This week, the Bureau of Land Management honors the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument’s 20-year anniversary. The 176,000-acre monument was designated on June 9, 2000, by Presidential Proclamation to protect cultural and natural resources on a landscape scale.
Canyons of the Ancients contains the highest known cluster of archaeological sites in the United States, with rich, well-preserved evidence of native cultures stretching back over 10,000 years.
“I was greatly moved on my frequent visits there and proud to lead the BLM’s efforts to protect and preserve this amazing landscape and its priceless record of human history, while incorporating modern uses of these lands by the surrounding communities,” said William Perry Pendley, BLM deputy director for policy and programs.
Located in the Four Corners region of Southwest Colorado, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is about 45 miles west of Durango, near Cortez and Mesa Verde National Park. The monument contains more than 30,000 well-preserved sites with evidence of native cultures.
“This place is special to so many generations and cultures for its abundance of history, archaeology and recreational experiences,” said Tres Rios Field Manager Connie Clementson. “While we are unable to host an in-person celebration, we want to acknowledge how important this monument is to our communities.”
The monument encompasses various archaeological features, including dwellings, kivas, petroglyphs, pictographs, farms, activity areas, shrines and sweat lodges. Native American ancestral sites hold important information about how indigenous peoples interacted with the environment and with each other, over many centuries.
“We know that there is still a presence here,” said Marvin Lalo from the Hopi Tribe. “When the ancients moved, they left the buildings for a purpose.”
The monument has been used or inhabited by humans, including the Northern Ancestral Puebloan culture, for 10,000 years, and continues to be a landscape used by humans today. Multiple uses in the monument include recreation, hunting, livestock grazing and energy development. For more information, visit the monument website and the Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance website.