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The Land

The Oak and Bone School is located on the southern slopes of Boulder Mountain, a sleeping giant whose waters flow from his crowned head out to the valleys and canyons beyond, in all directions, and eventually find their way to the Red River, also known as the Colorado. Our bioregion - The Colorado Plateau - is named after this river, and our political designation is Southern Utah.

Boulder Mountain, also known as the Aquarius Plateau, is the highest plateau in North America. The mountain does not arrive at a singular point or series of crests framing the horizon, as many mountains do. Rather, it is an enormously elongated mass of ancient volcanic rock which slopes gradually down into the rolling sandstone hills and high deserts which typify the Colorado Plateau. There is no single vantage point from which to view the entirety of this sleeping giant, his elusive form escapes any attempt to contain him within a frame. 

 

 

 

 

 

We are fully surrounded with what passes for “wilderness” in our culture - a motley assortment of public lands that, due to their adjacency and modest legal protection, form one of the largest contiguous wilderness areas left on the continent. Cougar, Bear, Elk, Deer, and other megafauna are well represented here on this vast and wild mountain.

The story of Human participation in this landscape is fascinating, and one of the greatest archaeological mysteries known. The Hopi know them as the Hisatsinom (pronounced ee-sat-see-nome, emphasis on the second syllable) - which roughly translates to the ones who were here before. Other terms for them are the Ancestral Puebloans and the Anasazi. Depending on which archaeologist you believe, the Hisatsinom called this land their home starting at about twelve to fourteen thousand years ago, and continued doing so until about 700 years ago, at which point they suddenly and mysteriously vanished - an entire civilization seemed to have abandoned their cliff-built homes without signs of war or disturbance, and simply disappeared. 

 

Of course, this is only a mystery if you consider archaeology the only credible source for deducing the truth of such matters. The various Pueblo peoples which populate the low canyons and arroyos of the Sonoran Desert, many hundreds of miles to the South, all claim the Hisatsinom as their ancestors, and all have stories which account for this mass southern migration. We have our own story as to why the humans left this mountain so long ago and are only now being called back here, but that is better left to a long evening around a fire...

 

Due to this history, this land does not carry scars from European conquest and ethnocide, a very rare bird for this continent. This creates a fascinating palette for us to explore the terrain of Belonging and Remembrance, as well as presenting its own unique set of challenges - with no ancestral history we have no accumulated place-based wisdom to draw from. No ethnobotanical knowledge, no songlines, no ceremonies, none of the secret names of plants, stones, and creeks. We are starting from scratch.

 

The school itself is located in an incredibly rare grove of ancient Oaks. These Oaks are the remnants of an ancestral food forest. Having been tended by the Hisatsinom for untold generations, these beautiful trees have grown enormously tall and produce huge delicious acorns, unlike many other Oaks one might find on the Colorado Plateau. Over the past 200 or more years, however, they have been declining in size and health and struggling to retain their grandeur. They need tending. They need the humans. And we have come.