Friday, February 11, 2011

Documenting Those Indian Trails, And Trying To Establish Coronado's Route

I just received a nice note from Buck Wells, who has been making efforts to document Indian trails in western New Mexico. He feels that Coronado's route to Hawikuh may have passed through the Mule Creek area of western New Mexico. Whether that proves completely true, partly true, or not at all, establishing exactly where the Indian trails of the Southwest were located, and estimating how much traffic they carried, is critical to understanding just how closely-linked the Anasazi Pueblos and related cultures were to Mesoamerican America.

It seems to me (and I'm sure others) that the presence of ball courts in the Hohokam ruins of southern Arizona, and their absence elsewhere, suggests an important cultural discontinuity there. Yet, they've discovered chocolate and macaw bones at Chaco Canyon, so there was at least trade going on, despite any cultural divide. Can the physical geography and the location of the trail network throw any light on the larger cultural questions?

Here is most of that correspondence:
Hi Marc , I wanted to let you know I read your blog, enjoyed it, and that various people in western New Mexico know about Chichilticale; and I tend to agree with Nugent Brasher... information looks correct from my point of view too...

My submission to New Mexico Historical Review got a rejection slip, largely due to my lack of scientific and historical credentials, but I published the map to Zuni from the south on the New Mexico side of the state line, and found an old township map at Mule Creek that documents the main 'Apache Trail' , and followed it up the Mogollon Rim to Zuni... in New Mexico

My idea is that the Indians in New Mexico have always known about, and used this trail.

Red Ellison, who dug Kwillielekia Ruin I think knew a lot about old trails too, but did not publish it.

You can find my work [here, which] contains email link to my box... been working on this one for more than twenty years, just happen to be real interested in the subject, and it is a hobby ...

Regards

Buck Wells
Santa Fe, NM
My response:
Hello Mr. Wells!:

Thank you for your attention. You have a very interesting Web Site, and that map deserves much study!

I think it’s hard, in general, to translate the sort of practical knowledge of trail-finding and outdoor living into suitable academic language. Expertise in the field usually comes at the expense of expertise in academe, and vice versa. And it’s exhausting work too: things that look obvious in the field seem more uncertain on paper, and vice versa. Good documentation is paramount.

I’m sorry that the folks at NMHR haven’t seen fit to print your work, at least, not yet. There was a time when I knew some of the folks over there (I got a BS in history as well as in physics at UNM in 1980), but I’m sure there’s a new crowd there.

...The value of the Internet is that you can make your ideas known, irrespective of whether they are academically acceptable (yet), or not. I would think that trail-finding is exactly the type of activity where practical knowledge and familiarity with the field should be more important than familiarity with all the literature, but I suppose it’s best to be a polymath and be familiar with it all. I like your clarity of language....

...If it’s a matter of a literature hunt, a few weeks in a library should suffice to find enough. If it’s a matter of credentials – I don’t know, I’d think that credentials should scarcely matter if the ideas are sound – but maybe I’m just na├»ve. Heck, I’d just beef the work up and submit it again; if not to NMHR, then to someone else. Like you suggest, there is no particular reason why Coronado should not have followed pre-existing trail networks in his journeys (except maybe way out in Quivira).

I have a friend named Dyer who lives in Tucson, likes nature photography, and is quite familiar with the Mule Creek area.

The best of luck to you!

Marc

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