Jeffrey Heyne: To Hunt a Moon
Summer time 1898, a group of 200 Ute Indians traveled from their Utah reservation to their ancestral hunting grounds of western Colorado. An article in The Steamboat Pilot newspaper reported they journeyed there “to hunt a moon”—a month long period. To enforce the new state’s forestry laws protecting wildlife, the US Army from Fort Duchesne was called in by the local game warden. The Ute hunting party conferred, and with the intimidating threat of US soldiers looming, the Ute acquiesced and were escorted under guard back to their reservation. After almost 5,000 moons, this was probably the Ute’s last hunting party on their native lands.
To Hunt a Moon Series is comprised of wintertime photos shot in 2016 of the ranch lands and Rocky Mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs Colorado. They are paired with vintage moon map engravings by Walter Goodacre published just a few years after the repelled 1898 hunting party, from NASA’s 1960’s moon cartography files, and from NASA’s Apollo astronaut photo archives from 1969-1972.
Goodacre’s map was so accurately detailed that it was referenced by NASA fifty years later for the initial planning for the Apollo mission landing sites, and where to plant the American flag.
Summertime lasts about three moons at this high Colorado elevation. The rest of the year the lands are covered with snow resembling a lunar landscape. From the radio dialogue transcriptions of one of the Apollo 15 astronauts, he ruminated while standing on the powdery lunar regolith and gazing up at the 12,000 feet of Mt. Hadley, “…this reminds me of skiing Squaw Valley.”
The images of this series are arranged, grouped, and collaged together melding the form and contours of the lunar topography with the snow covered hills and cattle pastures around Steamboat Springs. Purposeful color shifts and imprints of fencing straddle and blur the line between the terrestrial and the lunar.
Barbed wire, split rail, and electric fences etch dark lines that roll for miles through the stark white snow-covered grazing lands around Steamboat Springs. They clearly define the property boundaries parsing up the landscape that demarcate land ownership—all backed by a deed on paper—a legal construct very abstract to the native peoples of just a 120 years ago. Why were the Ute not being allowed on the lands where they always hunted?
This year in Cannon Ball North Dakota, a similar land rights issue has again reached fever pitch. If the river crossing for Dakota Access Oil Pipeline was deemed too hazardous in Bismarck, why is it safe at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation?