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Wrong Alex Mares?

Alex Emnrd Mares


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Background Information


Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition

Board Member

Mesilla Valley-Bosque State Park

Board Member

El Paso Museum of Archaeology

Member of the Accession Committee

Diné Nation


Web References(49 Total References)

"Most of the petroglyphs in our area are believed to be from the Mogollon period of about 2,000 to 800 years ago," says Alex Mares, a Native American anthropologist and New Mexico park ranger.
"What makes this imagery powerful is thinking of the people who left it there-thinking about their lives, their culture, and their interaction with the same land we live in today. Alex, who worked at Hueco Tanks State Historic Site in El Paso County for nearly two decades-"a place where all known cultures of the Southwest are represented"-now works as a park ranger at Leasburg Dam State Park in neighboring Radium Springs. He has been exploring and hiking West Texas and Southern New Mexico for nearly four decades, and often leads group hiking tours. Through Southwest Expeditions, an outdoor heritage and adventure tourism company based in Mesilla, he has led a variety of researchers, government officials, Native American groups, and individuals and families in Doña Ana County. "The people who left these images were very knowledgeable of their environment, a lot more than we are today," Alex says. "They knew every insect that walked the ground, the mammals that surrounded them, the creatures in the water, the birds in the sky-they knew their purpose, routine, habits, and where they lived, from pupae to adult form. It was critical to their survival." With such knowledge came the desire to share it, express it, celebrate it, and pass it on to future generations, often in the form of petroglyphs and pictographs, Alex says. "All of these sites have meaning, but I would say some have more significant meaning than others," he says. "Some of them reference the stories of the peoples' origin, others have to do with hunting and hunting rituals, and others were probably offered in prayer and ceremony. We see a lot of symbolism out here that we think has to do with fertility, and bringing rain. You can't have a bunch of game animals to hunt without having a bunch of rain." Alex says local and regional archaeologists and anthropologists believe the oldest of the petroglyphs and pictographs in Doña Ana County to be from the Desert Archaic Period-from 2,000 to 4,000 years ago. But sites exist that may be as r ecent as 120 to 130 years ago, left by the last free-roaming Apaches to inhabit the area. "There is not an effective dating method for petroglyphs," he says. "They are getting more precise, however, in dating pictographs. Some of the pigments have organic matter that can be dated; rock carvings don't. Even then, they can usually only date certain colors in pictographs, which are painted rather than etched. Archaic, and the later Pueblo people alike, chose specific sites, and rocks, in which to carve their images, opting for a certain type of rock that was heavily coated in desert varnish. "Around 90 percent of the time, they chose rocks they knew would patinate," Alex says. The Mesilla Valley and surrounding mountains were mostly inhabited by the Mimbres and Mogollon peoples, as well as other early, ancestral Puebloan peoples, Alex says. "Those early Puebloan people are ancestors to many people still in this area, such as the Tigua from Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo in El Paso County." Researchers estimate that sometime between 1100 and 1200 AD, the Mesilla Valley experienced a severe drought-one that lasted 40 to 50 years, if not more, and drove many Native people to other places. "During that period, two things probably happened," Alex says. "The Mogollon returned to a hunter/gatherer system of survival, and many of them abandoned the greater Southwest altogether. They went North, others went South, and some went into the forested mountains of the Gila and Old Mexico. One thing is for sure, there was a big change in the local population," he says. The most recent petroglyphs likely come from the Apache people right around the same time as Spanish explorers came up from the South, Alex predicts. "They began to leave their own images, and this is where you start to see sites that depict images from their contact with Europeans, such as horses and strange beings," he says. Alex estimates that there are upward of 50 "sites" containing petroglyphs and pictographs in Doña Ana County, although he admits that many are probably still undiscovered. There is no cohesive effort to catalogue and record the existence of such sites, mainly because of lack of funding and access issues. "Many of these sites deal with time, the interaction between earth, sun, moon and stars. These sites are still considered sacred and powerful to modern Native Americans," Alex says.

The highlight will be a storytelling event Friday led by Alex Mares, co-owner of Furs-N-Spurs, an agri-tourism business in Clint.
This cultural storytelling program is for adults and families with children in at least the third grade. The program starts with a museum tour and then goes outside for a tour of the 1-mile loop trail on the museum grounds. As twilight begins, participants will enter a teepee and Mares will tell stories from the Navajo, Pueblo and Apache tribes. After dark, participants will leave the tepee and view the night sky and learn tribal stories about the stars and constellations. "We always try to make our events fun and sneak in the education," said Mares, a former lead ranger at Hueco Tanks State Park and State Historic Site. This storytelling event is designed to teach participants more about the culture of the El Paso area and the greater Southwest, he said. "In addition, they will get a deeper appreciation for not just the history, but the prehistory of the area," Mares said. Mares said the storytelling event fits in nicely with this year's theme for International Museum Day. "Native people always try to remember that we live in the generations," Mares said.

Alex Mares, a former ranger at Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, will lead a free zip tour this Saturday at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology.
Mares will present his insights and interpretation of rock art images in the exhibit "Watercolor Paintings of Rock Art at Hueco Tanks." [cached]

In hour two, Alex Mares, a former ranger at Hueco Tanks, has a review of the new DVD Capstone Productions Inc. is releasing called "El Paso's Hueco Tanks," and we hold that premiere the next day, Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 2pm at the Scottish Rite Theater, 301 W. Missouri downtown. [cached]

After Bob's birds, Alex Mares, Hueco Park Ranger, gave a talk entitled "Native American Perspective".Alex spoke about the relationship the TPWD, via Park staff, have with Indians.He deferred to Dewy Somkotoy of the Kiowa tribe, saying that Dewy was more qualified to speak definitively on the issue.There is considerable dissent amongst the various tribes and groups as to which ones have a legitimate claim to call Hueco a sacred site. The term "culturally affiliated" is defined by the Nazional Park Service as (paraphrasing) "…having a long-standing historical and traditional tie with a site, including significant cultural and religious affiliation".Based on a narrow interpretation of this ruling, the groups known as the "Kelpuli" have been dropped from consideration.Alex said that Texas used to have a large Indian population, but now has very few.However, Alex continued, he later did some "bad stuff" to the Indians. At one time, Indians were required to obtain permission to leave the Reservation.This made them feel as if the USA just wanted them to stay on the reservation.Indians have always been secretive about religious ceremonies, and are now even more so.Once, Alex was told by his boss, when filling out some TPWD form, that Alex could not check the Indian/Native American box to classify himself, he would have to check the "other" box.The reason, Alex was told, is that Alex's tribe was not recognized in TX as having a statistically significant population.This was clearly a case of total stupidity on his boss' part!There is no scientific test for any race, anyone may check any race box they desire, and no one will ever be able to prove they are not of that race.But, Alex also should not be upset that he was forced to check the "other" box - he should have chosen that one for moral reasons.Alex thinks Federal Law is "getting better" Alex is consciously racist, but any Federal Law that favors someone based on their race is, by definition, racist.> However, Federal law does not always override TX state law and TPWD regulations.Alex talked a bit about the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA), and about the voluntary closure of Devils Tower to climbing during the month of June.Alex likes the voluntary closure, and mistakenly thinks that most climbers support it, when they do not.In a society that no longer teaches its children the value of freedom and the dangers of theocracy, more and more people fall into the philosophical pits of altruism, mysticism and socialism.Alex reminded us that the Navajos regard the Earth as being alive, female, and the literal mother of the Indians.The People came out of a hole in the ground.To complicate matters, there are four or five nested layers of Earth Mothers, all giving birth to other Earth Mothers, etc.Each new level represented an improvement over what came before. Alex said that Navajos regard all land as sacred, but they realize they can't do anything about privately owned land.Alex commented on the pros and cons of keeping pictograph sites secret from the government and the public.Hueco has set many precedents in archaeology and anthropology.Many other entities, both private and public, have come to Hueco for advice and guidance on how to manage cultural resources.For example, input from Hueco helped the White Mountain Wildlife Refuge stay open to the public.Alex emphasized that Indians want people to be educated about Indian History. Alex said that the Indians want us to take care of Hueco, whatever that means.Alex was very disturbed to read about the people who climbed at Shiprock, "disrespecting the sacred place."

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