There is an unnamed reservation in the southwest of the United States where campers are often found, and most not legitimately. Hikers love trails that have spontaneously emerged. They were not placed there for their use, however. There is no barbed wire around the land, no walls to keep people out. Perhaps there should be.
Native Americans love their land and honor it with respect and appreciation. It yields crops or is used for cattle grazing. It is the foundation of homes, schools, and other utilitarian buildings. It is home and it is to be loved. Woe to those who trespass and despoil its beauty. But they come anyway.
This is what indeed happens too often enough. No one invited these visitors, but they have been spied roaming about, looking for who knows what. Did mother never tell her son that nature isn’t your toilet? Did dad never teach the lad how to put out a fire? More than one hiker has left molten ashes and more than one camper has sparked a wildfire.
Not all reservations have forests that are in peril. Many are desert areas. It doesn’t matter. There is still a lack of attention to the environs and less than a smattering of respect. The denizens recount stories out of frustration and anger. Rightfully so.
In that there are no stated campgrounds on reservations, there are no portable or stable toilets to service trespassers. They come anyway and make do. They leave banana peels and coffee grounds strewn about the earthen premises and they lay waste to fresh creeks. They somehow find themselves in every nook and cranny of Native American civilization, looking for relics, seeking insight into private lives. It would be different if designated areas were used.
Now, it isn’t that hordes are seen all at one time. It is not a matter of masses covering the land. They trickle in, one or two people at a time, backpacks and gear in tow. They set up tents, light their fires, and cook their meals. They are relaxed, mellow, and in bliss. This is the great outdoors after all, and why they probably came. Thank God, they don’t hunt, as many do in more northern realms of the country. They seem like a harmless bunch, strumming their guitars and singing their lively songs. They are nice enough, just oblivious; and no one invited them.
To enter a Native American reservation is a privilege accorded to guests. They may come to visit a friend, help a neighbor, witness a ceremony, or buy hand-made wares. In these cases they are welcome. They come out of curiosity, respect for the culture, and a desire to keep the status quo. If only the hikers and campers were of this mind.
It may come, in some areas, down to written and posted rules of the land if things get any worse. Maybe Smokey the Bear needs to pay a visit and give public lectures. He has certainly seen some awful sights. A fire of any size or dimension is a threat. Have people not heard of putting dirt on embers? Have they not heard of dousing flames with water? Have they not been told about litter and trash?
Mother Nature cringes when these impingers of privacy appear. She recoils and retaliates, sometimes with a hard and heavy rain. She wants to discourage a long stay of any kind. If she gets particularly angry, there is wind and hail. This will shoo out the hardiest of souls. She knows her earth is not a toilet.
So here are some rules that she has devised and of which Smokey has approved and so should the visitors:
- Take your litter with you and clean up the land
- Use a camping toilet with disposable innards. Never leave a modicum of evidence.
- Do not feed the animals and make them sick or threaten them in any way unless you are provoked
- Do not spy on residents or attempt to peer into their homes
- Respect nature and do not harm the plants, or flora as the biologists say
- Do not set traps of any sort; the victim could be your friend
- Stir embers in dirt and touch the surface to make sure it is cold
- Leave with whatever you have brought
- Better yet, don’t come unless sanctioned by the tribe
- Respect the area at all times
- Do not trespass or enter marked roads that are “private”
- Understand what you are doing and think twice about doing it