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View from Native American Southwest

Making a tip from our friend, Bob Estabrook, on the value of perambulating to let off steam and change the air, we have been traveling around the former territories, now states, of Arizona and New Mexico, in pursuit of diurnal raptors (hawks, eagles, falcons, etc.) and investigating the haunts and vestiges of the original Native Americans who lived here first.

For spectacular bird-watching, especially in November and December, few places on earth can match the breathtaking Bosque del Apache, near Soccoro, N.M., less than 100 miles south of Albuquerque on the Rio Grande. Here you see at a glance tens of thousands of migrating snow geese, sandhill cranes, ducks and other waterfowl. Raptors are well in attendance. Not to mention coyotes, foxes and other opportunistic diners.

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The art and history museums from Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona to Silver City and Albuquerque in New Mexico contain enthralling treasures, and have been curated with an exceptional mix of talent, love and respect for Navaho, Hopi, Pima, Zuni, Apache, Comanche, as well as the pueblo-building and cliff-dwelling Anasazi, Hohokam and Mogollon peoples, and so many others. Their histories can only be reconstructed by archeological means, and the analysis of pottery shards, such as the exquisite works of the Mimbres Indians in the Gila mountains.

Visitor beware! Faced with extraordinary artifacts and fading 19th-century photographs of early native tribesmen and their families, you may find yourself biting your lip to hold back tears. You see a photo of "a group of hostiles." They are Geronimo with men, women and children, intending to surrender at the Canyon de los Embudos Peace Conference (March 1886). Despite losing all belongings two months previous in a U.S. attack, the group wears mostly new tunics and dresses — to show dignity and respect as they face virtual oblivion.

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Of course, all that happened a long time ago. Those were the days before we shifted our attention to places like Grenada and Iraq — not to mention Iran — in order to bring to those people as well the fruits of freedom, democracy and global development. Shall we some day preserve their memories, too, in our museums, on road signs, and in geographical place names, as well as, perhaps, in the names of sports teams and on sports memorabilia?

We go out of our way today to condemn and demand official, public apology for what was done to the Armenians. But have we ever officially and publicly apologized for what "we" collectively may have done to others — slavery, genocide, aggression? Or must each one of us do so in personal, private conscience? Can we not learn from the spirit of our southwest Native Americans to face our future with dignity and respect for all humanity?


Sharon resident Anthony Piel is a former director and legal counsel of the World Health Organization.


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