A Haiku About A Sign (at Sand Creek)

This is photo of the fence at Sand Creek in Colorado

This is photo of the fence at Sand Creek in Colorado

Please stay on this side

Living, one side Dead th’other

Welcome to ghost zoo

Ghost Zoo! Perhaps I don’t understand the meaning behind sacred land. Unless dead people are also land mines, there is no danger for the living.

What does this sign do, if not warn people of the explosive nature of past?  Well, it is an attempt to 1) recognize the concept of ghosts 2) draw attention to and create awareness about the staying power of the past 3) apologize to Native American for White land greed, by designating part of the land untouchable 4) create a romanticized image of Native American remains and culture

Option three (3) seems the most logical, but it does not answer why the ground is too “sacred” to walk on. Folks tromp all over Virginia (have you driven in downtown Fredericksburg? Guess what you are driving on, yea people), Poland, the land just to the sides of the Great Wall of China, marked and unmarked cemeteries all over the world. So, why can’t we hop that fence?

Ari Kelman does a nice job in Misplaced Massacre explaining that the NPS took the area over partially for political reasons and partially in response to the 1990s culture wars What further complicates this is, as Kelman explains, the Native Americans said the sites was on one spot the white representatives said another. So what really made the site sacred was a perceptions informed by cultural definitions. Ah Post-structualism.

Don’t go past the fence

because the ground is sacred,

because many people were killed there,

Don’t go past the fence

because people were killed there

 because it would offend the memory of the dead

Even though  the place of the massacre is contested and was most likely walked on by people before

Do not cross the fence!

Is this about remains?

Why not have a sign that says, “If you find something, do not pick it up, do not take it home, it is not yours, leave it be.” If the sacredness comes from the remains, I could understand that it is much easier to stop people form taking things if you ban them form entering the area where things might be. But why does it have to be sacred? Archeological sites are fenced off so people don’t go picking. Why sacred?

The emotional concept of sacred silences questions. Most people understand the concept of what sacred means, and by labeling something “sacred” it is then removed from the realm of logic and placed in the realm of emotion.

Help Respect This Place,

It Means Something to Someone,

Do Not Be A Jerk.

Notes:
Ari Kelman, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the memory of Sand Creek (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2013)

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