While with friends on a recent three day backpacking trip from the Indian Peaks Wilderness to the Rocky Mountain National Park I was reflecting on a question asked to me some time ago. I found myself redefining my answer in regards to: how does nature make me feel? At least that’s what I think the question was; it has been a while and my answer sparked a conversation as to what I meant by “Indigenous Connection”. The following is my in depth explanation on the matter.
When I say Indigenous Connection: I am referring to two ideas. The first, my family history and the many generations that have lived and died in the South West of this country. I am referring to my grandfather, born in Pine River NM, and my grandmother born just over the border from him in Bondad, CO. Also my mother, child four of six, raised in south east Idaho and meeting my father, a young Venezuelan from the Northern tip of South America with a great grandmother from the Caribbean and grandfather from the Andes. When I think of my Indigenous Connection I think of their blood mixing in me like the many tributaries forming into the rivers from the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Madres clear out to the Andes. I was made of this water and soil. The potatoes, corn meal arepas, plantains, black beans and pinto, aguas frescas, pinon & green chile, the cattle, the chickens and the elk that feed my ancestors and literally tie me to this land. When I sit by the river banks or kick up dust on a hillside I think how much of this land my ancestors and I share. Our skin, blood, and bones fed by the same geographic location.
The second idea is the feeling I get while hiking. As my friends and I hiked through the valleys of the Arapahoe and Flattop mountain passes, and followed the trail like so many elk before us. I can’t help but think similar moments have all been present in the lives of our ancestors. The trail, a time capsule and never ending story. The Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park are not only a national treasure, but a familiar treasure and responsibility to protect and enjoy. The water we drank along the way was once the first sip and birthplace of a people who looked like us, loved like us, fought each other and fought for each other like we do today. They worked and played in these very woods with an understanding that; brother & sister, mother & father, grandmother & grandfather, we’re all connected like every aspen trees roots.
At 12,300 feet while crossing the hilltop pass I reflected on their people’s nation beginning and growing like the headwaters of any river. The rain gathering hopes, prayers and dreams to collect together on moss covered stone and high alpine brush to gradually collect and flow down into a valley, forming waterfalls of inspiration and desire.
My body shivers thinking back to when we stood before the Big Pool on the North Inlet Trail up the flattop mountain canyon, negotiating with myself not to leave my pack, clothing and glasses and leaping into the water. Knowing those waters would transport me into a 10 year old Arapahoe boy playing double dare with my friends and imagining ourselves warriors being chased by a pack of wolves or black bear. Turning and running because they caught us hunting on their side of the mountain. We had to cross the pass and make the lake by night fall. So I played another game imagining I had collected medicine for my grandmother and was taking it to her at the lake across the pass. We left the dark pool and pushed on to cross the pass before luminous clouds turned to thunder and lightning. The clouds forming on my journey like the storms she weathered in her life. I could not let my fear pull me back. I had to push on. My Indigenous Connection to the outdoors is that of one part historical fact and one part imagination. The trail should transform your way of thinking like any good book or movie. Every time you re-read, watch or walk the path a new lesson learned. We never walk the path alone, we all have an ancient connection to the land.
There is an innate sense of belonging to an ancient and current world when I stand in nature. I believe this connection is in every person. We have been raised in a capitalist society where possessions equal success and this includes the sky above and minerals below.
We can’t claim success at the expense of this beauty and it starts at home, how we live. I want to share this with my friends and family. Really there is nothing that can replace nature’s lessons and beauty.
I live in Denver Colorado where I love to bike, hike, garden, explore and work on DIY projects. I am currently building a two person 14 foot Marine Grade Plywood Canoe! To contact me for any LO-related communications, collaborations, or outing requests in my area, please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text me at 303-906-8902.