennia of history, when the immigrants brought an entirely different culture that eventually exterminated what had long preceded it. While Columbus’ expeditions were important, I have begun to believe that Indigenous Peoples Day is a much more relevant title for the things we should remember.

That song I grew up singing, “This Land Is Your Land” now feels a bit arrogant to me. Verse 3 says:

I roamed and rambled and I’ve followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
All around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me

Thinking from this longer perspective, and standing in those diamond deserts looking at petroglyphs made 2000 years before that verse was written, I’m not sure that “this land was made for you and me.” We Europeans certainly took possession of it – but if there were already people inhabiting the land, was it made for us at their expense?

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