History, identity, culture, resistance, and stewardship of natural resources are centered in the south San Luis Valley. From Conejos to Los Rincones, across the Rio Grande to Viejo San Acacio, San Pedro, and San Francisco, local residents remember and reflect.
A regional history of Indigenous enslavement is uncovered and reconciled in what is now the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado.
Explorations of personal identity and healing culminate at two sites of historic Indigenous enslavement: the Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center, once home to Kit Carson and captives, and a 170-year-old adobe building in Conejos that served as a trade and labor site of enslaved peoples.
"Colorado Voices: Healing a Forgotten History" premiered on October 6 on Rocky Mountain PBS and you can watch anytime now on YouTube.
Colorado Voices: Healing a Forgotten History
Explore more stories of local culture and the complex ways identity has been shaped in Colorado’s earliest settlements.
Architect, artist, and professor Ronald Rael returned home to his small Conejos County village mid-pandemic — and was welcomed with a characteristic and unparalleled connection of self, land and place. Rael reflects how his upbringing and a burgeoning sense of identity rooted deeply in the earth led him on a career path as an architect of the elements.
Ronald Rael’s architecture explores identity, borderlands
Museum acknowledges history of Indigenous enslavement
At a San Luis Valley museum once dedicated to the memory of infamous U.S. Army commandant Kit Carson, another narrative is now unfolding: the long, oft-forgotten history of enslaved Indigenous peoples and Native Americans, both pre- and post-Emancipation Proclamation.
Healing a Forgotten History
An on-site interactive workshop at the Lafayette Head Home and Ute Indian Agency — listed as 2021’s Most Endangered Place in Colorado — combines on-site education, community knowledge, and age-old building practices into an ongoing practice of restoration and healing.
Colorado's Most Endangered Places
Additional reporting in Southern Colorado
Colorado's oldest water rights are a system of hand-dug acequia irrigation ditches predating statehood, created by Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo settlers. Today, the 73 acequias of Costilla County's Río Culebra Watershed serve as the crux of agriculture and ranching for over 300 families and are often maintained by descendants of those who constructed them.