"The Navajos, in their vast and remote lands, had complete freedom to be themselves without reference to what other people thought. That is, they were inner-directed. It was the human being underneath that was important. When I was with them, I no longer felt the pressure to conform to someone's idea of who I was supposed to be."
Hall, Edward T. West of the Thirties, Doubleday, New York, 1994. P. 21.
The first priority of Cedar Mesa Project members is to provide to the public information about the environment, the cultural resources, and low impact use; not to enforce regulations.
Members make contact with people encountered by chance or who seem interested; respect the solitude of others.
Finding similarities between yourself and the people you encounter is often a good way to open a conversation. Active listening skills (a friendly, "hello", head nodding, similar body position, repeating in your own words what someone else has said, non-judgment, and openness) are ways to begin building rapport. Talking about the weather, about gear, things they have discovered in the canyon, or where they are camping are often good introductory topics.
You might introduce Cedar Mesa Project members with a sentence such as: "There is a growing concern about...(Example: how to approach a Anasazi site...because of the tremendous increase in visitors each season.") You could then ask if they have any questions.
When you encounter someone causing minor damage:
In a non authoritative non threatening way, give some information in order to increase understanding and to enrich that person's visit. Often infractions occur due to lack of knowledge or experience.
Suggestions for addressing a problem after matching your remarks to your audience and "breaking the ice" include: responding to the magic of discovery and then leading into an educational explanation, mentioning the scientific value of archaeological information, noting environmental damage that may be caused, suggesting alternatives, or mentioning the spiritual nature of "sacred places."
You may be able to offer a "reward" by offering to take their picture or showing them another commonly known "treasure" in the canyon they might otherwise miss. Fragile "treasures" should be kept little known, however.
Do not allow the rare extremely hostile person to draw you into confrontation. Your safety comes first. Withdraw and report the situation, if the violation warrants this.
Do your best not to alienate this person. Sometimes this means just walking away, feeling you have made no impact. However, if this person is not alienated, perhaps he or she is simply being defensive and the next time will think about these issues. Consider these situations as "planting seeds," and don't give up hope.
We can't be successful with everyone we encounter. Please don't allow a negative exchange to shatter your experience of being in the wilderness!
Be honest about your feelings, "I feel uncomfortable mentioning this, but....;" Or possibly, "I am feeling upset or angry because....I have been walking for five miles expecting to find water here, and I arrive and find your dog taking a bath in the only source of drinking water."
Remember, much of our back country "advice" is backed up by regulations. Mention regulations in a non-threatening way. "Are you aware that fires are no longer permitted in Grand Gulch?"
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- URL of this page: http://bcn.boulder.co.us/environment/cacv/cacvcont.htm
- Revised '9-Jun-2001,11:10:14'
- Copyright ©1996, 1999 SCCS.