Purgatory's Voices Should be Heeded

By Doug Holdread

Many voices have now spoken against the Pentagon's proposal to transform the southeastern corner of Colorado into a vast live-fire zone.  Ranchers have spoken eloquently in defense of their homes and way of life.  The people of the region have spoken through scores of opposition resolutions passed by towns and counties and organizations. Colorado legislators have joined their voices in passing State Representative Wes McKinley's bill which withdraws the state's consent for the military seizure of private property for an expansion of Piñon Canyon. U.S. Representatives John Salazar and Marilyn Musgrave spoke up and their voices were heeded by 383 Congressional Representatives from both parties who voted in favor of their amendment to block funding for the expansion.  There has been a mighty chorus of voices chanting, "No expansion. No funding for expansion."

There are other, softer voices that should be listened to as well; the voices of our ancestors.  The voices of Cheyenne hunters, and French trappers, Hispanic shepherds and Scottish cattlemen echo through the Purgatory River canyons; the multi-lingual voices of diverse cultures united by the land.

If one listens closely the non-human voices of Piñon Canyon can be heard as well; voices too easily ignored; the hoot of the burrowing owl, the yip of the kit fox and the scream of the mountain lion. Their voices join with human voices from the past and present, proclaiming, "This is our land. This is our home." 

But there is another voice; the voice of the most powerful military force on the face of the earth; an impersonal, discordant voice which cares less about fragile artifacts and creatures or personal family histories than it does about the doctrinal distances spelled out in Army Manual TC 25-1. It's nothing personal; just a mathematical calculation that the Pentagon needs to expand its 25 million acres of real estate in order to test their new high-tech unmanned robotic weapons. There is nothing any more personal in the fact that southeastern Colorado is in the cross-hairs of military planners than there is in any other digitized target illuminated on one of their computer screens.

So which voices should be heeded?  I say it should be the voices of patriotism.

The linguistic root of the word "patriotism" is "pater," Latin for "father."  Patriots are those who listen to the voices of their fathers and mothers.  Patriots are those who honor their forbears. A patriot is one who holds reverence for the land of their fathers and for their mother earth. 

Tuesday afternoon at 1:00 pm we have an opportunity to gather on the south lawn of the Las Animas County Court House in Trinidad as patriots, to join our voices with the voices of other souls of the Purgatory; those of our ancestors, of our neighbors and of the earth itself to say, "This is our land. No expansion; No funding for expansion." 

Doug Holdread an artist and member of the Trinidad State Junior College's faculty, where he serves as president of the faculty senate. He has hiked the canyons of the Purgatory River from its confluence with the Arkansas to its headwaters in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  The voices of the ancestors of the Purgatory River Valley can be heard in the writings and images at www.ThisLandisOurLand.org