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
  • 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.
  • FEATURES DIRECTOR - HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Features Director to join our editorial...
  • GENERAL MANAGER
    The Board of UYWCD seeks a new GM to manage operations & to implement our robust strategic plan. Details at www.upperyampawater.com. EOE
  • IN TUCSON, FOR SALE: A BEAUTIFUL, CLASSIC MID-CENTURY MODERN HOME
    designed by architect David Swanson in 1966. Located a block from Saguaro National Forest, yet minutes to Downtown and the UofA campus, 3706 sqft, 6...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Friends of the San Juans is seeking a new leader guide our efforts to protect and restore the San Juan Islands and the Salish...
  • 80 ACRES
    straddles North Platte Fishery, Wyoming. Legal access 2 miles off 1-80. Call 720-440-7633.
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • IMPROVED LOT
    Private road, hillside, views. Well, pad, septic, 99 sq.ft. hut. Dryland permaculture orchard. Wildlife. San Diego--long growing season
  • UNIQUE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
    Profitable off-the-grid business located 2 miles from Glacier National Park. Owner has 6 years operating experience. Seeking investor or partner for business expansion and enhancement....
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • 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.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...