Bryce Canyon Country: A Contested Cultural Landscape
Ellis, Susan Marie
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This dissertation demonstrates a cultural landscape approach to understanding cultural competition at Bryce Canyon Country. As Indians, Mormons, Federal Land Agencies, and New Pioneers compete for social and physical domain, they inscribe culturally produced imagery on both natural and constructed landscape features. Ethnographic data I collected from each cultural group supports my contention that their cultural symbols are identifiable through discursive metaphors and tangible imagery inscribed in place, the magnitude of which reveals their relative cultural dominance. Similarly, dominant cultures minimize competitive symbolism to increase perceptions that they are the rightful and natural stewards of the land. Despite their low representative population, Federal Land Agencies currently dominate Bryce Canyon Country. Thus, they have the ability to decree how others use the land and exhibit their positions within the cultural hierarchy. Mormons dominate the region's population; yet they follow second in cultural dominance. Urban retirees, or New Pioneers, have moved to Bryce Canyon Country in recent decades, steadily gaining the ability to inscribe their unique cultural symbols on the land. Despite their position as the longest established inhabitants of Bryce Canyon Country, Indian landscape symbolism proved the least identifiable. This is due to their traditionally minimal material culture, esoteric belief system, and inability to practice, promote, and perpetuate their lifeways on the land. Though Indians were removed from the immediate landscape several generations ago, social isolation on reservations has helped them retain their cultural beliefs, traditions, and values, and remain connected to the land through metaphorical myths, traditional ceremonies, and communication with supernatural powers that organize the animate universe. Being the dominant power and stewards, not owners, of public lands, Federal Land Agencies are legally bound to protect the natural and cultural landscape in accordance with their respective agencies' missions. This obligation includes protecting the rights of associated groups to maintain their cultural heritage by practicing their lifeways on the land in a sustainable manner. With notable exceptions, Federal Land Agencies have fallen short in this regard. Instead, they have increased their own visibility and dominance, while precluding others from engaging in land use practices that promotes cultural fitness and heterogeneity.