Riding in Recapture Canyon: Colonialism and Disregard for the Past

ATV riders arrive in Recapture Canyon outside Blanding, Utah

ATV riders arrive in Recapture Canyon outside Blanding, Utah

On Saturday, May 10th, at least 50 ATVs laden with protesters rode into Recapture Canyon in Blanding, Utah. The protesters contest the right of the Bureau of Land Management to close the canyon for preservation purposes (the area is home to 1,800-year-old Anasazi ruins). Adding insult to injury, San Juan County Commissioner, Phil Lyman organized the unlawful protest. Sporting “Don’t Tread on Me” shirts, military fatigues, and in some cases, guns, protesters rode onto closed trails to demonstrate that they have a right to the land.

Lyman is quoted saying, “This is not about Recapture. It is not about ATVs. It is not politics, it is not economics. It is part of who I am. It is part of Blanding, and it is our culture, too. We don’t not want to see groups come in and say these trails did not exist … it was a thoroughfare since the mid-1800s.” This is the part where white supremacist colonial themes emerge, and a complete erasure of previous cultures is endorsed.  Phil Lyman’s ancestral heritage to the land is no more important than the previous inhabitants, but living in a system that privileges his experiences as a white American creates a false sense of privilege.

In fact, there’s a strong argument that his ancestors don’t have any right to the land, considering the theft of land from Natives.

One armed protester shouted at the rally, “”It’s not illegal. It’s the people of San Juan County’s land. It’s your god-given right [emphasis added] to go down and ride through that canyon and to hell with the media.” The “god-given” right to colonize land is an oft-used justification for removing indigenous people from land. This is a microcosm of manifest destiny that is going to stamp out the archaeological remains of a culture, because being rid of the people isn’t enough for people who feel entitled. The ride in Recapture Canyon is a case of white privilege, the colonizer mentality, destruction of Earth (eco-feminists, can I get an amen?), and patriarchal entitlement.

Do you think the ride through Recapture Canyon was justified? Who “owns” the land?

Some articles on Postcolonial Feminism:

Gender Forum

Being Feminist



  1. I do not believe their “protest ride” is justified. Not because I’m a feminist (I am) and not because of the reasons you present (though I would agree there too and thank you for those thoughts). It was not justified not only because it was illegal. I would say there are times that illegal protests (lack of permission, permit etc) ARE justified…. right to lands for the purpose of recreational ATV riding? Just Not One of Them. It was against state, local, federal, administrative, and constitutional law. There are times for civil disobedience and to protest and run the risk of imprisonment, fines, and jail time. I just cannot say I see this as one of those times. These type of “protesters” give anyone who has ever stood up to the powers that be (especially at personal risk) a bad name. I feel pity more than anger over that fact though. And the voters in San Juan County deserve better representation than a commissioner who would organize such an event.

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