Archive for The Denver Post

A Little Good News!
With all the distressing, even alarming, world news today, it is a pleasure to report on two recent good news items in Colorado.

Fort-Lyon250x171So Far – So Good: Fort Lyon’s New Role

Headlined “Disputed Treatment Center Sends Alums Out Into The World”, a Denver Post article on August 20 celebrates the graduation of the first 11 formerly homeless people from the new residential treatment program at Fort Lyon.

As I reported in a previous Newsletter (March/April, 2014), “Fort Lyon was the jumping-off ground for Colonel Chivington’s brutal massacre at Sand Creek” and then had successive reincarnations as Veterans’ Hospital and Colorado State prison. In 2013, it embarked on a completely new mission, becoming a state-funded shelter, addiction treatment facility, and job-training center for the homeless.

After quite controversial legislation authorizing this program was passed, there was considerable speculation as to whether any of the homeless (especially from Denver, site of Colorado’s largest homeless population) would voluntarily get on a bus to go to a distant destination in one of the most rural areas of the state. Governor Hickenlooper was a major supporter of this new and positive role for Fort Lyon. The Denver Post, in a May 12,10 1913 editorial headlined OK, GOVERNOR HICKENLOOPER, FORT LYON IS YOURS NOW was frankly skeptical about the chances for the project. “If it fails, voters will know where to place the blame. And if it succeeds, we will be the first to credit the governor for his commitment to the idea.”

As of the end of November, 2013, 70 homeless people had taken up residence in the facility. They came from 15 counties, most from Denver, with 100 more on the waiting list. So this August 20, 2014 article is a welcome update on the lives of these new residents. Everyone is required to work, with a wide variety of tasks to choose from. Along with Bent County employees, the Post article reports, residents replaced the entire sewer system and are now working to restore a row of former officers’ quarters. One woman works in 41/2-acre garden she started.

Residents each get a personalized recovery plan. There is a walk-in clinic and they can attend on site Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous meetings. They can improve their job skills by taking courses at nearby Otero Junior college and Lamar Community College.

The article is a positive one, both about the program’s effects on the formerly homeless living there, and on the economic well-being of Bent County. But no effort on the Post’s part, that I have yet seen, to carry through on its promise that, if the project to rehabilitate many of the homeless from Front Range cities in this very rural – and historic – setting succeeds, “we will be the first to credit the governor for his commitment to the idea.” Perhaps it is too soon to declare the latest use of old Fort Lyon to be a success – but it certainly looks promising.

Denver - Union StationNew Incarnation of Union Station: Have You Seen it Yet?

A couple of weeks ago, I finally made it, with a good friend, to see the Union Station development. We traveled by the RTD train from Jefferson County’s “Taj Mahal” – my first experience of that fairly new transportation development. The whole experience was quite exhilarating.

The first pleasant surprise was to find the original Union Station happily fulfilling a dual role. The main waiting room area is still filling its original function. It is a public space, with comfortable furniture, a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, and interesting stores and places to eat in the spaces around the waiting area. All the upper floors now are rooms in the Crawford Hotel, named for Denver’s urban renewal pioneer, Dana Crawford.

We ate lunch at one of the cafes with outdoor tables and chairs, facing the large public open space in front of the Station entrance from downtown Denver. It has borrowed and enlarged Aspen’s idea of an installation of a rectangular series of fountains shooting up and falling randomly, inviting children to run through it – with a high possibility of getting soaking wet. This central feature is surrounded by pedestrian space. There were a few children daring the run, and strollers passing through the space. (I couldn’t help wondering just what will happen in the large fountain area in the winter months.)

We did not have enough time to explore the rest of the impressive Union Station redevelopment project, with its new buildings and pedestrian areas. I only got a rough idea of the location of the three transportation terminals on the site – for “real” trains, RTD trains, and RTD buses, so I intend to make another visit soon. But I saw enough to feel that this Union Station redevelopment project will become a new magnet for interesting activity – in a once-deteriorating segment of the central area of Denver. And I thought again, with gratitude, of former Governor John Evans who wouldn’t give up on his seemingly ridiculous vision of Denver becoming one of the great cities of the United States.

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This is the first in a series of three blog posts about Anne Evans’ article on the Hopi Snake Dance.

A recent controversy involving the Hopi Indians of Southwest Mexico reminded me that I had promised to write a blog post about the last of several articles, written by Anne Evans, that have come to light since the publication of her biography. The article, Hopi Snake Dance, was published in 1912.

Hopi and Eagles
The recent controversy was about whether the Hopi should be allowed to continue an age-old tradition. Each Hopi village raises a young eagle, feeding them with rabbits hunted by young boys, until the time of the Home Dance “when the Katsina spirits perform and the eagle absorbs their song-prayers.” When the ceremony is over, the eagles are taken to a quiet place and quickly suffocated. “Their spirits are sent home with the Katsinas until the following year, when both are petitioned to return with their blessing power. Their bodies are taken to the kivas, where feathers are carefully plucked and arranged by religious purpose.” The bodies are then buried with great reverence in a special cemetery, treating them exactly the same as human beings.

The Denver Post of May 26, 2013 carried a “pro and con” discussion of the issue. I believe Anne Evans would have deeply appreciated the viewpoint of David Whiteley, Curator of North American Ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and a long-time student of Hopi culture and history, who wrote the “pro” side of the debate, (from which the quotes above are taken) supporting the Hopi right to carry on their ancestral tradition.

Whiteley notes that the Hopi have lived on the Colorado Plateau for at least a thousand years and that their whole culture, and interaction with their “landscape of little water,” is essentially conservationist “The strongest surviving indigenous tradition in North America, Hopi religion focuses on seasonal and daily attention to preserving the world in balance.” The real threat to the survival of raptors, he writes, lies in residential and municipal development in the region, and in industrial development throughout the West “Self-righteous blame of Hopi eagle-gathering is myopic scapegoating, and neglects true threats to those species and possible means to avert them.”

Anne Evans and the Hopi

Anne Evans wrote two articles about what she learned from her many visits to what she called “Hopi Land.” She made no secret of her sheer delight in this experience.

I understand that many good Americans when they die, are going to Paris. I’m secretly hoping that when one American dies, she may alternate Paris with Hopi land – about half and half, with a slight preponderance in favor of the latter.

Hopi potter Nampayo

Nampeyo at work painting a small pot, ca. 1905. Photograph by Edward S. Curtis.

I wrote about one of these articles in my biography of Anne Evans (pages 305-311)1. It was prepared for a 1920 presentation to the Denver Fortnightly Club. Her subject was The Art Impulse of the Hopi Indians2. In it she said that her intention was not to deal with the artifacts of Hopi culture, but to try to understand the “art impulse and the conditions which produce it.” After reviewing the life and accomplishments of the Hopi potter Nampayo – interwoven with the experience of choosing one of her pots to purchase, and have decorated by her husband – Anne Evans concluded that the mainsprings of the Hopi Art Impulse were “Contemplation, Concentration, and Vision.”

Perhaps, she says, these are universal wellsprings of art, but it is difficult in our complex “modern, everyday world” with its “mesh of native and foreign influences to be disentangled” to achieve what she saw in Hopi culture.

… their joy lies in their arts; in the patient production of pottery and textiles and baskets – in the songs which they sing at work and play and ceremonial – and in their dances and dramaturgies – all springing from a spontaneous desire of creation, so universal that no dividing line exists between audience and actor; between artist and creator.

1 Sternberg, Barbara E. with Jennifer Boone and Evelyn Waldron. Anne Evans – A Pioneer in Colorado’s Cultural History: THE THINGS THAT LAST WHEN GOLD IS GONE. Evergreen: Buffalo Park Press with Center for Colorado and the West Auraria Library. 2011.

2 Anne Evans, “The Art Impulse of the Hopi Indians,” Denver Public Library, Western History Department, Denver Fortnightly Society Collection. 1920. 7.

The book may be obtained through
Friends of the Denver Public Library

For information about Anne Evans & the book:
This project is co-published with the Center for Colorado and the West Auraria Library.
© 2011-2012 By Barbara Sternberg. All right reserved.