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?
to hunt a moon
Jeffrey Heyne's Complete Artists Statement
One summer evening, while photographing the fading light of Pleasant Valley ranch in Steamboat Springs, I was confronted by Bill the ranch owner. He asked if I was taking pictures, if I knew I was trespassing, and if I considered myself a kind soul. 70 years old with a craggy face weathered and wrinkled like fine old leather, I looked back into his sharp eyes, and slowly answered, yes, three times.
Fortunately for me he was a kind soul too. He seemed to relish watching me squirm while testing me, but we struck up a long conversation standing in his hay field watching the sun dip below the mountain ridge. I learned of his Swiss grandparents settling here in the late 1800’s after the local Native Americans were moved to a reservation; I learned his father was killed 20 years ago while feeding cattle just 20 feet from where my tripod was standing; and I learned this would be his last year owning the ranch. He would stay on one more season helping the new owner manage the 1500 acres and cattle, but after 125 years he would be the last of his family in Pleasant Valley.
Bill and I struck up a warm friendship and he invited me back whenever I was in the area. I followed up the next winter spending much time in waist deep snow with my cameras mingling with the cattle, hay bales, and heavy brooding snow squalls that rolled in over the mountains to interrupt the intensely bright sunshine.
I also traveled to other ranches in the Yampa Valley area. While capturing images, I was noticing similarities between the white snow covered rolling terrain and what I recall from the photographs of the NASA Moon missions. Photos taken by the astronauts of the rolling and mountainous Apollo 15 and 17 landing sites and my photos of Steamboat Springs were nearly interchangeable. If the white snow covered ranch photos had craters, they could be mistaken for the Apollo pictures. If the Moon photos had barbed wire fences running across the mare, they could be mistaken for my ranch photos.
Intrigued by Bill’s ancestry and the displacement of Indians from the lands around Steamboat Springs, I researched more deeply on the native peoples and early history of the western progression of settlement and land acquisition. I came across an1898 article in the newspaper, The Steamboat Pilot. It reported on the US Army being called in by the local game warden to prevent a group of 200 strong Ute hunting party members from taking game around Steamboat Springs. The annual hunt had been their tradition and now the new state of Colorado was flexing its muscle. The newspaper quoted the Ute saying they came here, “…to hunt a moon,” or a month long period. 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 Utah reservation. After almost 5,000 moons, this was probably the Ute’s last hunting party on their native lands.
The phrase “to hunt a moon” was my spark. This metaphor for time and the Apollo exploring and conquering of new worlds launched my thinking of a dialog through pairing and collaging my snowy ranch photos with the Apollo Moon photos. Standing in the powdery regolith next to the lunar lander, one of the Apollo 15 astronauts ruminated while staring up at the12,000 vertical feet of Mt. Hadley a few miles away, “…this reminds me of skiing back in Squaw Valley.”
In researching the Apollo files, I discovered there are over 15,000 photos from the surface of the Moon which NASA has scanned and archived online for public use. In sifting through them I have culled out a few for reuse in this series. Some are black and white, some are color, some are stitched together mosaic panoramas, and some are red/cyan 3D stereoscopic anaglyph photos.
I have also sourced Moon maps from NASA, as well as vintage Moon map engravings by the British astronomer, Walter Goodacre, published just a few years after the repelled 1898 Ute hunting party.
All but one of the 27 photos of this series are all set in a horizontal format 14” tall by varying widths. The photos of the Moon and the winter cattle ranch lands are composed of collages of two or three photos. The continuation of a line of a mountain or the fold in the contour of the land is the formal device that “bridges” the ranch images with the Moon images. Sometimes the images are abruptly bounded and contrast sharply. Sometimes the images meld the topography of the cattle pastures with the Moon landscape, blurring the line between the terrestrial and the lunar. A few film rolls from the Moon experienced degradation from Moon dust, static sparks, accidental light leaks, and lab processing accidents back in Houston. Some of the accidents are quite colorful and stand out, resembling a Navajo blanket. Many of the lunar images have been purposefully color shifted and altered by me to echo the processing lab accidents and technical flaw artifacts. The overall message conveyed in my collaged photos can be read as calm, soothing, possibly even pretty, but the imprint of the ranch fences ring a note of discord.
Fences are a man-made element; they separate land that what was once whole and continuous. During summer time, I was not really aware of the cattle fences because they just blended in with the sage and scrub of the arid landscape. But not so in winter. 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 make evident boundary lines parsing up the landscape, defining property and land ownership—all backed by a deed on paper of a legal construct but 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?
Last year in Cannon Ball North Dakota, land issues reached fever pitch. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation were joined by thousands of others to protest the river crossing of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline. Originally set to cross the Missouri River upstream of Bismarck, ND, but this was deemed too hazardous to the city’s drinking water supply from the river. Instead the pipeline river crossing was deemed safer at the Reservation. Construction has resumed and oil will begin to flow late spring 2017.
Most treaties with the Native Americans are broken due to pressures in exploiting land resources be it minerals, agriculture, grazing, or the expansionist doctrine of Manifest Destiny. Today this is being tested in the heavens. Ratified by 105 nations, The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 declares governments cannot claim sovereignty over any celestial body such as a planet or the Moon. Yet in 2015 the United States signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. It gives private companies in space the right to extract minerals for commercial purposes, yet not claim any territory. The corporations Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are now developing robotic missions to the Moon and asteroids to mine for minerals. With inevitable boundary disputes, many legal experts believe this Act could violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
When all twenty-five panels of Walter Goodacre’s Moon map engravings are assembled together, they make for an overall size of six feet in diameter. His map was so lauded for detail and accuracy, it was the resource of reference for any Moon research project for the next fifty years. It was also used by NASA for the initial planning for the Apollo mission landing sites, and where to plant the American flag.
I would like to thank the following for their kind use of their resources:
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, The University of London Observatory, the Centre for Planetary Science at UCL/Birkbeck, the Robert N. Dennis Collection of historical stereo photos, and especially Erwin D’Hoore, Erik van Meijgaarden, John Kaufmann, Eric Nelson, Patrick Vantuyne, and Yuri Krasilnikov for their post-production work at NASA on the Lunar Surface Journals. I would also like to thank the Apollo astronauts. After viewing all the pictures they took and reading their radio dialogue transcripts, I feel much more connected to how they experienced new lands that were so far away, so strange, yet so familiar.
This is for Bill and the Yampah Ute.
Jeffrey Heyne - February 2017