I’ve lived in La Cieneguilla for 28 years. For someone born in White Plains, NY who lived in 5 houses before she was 6 and never went west of the Mississippi River until 15 years of age, this is remarkable. Am I enchanted? In German there is a word for my condition: Fernweh. Akin to wanderlust, there is something in my soul that likes to feel like the outsider on a forever frontier. I work in the gap of detached yearning. Like a prayer.
Slowly, I’ve come to realize this place is home.
When beaver moved into the Santa Fe River they felled the cottonwoods planted by WildEarth Guardians in 2008. A handful of farmers downriver complained the dams impeded the flow of the river for irrigation. My project, while at the Santa Fe Art Institute asked ‘can humans and beavers coexist on the stretch of river between the Santa Fe Wastewater Treatment Plant and Cochiti Pueblo, where it joins the Rio Grande? During the project, the beavers appear to have abandoned or been hunted out as the river goes through La Cieneguilla. There are lodges at the topof the watershed in Santa Fe Canyon preserve and at the river’s terminus at Cochiti Pueblo.Why are they not here? They were either hunted out as part of the long standing rancher’s stewardship of water/land management or perhaps the emerging pollutants- pharmaceuticals- in the treated effluent water weakened them.
I joined the Santa Fe River Traditional Communities Collaborative. We are diversity in action- ranchers, artists, farmers, Cochiti Pueblo natives, Spanish land grant inheritors, newcomers, city, county, state and federal employees. I questioned if I had a voice in water rights when I first heard about the beaver controversy.
As a land owner with 3 acres and a domestic well, the project at SFAI/ Water Rights has opened into a broader story of land, land ownership, and the narratives that shape our perception of belonging and protection.