Chimney Rock: Pueblo History Within the Southern Ute Landscape.

Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

Chimney Rock: Pueblo History Within the Southern Ute Landscape
Text and Photographs: Jeremy Wade Shockley
Southern Ute Drum Vol.XLII No.17

Piercing the summer sky, two stone formations known as Chimney Rock and Companion Rock, define the ridge where Ancestral Puebloans built Kivas and erected ceremonial sites for religious and astronomical purposes. The rock formations have served as geographical markers for centuries, guiding the Spaniards north from Mexico, as well as the miners who later sought silver and gold in the region. Early bands of nomadic Utes also looked to the twin towers as landmarks, ancestors of the Southern Ute Indians, who’s land surrounds present day Chimney Rock.

The Chimney Rock Archaeological Area sits on 4,100 acres of San Juan National Forest land surrounded by the Southern Ute Reservation. The land was proclaimed National Forest Reserve by President Theodore Roosevelt at the turn of the century and designated an Archaeological Area and National Historic Site in 1970.

The Chimney Rock prehistoric structures were constructed roughly between AD 1000 and 1100, according to Elizabeth Ann Morris, Professor Emerita, Colorado State University. Morris also states that the inhabitants of the site were ancestors of one or more of the modern Puebloan tribes such as: Hopi, Zuni, Jemez, Acoma, Taos, Picuris, or another of the Rio Grande Pueblo Tribes.

An annual cultural gathering is held at the Chimney Rock site each summer, where tribes with ancestral roots to the Chimney Rock inhabitants return to dance in the traditional way. Kivas are opened up for these ceremonies and access given to dancers and singers participating in the cultural gathering. The gatherings are held each year and open to the public as well as other indigenous dancers who perform just out side of the restricted archaeological sites.

Here there is a strong connection with the peoples and architecture of Chaco Canyon, a major trade center, located over the border and ninety-five miles to the southwest in what is now the State of New Mexico. Chaco is thought to have been a site designed as an astrological center, perhaps for observing the sun’s patterns and for recording, understanding, and interpreting the growing seasons and calendar cycles. It is also thought that perhaps Chimney Rock served a similar purpose in regards to the moon and its rising patterns. During what is known as the Major Lunar Standstill, the full moon can be seen by the naked eye, rising directly between the two pinnacles of stone that define Chimney Rock.

Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

The natural rock formations can easily be seen from modern day reservation lands, as one is fishing at lake Capote to the East, or travelling past on Highway 160. The twin towers stand above the horizon line, a geographic marker throughout history, now a monument to the past. There is no doubt that the early Ute bands that frequented this region would have used the spires as a landmark.

Other involvements between the early Utes and the Chimney Rock site, or its ancient people, remain a mystery. “My understanding is that the arrival of the Utes in this region occurred almost 200 to 400 years after the Ancestral Puebloans left,” said Les Linton, a longstanding staff member at the archaeological site. Morris agrees, early in the 1100’s the Ancestral Puebloans moved away from Chimney Rock Cuesta and the immediate surrounding valleys.

As geographical fate would have it, this historic site now borders the sovereign nation of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. It is clear that the land on which we live has seen great cultural and geographical shifts throughout the ages. We may never completely understand the complex history of this landscape or those who lived on it before us, but we can appreciate the significance of the site and the role it has played in shaping this region.

Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

The Historic Fire Lookout, which sits at 7, 600 feet, is set for removal by the end of this season, in hopes of returning the site to its original state.


Shooting Wide In Chaco Canyon.

Photograph © Jeremy Wade Shockley 2010.

A weekend spent at Chaco Canyon gave me the perfect opportunity to test out some new glass, the Tokina 12-24mm F4. Not the fastest lens perhaps, but beautifully well built and tack sharp! Certainly a lens that must be used in moderation, but a nice accompaniment to my standard go to primes.

Such a wide lens seems to always work best on the most expansive landscapes and conversely in the tightest of quarters…the above image was shot at the wide end of this lens, giving the image a full view of the Kiva in the foreground, sunset for atmosphere. In many of the other images I was able to include extra details into my composition, not possible with a standard lens. In all the years that I have shot at Pueblo Bonito and in the canyon – this was the most experimental.

Hope you enjoy the images! Jeremy

Photograph © Jeremy Wade Shockley 2010.

Shadow & Stone.

Photograph © Rachel Beckelhymer 2009.

Writer and Journalist, Rachel Beckelhymer has taken her hand at photography in recent months. One does find that the two are often so intertwined that it is almost a dance. Words and images in concert-tried and true.

While I faced the day from my desk at the newspaper, Rachel had an excellent opportunity to venture into the realm of Ancestral Puebloans with friends at her side. On this brisk winter’s day at Mesa Verde National Park, Rachel took one of my Nikons and made this beautiful, quiet image of a ranger silhouetted in the fading light.

You can sample some of Rachel’s writing on her WordPress blog right HERE.

Rachel explains, “Our ranger had a great knowledge and reverence for Native American culture and spirituality, and he was very charismatic. I wanted to capture his windswept cheeks and Smokey Bear hat, but I was too shy to ask him for a portrait and my ‘stolen’ photo attempts were not very good. I noticed his shadow, and having seen Jeremy successfully use shadow as his main subject before, I composed this shot. I was able to come away with a picture that was interesting and maybe more successful than the portrait I had initially intended.”

Do you find yourself approaching photographic subjects more figuratively or literally? More importantly how do you approach subjects you feel uncomfortable shooting?

Cheers, Jeremy

Painting With Light.

Photograph © Jeremy Wade Shockley 2009.

A number of years back I took a workshop with photographer Dave Black, who is a dedicated artist in the technical process of Light Painting. This is a technique that requires manipulating the scene with creative lighting sources as a long exposure is produced.

The process can be as simple as setting up a tripod and using a basic flashlight to illuminate the scene, the “scene” can be as simple as a still life on your kitchen table, or expanded to an entire landscape.

Dave’s own work is impressive and covers everything from classic western cowboy scenes to an impressive project in which he collaborated with numerous National Geographic photographers to produce varied images from Arlington Cemetery. Dave’s approach to this project kept him working through the night with assistants and a large array of portable light sources.

This image was my first, and to date, my last attempt at Light Painting. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but rather the technique is a style in itself removed from my own journalistic direction. This photograph was produced by setting up a Nikon D80 on Bulb, during a full moon. I tripped the shutter using a remote cable and then proceeded to “paint” light onto the walls of this Anasazi Ruin before tripping off the shutter. I then used a high contrast sepia to brighten the painted areas of the scene during post production.

The possibilities of this process are almost endless, and I certainly had a great time giving it a try- so strap on your head lamp, bring out some of your heavy flashlights, and perhaps a strobe or two with warming gels, and get creative!

Canyon of the Ancients.

Photographs © Jeremy Wade Shockley 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Accessible only by boat, Defiance House is located in the Canyon of the Ancients, one of the many fingers of Lake Powell. The controversial reservoir, flooded many of the canyons and archaeological sites in and around Glen Canyon, Utah.

I had an opportunity to return to this Native American Cultural Site on a recent trip to Lake Powell, where I went to celebrate a close friend’s birthday and breath in the desert air. While the cliche image of Lake Powell involves board shorts and spring breakers, I have always made exploring the surrounding desert and endless canyons a priority.

Although a cool swim and a cold beer never hurt, Thanks for all the trips Nathan!

Photo Credit: Rachel Beckelhymer

The photographer’s work is done…