Rebecca Solnit responds

  (Editor's Note: The following letter was written by Rebecca Solnit in response to our Oct. 29 article titled "Making a home for hope: An interview with Rebecca Solnit".)

I know the intentions were good, but the interview with me in High Country News was damagingly distorted. Readers should know that the conversation was not recorded, but reconstructed from the interviewer's notes and should keep in mind that even the absence of a single word or change of tense of a single verb can invert the meaning of a sentence. Many statements attributed to me appear to be garbled or condensed down beyond coherence. For example, I am quoted as saying: "The park management made Native Americans disappear from photos, from the record - and that's how white people think about nature. They imagined it as static and stable and without human intervention and fire. We all know that story now, but in 1991, when I was writing about it, it was quite radical." I always say and believe that I said that what is radical is not the old story of virgin wilderness untouched by man, but the new one of a long-inhabited continent that calls into question the old dichotomy between humans and nature, civilization and wilderness. This revision of the non-indigenous way of thinking about American landscapes emerged from the political discourse around the Columbian Quincentennial of 1992 and the resurgence of Native American visibility and political power. Park management did not make Native Americans disappear from the photos with some metaphysical airbrush. Many forces, including the old environmental imagination as embodied by John Muir, the language of the Wilderness Act and the ideals of uninhabited landscape as represented by Ansel Adams' work, made Native Americans largely invisible in key sites such as national parks (this invisibility and its consequences are the subject of the second half of my 1994 book Savage Dreams, and the profound changes in visibility and imagination over the past fifteen years are discussed at great length in my 2006 book with the photographers Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, Yosemite in Time). Both High Country News and I have revised our interview policies as a result of this unfortunate incident. I appreciate the cooperation of the staff in trying to amend this situation. I have been both a subscriber and an admirer of the publication for many years.

Rebecca Solnit
San Francisco, California
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