Enjoyed Story On Early Native American Warfare



Totally enjoyed writer Pete Alshire's Feb. 1 article on early Native American warfare.

As a member of the "Payson Packers," I have hiked all over this Payson/Rim landscape in the past 17 years and have stumbled across hundreds of early native sites and have come to the conclusion that some sort of warfare may have occurred in the area.

It has amazed me the number of sites atop mountains and high hills that we have discovered.

A mountain nearby that I have climbed numerous times, most recently this past January, has a site that definitely had defenses. At the very peak is a large dwelling site and many years ago I thought even had a cistern. The north side of the peak is very rocky swinging from the west to the east. That in itself was a built-in defense. However on the south side, from east to west, it is/was a smooth climb. There the natives constructed as many as eight or nine circular bunkers, apparently to keep invaders from the summit. From the mountaintop you can see south for miles and today, as well as hundreds of years ago, you can see the numerous native ruins scattered along the top of five or six knobby fingers overlooking Rye Creek that jut off a large plateau located East of the Beeline. This was a major site as there are a couple of large ceremonial rings in the area. This and the mountain site were probably related.

Just this past week, we hiked some ridges that had numerous sites overlooking Tonto Creek. Atop the numerous hills we found many ruins and beyond the hills in a valley to the south, there is a very large early Native American settlement.

But if there was warfare, why?

It may well have happened in the late 12th century during the extensive drought that occurred. That was a time when many, many early Native Americans suffered immensely. They abandoned Chaco Canyon. They left the beautiful cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde and the cliff dwellings south of that park. Indeed, they left all of the west, perhaps moving east, trying to survive in the cooler Rocky Mountains. That is why they left the Payson area.

Then again, let's not assume that hilltop sites were only for defense. A long wall at a site south of Jakes Corner was put up to protect children from falling down a steep hill.

A very old site north of and on the ridge overlooking Fossil Creek still has a tall thick wall on the canyon edge. It could have been a protective wall against invaders but both of those walls are on edges of canyons that would be difficult for invaders to climb. Then again hilltops may have been built looking for cooler air. Perhaps the drought changed the lifestyle of aggressive wildlife or perhaps a religious reason. I have seen numerous sites in the Sierra Ancha Mountains that I am sure were built by natives who also lived in the Tonto Basin. They wanted the cool air offered by altitude and trees.

Dave Engleman

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