Consider the contested West

The Western U.S. is complicated; more reason to try to understand its workings.

 

I recently received a note from a 71-year-old man in Arizona, who told me that he does not subscribe to High Country News “because it encourages, glorifies (and) attempts to justify illegal immigration.” Population growth is overtaxing the nation and planet, he wrote, and we should heed the words of Edward Abbey and send immigrants “back” to “fix their country” armed with rifles.

Photo illustration featuring Carmen Tageant.
J. D. Reeves / HCN Photographs: Lindsey Wasson / HCN

This is an untenable position, one that ignores history in favor of an imagined American utopia. It erases the theft of Indigenous land and the violent displacement of Indigenous peoples by white settlers, and it ignores the exploitation of non-white peoples under the system of racist capitalism that continues today. I would prefer that our readers consider a more complicated picture of the Western United States, where a true sense of belonging, for anyone who lives here, is ever contested, always tenuous.

In this issue, for example, writer Jane C. Hu describes the travails of Carmen Tageant, a member of the Nooksack Tribal Council who faced serious online harassment and was ousted from her post amid a bitter conflict over tribal enrollment. Writer Sarah Tory describes the University of California’s legal struggle to protect Dreamers, the undocumented children of immigrant parents, who face an uncertain future under the Trump administration. Writer-photographer Jolene Yazzie describes the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit communities as they seek to find their place in modern Diné society. And in a brief essay, our publisher, Paul Larmer, considers the implications of the lifetime disabilities pass he recently acquired, which grants him free access to federal public lands.

Brian Calvert, editor-in-chief
Brooke Warren/High Country News
All of these stories describe a contested West. This is a region in constant conflict, rooted in hundreds of years of conquest. White-washed histories, an entrenched system of oppression and dominance, and escalating culture wars — all of these lean heavily on the region, amid the climate calamity. We need a new ethics and a politics of empathy, knowledge and wisdom. This is a moment that demands inclusion.

The question for those of us living here is whether we can find a way through these differences and difficulties. In a society that promotes division, in times where the divides are widening, can we imagine something better? I want this magazine to help people understand these complexities, no matter how uncomfortable they are. What choice do we have?

Brian Calvert is the editor-in-chief of High Country News. Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

High Country News Classifieds
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Western Slope Conservation Center Paonia, CO WSCC seeks a dynamic leader who is mission-driven, hardworking and a creative problem-solver. Position Summary: The Executive Director leads...
  • ARIZONA STATE DIRECTOR
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT/HOSPITALITY SERVICES
    Seasoned ranch manager of award-winning conservation ranch seeking position as nature reserve/resort or ranch manager. Visit philipmoonwalker.com for resume and certifications. Contact: [email protected]
  • PART-TIME OREGON GRANT WRITER
    Help advance rights for people, communities, and nature - Part-time grant writer. The Oregon Community Rights Network (ORCRN) has been active over the last six...
  • UTAH PUBLIC LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Job Title: Utah Public Lands Program Director Location: Southern Utah Position: Full Time (40 hours per week) Supervisor: Conservation Director About us: The Grand Canyon...
  • FSBO PROPERTY-SOUTHEAST ARIZONA
    Located in an area steeped in history, this gentleman's ranch sits at the entrance to the renowned Cave Creek Canyon. Enjoy picturesque views of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • LAND CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    JOIN OUR TEAM! The New Mexico Land Conservancy in Santa Fe is seeking a Land Conservation Project Manager who will work to protect land and...
  • HOME NEAR CAPITOL REEF NP
    Comfortable home at foot of Boulder Mountain, on one fenced acre. Amazing views!
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • NEW MEXICO PROPERTY - SILVER CITY
    20 acres, $80,000. Owner financing, well, driveway, fencing possible, very private, sensible covenants, broker owned. Contact - 575-534-7955 or [email protected]
  • SECLUDED COLORADO HIDEAWAY
    This passive solar home sits on 2 lots and offers an abundance of privacy and views while being only 15 minutes to downtown Buena Vista....
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.