Hiding in the Breaks

The Last Indian Village

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            Tucked back in the Limon Breaks was a small band of Indians that refused to go to the reservation.  They managed to stay out of the governments’ sights until the 1940’s, the beginning of WWII.  The breaks is a rugged wilderness of steep ravines, gullies and canyons, dotted with thick stands of cedars, pines and scrub brush.  At an elevation that ranges from 6000 feet to almost 8000 feet, not many people settled in the breaks. 

            It was too rugged for large scale farming and the weather makes for some nasty winters and springs.  This type of landscape made for a great place to Indians to live and thrive. 

            Scattered among the hills are numerous springs, feeding small streams.  It is a haven for wildlife, there was water, ample feed and protection down in the ravine bottoms.  This was great buffalo country and the Indians had been coming to the area for centuries.  There are caves among the cliffs, providing shelter for the Nomads that roamed the area.  Deer roamed the land, as did rabbits, antelope, coyotes and numerous other critters.  These provided food and clothing for the Indians.  There was wild fruit in the breaks, such as choke cherry, a variety of herbs and tubers grow along the bottom meadows.  For a subsistence life, it was everything a person needed to live. 

            At the end of the 1800’s most of the Indian wars had ceased.  The Indians had been carted off to reservations to become domesticated.  Not all stayed on the reservation.  They would wander off and return to the lands they knew and set up living like they used to.  The buffalo had almost been exterminated but the Indians managed to live on the prairie.  There are stories of ranchers running across small bands living on their ranch. 

            For the most part, the cowboys let things be and left the Indians to their devices.  A few would help, bring food, blankets or clothing.  Eventually the government would hear of these little groups, round em up and take them to the reservation.  The band in the Limon Breaks avoided detection for a number of years.  The ranchers in the area would help them and even offered them livestock if they were hungry.  Quietly the Indians went about their life in the woods and ravines.  The caves they used are marked with smoke from their fires.  Rings of rocks can be seen where they had their tepees.  Fire pits can be seen nearby.

            Driving on Interstate 70 across eastern Colorado, one would not even consider there would be a thick forest to the north of Cedar Point.  On the ridges to the north can be seen groves of cedar stretching to the north for miles.  Over the ridge, the land drops down into steep ravines climbing back up cliffs to mountains of about 7500 feet.  There are no homes back in there and it pretty much open rugged wilderness.  Wildlife still roam the area, it is cattle now that graze the land.  Here for about 40 years, a group of Indians avoided the long arm of the government, living off the grid. 

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Cliff Dwelling …. Navajo Monument

The Trail Down

 

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            Navajo Natl. Monument is a cliff dwelling on the other side of the canyon.  During the roasting hot sun of the Arizona desert, the village is in the shade of the cliff overhang.  Looking out across the valley, the dwellings can be seen among the trees that have just budded out for spring.  The water trickles out of the springs, keeping the bottom green and lush, an oasis for the desert. 

The sign said there would be a ranger guided tour at 9:00 am.  So returning the next morning at 8:30, it was anticipation I waited for the ranger.  It was a beautiful view looking down the valley at the green trees and shrubs on the bottom.  The ranger arrived, presented a short spiel on the people that used to dwell in the ruins.  The group then began the trek down the trail, following and listening to the ranger.  He pointed the different flora and fauna and explained how the vegetation zone changed as we descended. 

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We reached the bottom and across the valley we walked to climb up into the ruins.  A few of the rooms had been restored to give an appearance of what the building would have looked like more than a 1000years ago. 

Out of the cool dampness we walked up the other side using the steps that had been carved out centuries ago.  Ladders poked out of as hole in the roof, this was the entry.  Across the narrow stone ledge we walked among the crumbling stone walls.  All the time the ranger pointing out the different features and talking about how they lived years ago. 

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Walking among the rocks and taking pictures, it was time to walk back up the cliff side.  Looking up I could see people strung out along the path going uphill.  I gave it a long hard look, it was 1400 steps down, plus.  So it was 1400 steps back up plus. 

Upward I began my journey, stopping along the route to take pictures, well that was my excuse for pausing in the shade of the small overhang.  It had been a half hour trek down the hill, the uphill battle was now approaching an hours on the trail.  Legs were talking to me, breath was gasping, water was declining in the canteen.  There it was the rim of the canyon, just a few more feet up.  I sat on one of the benches and looked back across where I had been.  

Comanche

Picture Canyon

            Situated in the SE corner of the state of Colorado is the Comanche Grasslands, owned by the Federal government.  The government bought up scores of acres and turned them is to grass in the attempts to slow down the dust bowl of the 30’s.  It also created recreational areas on the prairie, opening up wide variety public lands.  The nearby states also have huge sections of grasslands in the corners of their states. 

            The grasslands of New Mexico and Kansas encompass parts of the old Santa Fe Trail, following the Cimarron River, mostly dry.  There is the flat rolling land that is prone to blow and there is the surprise of the canyons and mesas in the area.  Just north of the Oklahoma border, in Colorado is a large area of land broken with canyons and rocky cliffs. 

            Tucked back in these areas are springs, trees and rocky overhangs, where the Indians could have shelter and carve in the rocks.  One such place is Picture Canyon, about 12 miles due west of Campo and a few miles south.  Here one drives out of the flat lands into scrub forest and rocky gulches. 

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            The rock walls made great easels for early many.  The Indians left their mark with Pictographs and petroglyphs.  They were not alone the early European explorers left their mark also.  There are some petroglyphs that archeologists speculate may have been Viking/Celtic in origin.  Which raises the questions, were the Northern Europeans, exploring in Western North America. 

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            No matter what, it is still a fun place to drive back into and watch the land change.  Looking at the cliffs, there are the occasional overhangs/caves that show signs of soot on the rocks.  Here in late summer the Indian could sit here and work his buffalo meat into pemmican.  For here in the canyons are a variety of fruits, Choke Cherry, Hackberry and others. 

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            There are also the remains of cabins that were built, late 1800’s.  It was a good area to graze cattle for summer pasture and a cabin for the trail rider. 

            It is an area to delve back more than a few thousand years.  The Folsom Point man roamed the area, before the present day plains Indians showed up.  The Comanche Indians are the contemporary residents of the area, living, hunting, working and playing in the canyons. 

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Tuttle, CO

It was a pain to find because of my preconceived notions.  I was expecting it to be there but it was over there.  Then when I only read one part and ignore the other books that is what happens. 

The Tuttle Post Office Is advertised by a local group and part of a variety pack of interesting places they advertise for their part of the plains. 

Out in the pasture sit the remains of the Post Office and general store.  There are some foundations from other buildings next to it.  In the weeds they are are well buried.  There is no public access, just a long distance view from the road. 

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The sign they made for it had a good case of sunburn and will soon be replaced by another. 

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Being made of stone with a tin roof, it should withstand the elements for a few more years.  It appears it was a prosperous place at one time from its size.  Yet the neighborhood around it is pretty vacant today.  The nearest house are back that way a few miles and the same the other direction.  Even the horizon is a rolling void of homes, just waving grasses. 

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As the crow flies, the Tuttle Ranch is about 5 miles south.  By the modern country road of today it is about 9 miles around the bend and over the river.  The Tuttle Ranch had the mail contract during the late 1800’s and was the Post Office until the contract was awarded to another.  The Post Office moved to the General Store to the north but the name Tuttle was retained. 

There were a variety of Tuttle’s in the area and they were involved in some type of range war.  Information I have found has been very limited.  Hopefully one of these days I’ll turn over the right rock and find what I want. 

The two Tuttle ranches that show up on the map were with a couple of miles of each other and were on the freight road and Stage route following the Republican River. 

During the 180’s this area was hotly contested by the white invaders and the Indians.  There were more then a few Indian attacks on the ranch houses and the stage.  Some the locals I talked with, talk about finding all kinds of arrowheads in the area and other reminders of the when the Indians lived in the area.  Small caves in the area with smoke covered openings.

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The Tuttle Ranch is no more, it was washed away by the flood of 1935.  The Republican River was visited by Noah.  Flood waters a mile wide and 20-40 feet deep.  This massive flood changed lots of things and today the dry stream bed looks so innocent. 

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Back down this pasture trail a few hundred yards is where the Tuttle ranch had been.  Today very serene and peaceful and one can see why it would make a nice setting for a ranch.  Very contrasting where the stone Tuttle Post Office sits. 

Turning around a looking the other way a short distance is where station 21 for the Leavenworth and Pikes Peak Stage Station would have been. 

Like so many things in eastern Colorado, on private property and posted. 

Yet it is fascinating to drive the country roads and ponder what it would have been like to be riding over the country and see Indians ride up over the horizon. 

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Instead now days I find some neat old abandoned homesteads.  Yet this was the heart of the Plains Indian Wars during the 1860’s while the Civil War was going on. 

Chaco Canyon

The Four Corners area of the US is loaded with ancient Indian mysteries.  Situated in the northwestern corner of New Mexico is Chaco Canyon one of the most extensive collections of ancient mysteries.  There was a variety in cultures that built there yet they are referred to as Anasazi Indians, a term meaning the “Ancient Ones.”  Not a tribe but a question mark and a label was hung on them for a reference point. 

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Wandering through the area, there is a variety of construction styles.  The keyholes of Mexico, Cliff dwellings, Pit Houses, fine masonry work with chinking and large hewn stone work.  The styles indicating different tribal work or cultures. 

One thing that remains the same, the answers are no clearer then they were decades ago when I first visited.  The scientists still speculate on what they have found, based on the neighboring Pueblo Indians.  Even within them are a large variety of people and cultures.  So one can be a scientist and speculate and put their opinion forth as fact. 

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I spent a week at Chaco over 30 years ago, pre digital and took hundreds of slides.  I have been scanning some of them and they bring sack moments from years past.  When I was there, an archeologist and some of his students were there excavating a set of pit houses.  I was able to visit with them and watch them work as they removed small pieces of various artifacts.  How they would remove parts from a fire pit to measure for dating.  The separation of various relics and how they recorded their finds.  They had traced this village of pit houses across the floor and about 600 years of evolution and their changes. 

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This small group of houses was contemporary with the larger nearby Pueblo Bonito.  One of the speculations was that the Indians that inhabited these little huts were slaves of the Indians that were in the larger pueblo.  In the middle ages slavery was not unusual.  Capture weaker people, get them to build the large castle/pyramid and be the servants.  A recorded history is not available so theories are put forth based on other observations.  Then Indian slavery messes with the myth of the noble Indian. 

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Scattered across the area are hundreds of little villages.  Some are excavated, most are rubble piles.  Late 1800’s-early 1900’s the Wetherill brothers came out here and scrounged the Indian ruins.  Digging out pots and other artifacts, sending them back east for sale.  The sale of these ancient pots financed their diggings in the Four Corners area and kind of left an ugly scar on many of the ruin sites.  Lots of what the brothers recovered ended up in Europe and there was not much cataloguing of what was shipped where and where it was found. 

Yet there were enough untouched ruin sites, reconstruction has been pretty accurate and the stabilization helps to preserve the ruins.

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The Kivas are as varied as the rest of the canyon.  During the solstice and equinox they resonate with the visitors who have mystical aspirations of the ancient tribes. 

When I visited, the Sun Dagger had not been discovered.  Today many of the ruins sites are now called observatories.  The measurement of time was used with markers, noting the suns passing.  How sophisticated were these Indians?

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The pictures are of organized rock piles.  In the day of occupation, the rocks were plastered.   Mud was applied to the walls, filling the chinks creating a well insulated dwelling.  The Kivas were decorated with sand paintings.  The archeologists found a Kiva with sand painting still on the walls.  With meticulous care, they peeled off 10 layers of different paintings covering a couple of centuries. 

A catch all category for the unknown is religious use.  And the kiva gets put into that category.  The items found in them become religious objects that were used in religious ceremonies.  It is interesting how things are labeled when they are not really sure.  It raises more questions and speculation.  Then that is the fun of the visit, then go to the museum of Anasazi history at the University.  Questions are cleared up and new ones arise. 

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The park service has changed their perception and scope over the years.  Things that were talked about years ago are now gone for they mess with the myth that has been created.  Answers to the questions will probably never be found.  A mystery that many will look at and speculate on.  There is some substance and there is fiction t ofit an agenda.  Separate out the reality form the illusion. 

One of the collest collections of ghost towns to wander through and ponder.

Indian Burial/Pyres …..

 

It is interesting how things get twisted and distorted for personal selfishness.  Living in the middle of the Wild West Indian country I see a lots of it.Back in the early 1800’s the land around here was declared a reservation.  With the onslaught of gold seekers, settlers and other types, the reservation was forgotten.  The railroad got lots of the Indian land, the ranchers, then the homesteaders.   All settled on Indian land, it became their property, not the Indians. 

Over the years, various Indian groups have used this to leverage things from the government.  One of their  favorite tools was to declare certain spots of land, Sacred Ground or burial ground.  In most cases it has worked.  The apologists have given into the Indian demands.  Yet on close investigation, it was found there were no Indians buried there and there were no artifacts in the area.  They did find the bones of children the Indians had killed from an attack on the European settlers….. oops.

Yet when one thinks about things, very few Indians buried their dead.  Most of the dead were cremated, a funeral pyre.

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This barren empty prairie at one time was covered with buffalo and the sand creek had warder in it.  Here the Indians would camp out hunting buffalo.  The buffalo was a mainstay for the Indians survival.  Not only did it provide meat, the buffalo was also shelter and warmth in the winter. 

Besides the Indians following the buffalo, the wolves did also.  The wolves would cull out the weak and sick buffalo and if they could a buffalo calf.  If the Indian hunt was successful, the wolves would circle around wanting a part of an easy meal.

It was a dangerous life on the plains.  There were dangers and the Indian would meet his demise at the hands of many things, raging animals, bad food, snake bites or.  Rather then bury their dead and hope the wolves don’t dig them up.  They would cremate them  The funeral pyre was a ritual for the Indian family.  It also protected their dead family members from being gnawed up by wolves.

So when burial sites are mentioned, I question the veracity of the statement.  Oh, yes there are burial sites that have been found.  Yet what the archeologists have unearthed looks more like a dumping pile, mass gravesite.  A few have been elaborate burials, IE, a chief, brave warrior or medicine man. 

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The lone tree over there, is a at a small spring.  In the area, thousands of artifacts have been found, spear points, scrapers, grinders and the quintessential arrowhead.  Up on the hill can be seen the fence line of the rancher.  On the banks of the river on can imagine the Indian sitting on the hill side watching the buffalo graze.  Chipping away hat his arrowheads, fletching the arrows, attaching the arrow tips to the shaft, getting ready for the big hunt. 

Nearby is his family doing the same.  Soon down below there will be a stealth hunt of the buffalo.  Arrows at close range, driving into the hide of the buffalo(s), Soon the beast collapses to the ground.  Spear in hand, the Indian runs up, driving the spear point deep into the buffalos chest.  He goes off to help his family with their kill.  Soon there are mounds laying on the ground.  The women scurry over to begin helping with the processing of the buffalo. 

The hide is removed and stretched to dry and tan.  The meat is stripped off to dry or for pemmican.  Near by the wolves are circling and sniffing.  Soon it will be a battle with the wolves.  Some distance away is an isolated buffalo, skinned.  It is left for the wolves to gnaw on and also make easy targets for the Indian’s arrow.  On far ridge can be seen smoke rising from a pyre.