Skip to main content

The Petroglyph National Monument -- You had to be there

In response to the attacks on the right of Paseo del Norte to proceed
through the Petroglyph Monument Park -- albeit on land that is not part of
the Monument -- let me offer some history of what brought us to this
controversy in the first place, acknowledging that there currently exists a
Petroglyph Monument that wasn't there before.

In 1985 I passed legislation allocating monies and direction to begin
building Paseo del Norte and its accompanying bridge across the Rio Grande
eventually extending beyond what is now called the Petroglyph Monument. At
the meetings discussing design, alignment, the environment, and the
timetable for construction, there was quite a bit of input from the
communities involved, but nothing from any group concerned about the
petroglyphs. In 1986 -- 19871 was contacted by a group called "The Friends
of the Petroglyphs" who organized a meeting with members of nearby
community organizations and American Indian groups to discuss the
possibility of establishing an urban park on the West Mesa of Albuquerque,
N.M. to prevent petroglyphs from being removed and used as landscaping
materials; or damaged by target practice; or "new" petroglyphs being
created mocking the significance of the originals.

At those meetings we heard impassioned pleas from American Indians about
how important it was to not only protect their history and culture, but to
take a stand as a community to show our respect and unity with their cause.
There were also impassioned pleas from landowners within the proposed park
concerning their plans, dreams and investments and how difficult it would
be at this stage of their lives to give up and start over. It was agonizing
convincing them to move just because there were some petroglyphs nearby.
But they agreed to move with the promise that they would be reimbursed,
which took so long some of them had already passed away. We all realized
that the park was going to be expensive, but there was also distress over
the personal sacrifices that it would entail as well.

The park was envisioned as encompassing over 6,000 acres and extending as
far north as the proposed Paseo del Norte roadway. When attention was
brought to the fact that there were also petroglyphs remaining north of
that roadway, it was agreed by all those involved that the park would be
extended north increasing its size to over 7,000 acres allowing for. Paseo
del Norte to intersect that section of the park to connect with another
road also intersecting the park. The Friends of the Petroglyphs even agreed
to assist in its planning and agreed to the alignment as being
"environmentally acceptable" and "least expensive."

Scroll to Continue

Read More

This agreement provided a benefit to all those involved. And, for those
that say there wasn't an agreement, then they must admit that the
communities of the west side and their related associations involved would
have never agreed to a National Monument as it now stands; the governments
involved would have never created a park that would have hampered the
planned extension of an already existing roadway, causing major traffic
problems endangering the health and safety of nearby communities; and many
more petroglyphs would now be adorning the landscaping efforts of people
who appreciate their significance, or be vandalized by those who lack that

There is clearly agreement though, that each community is demanding
respect. The American Indian community is seeking the respect of its
history, its culture and the sacredness that it attributes to a land that
offers a remembrance to the past. The west side gave that respect and felt
pride for its involvement and contribution. Now the west side community is
seeking respect, not for a land that allows for a link to the past, but for
its present and future. The desperation that is felt is not because the
remembrances of a way of life might be lost, but that a standard of living
is being denied. The injustices are not of its forefathers, but of the lack
of recognition of its contribution, the agreements of the past that enabled
its participation, and the desperate needs providing for its health and
safety. While the controversy might involve different eras, it is clear the
subject involves respect of needs.

We are now asked to go beyond considering the sacredness presented by the
past to regard this land as a church, while people are scrutinizing the
relationships between church and state. If the sacredness of the land was
mentioned before the monument was established, the ACLU would have stepped
in and we would still be arguing today over the issue of whether
governments can use their resources to exhibit religious symbols. Look what
has happened to those stone carvings with the Ten Commandments sitting in
front of government buildings. And, all other churches are required to buy
the land they sit on without government involvement. It is also curious
that no one is using these same arguments against the other roads
intersecting the monument.

With thousands upon thousands of petroglyphs around this state that are not
protected and are being lost daily, the Petroglyph monument has offered a
safe haven. The creation of this Monument was to preserve that history
while still allowing for the completion of an already planned road. That
was the agreement that is now being challenged by confrontation and
name-calling to promote a cultural war between peoples who just a few years
ago exhibited a profound respect for each other, causing those who joined
with the American Indian community to establish the Petroglyph Monument to
regret that decision. And, what would it be like if we had waited until
today to begin to establish both projects? It's a shame to even think what
might have happened.

All that is being asked of the opposition is the same respect and fairness
that their partners, in the effort to remember their ancestors, offered --
a benefit that protects their way of life as well. Maybe they oppose Paseo
del Norte because they weren't there when the agreement was made. I was!