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View from Anderson Mesa; a Navajo Refugee Site

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posted on 30.07.2019, 00:00 by James Meierhoff
This photo was taken atop Anderson Mesa, in the Coconino National Forest, Arizona. My dissertation research is focused on the migrations of Yucatec Maya fleeing the violence of the Caste War of Yucatan, Mexico in the mid-1800s. These refugees established clandestine communities in the vast Petén jungles of Guatemala and Belize. In the summer of 2011 while instructing undergraduates at the Rock Art Ranch field school, I was intrigued to hear stories of similar events in local Arizona history. In the 1860s, Kit Carson led a brutal scorched-earth campaign to "pacify" the Navajo (known as the Navajo Wars). During these campaigns, small bands of Navajo fled to remote mesas in an attempt to hide from Carson's onslaught. On Anderson Mesa, Navajo families disguised their homes by living within large fissures on the side of the mesa. Anderson Mesa was also the location of centuries old Anasazi defensive walls and rock art, which undoubtedly attracted Navajo refugees to this location. I visited this site to further understand and obtain contemporaneous examples of indigenous responses to violence from settler societies, by the exploitation of frontier zones marginal to colonizing activity. I was guided to the unpublished site by forest archaeologist Peter Pillas.


This exhibit competition is organized by the University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate College and the University Library.


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Anthropology; Finalist; Copyright 2012, James Meierhoff. Used with permission. For more information, contact the Graduate College at



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