The Anasazi Heritage Center was renamed the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum during a ceremony on Saturday.
Museum volunteers, Bureau of Land Management staff, Ute Mountain Ute tribal members, representatives from Congress and interested locals gathered at the center north of Cortez for the official renaming and the unveiling of a new sign. After speeches from several dignitaries, including U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez and representatives from the offices of Sen. Michael Bennett and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, visitors celebrated with cake and tours of the museum and nearby Escalante Pueblo.
Marietta Eaton, manager of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, said the new name will make clearer the connection between the center and the monument. Since the Heritage Center is the headquarters for Canyons of the Ancients, she said she wanted visitors to see it as an extension of the rest of the monument, which she called an “outdoor museum.”
“We’re celebrating that we have this incredible resource here with the outdoor museum, and that we have the indoor museum where you can also learn about things to do,” she said. “They might at first seem like they don’t really fit, but they fit very well.”
The new name intentionally avoids the word “Anasazi,” she said. Once widely used by archaeologists to refer to the Ancestral Puebloan people who built most of the pueblos and cliff dwellings in the Southwest, the word has fallen out of favor because it is a Navajo term that can mean “ancient enemies.”
Terry Knight, a former Ute Mountain Ute Tribal councilman who was present at the museum’s original opening, started the renaming ceremony with a Ute invocation. Bennet’s Southwest Regional director, John Whitney, read a statement from the senator praising the museum’s collection of artifacts and thanking the BLM for “thoughtfully renaming” it. Tipton also praised the museum for its contributions to archaeology and the Southwest Colorado economy.
“We have one of the largest archaeological digs in the history of the world being conducted right in our area,” he said. “What this brings, locally, to us, in terms of our Native American tribes and those of us who are blessed to be able to live here, in terms of culture, in terms of history, in terms of being able to help out our local economy, we probably can’t fully appreciate.”
Greg Shoop, acting BLM director for Colorado, called the museum a “showcase” for the Canyons of the Ancients monument, which is home to more than 6,000 archaeological sites. Almost 4 million artifacts from those sites are stored in the museum.
Casey Hammond, deputy assistant secretary for lands and minerals in the U.S. Department of the Interior, praised the Canyons of the Ancients management for preserving the area’s archaeological sites while also using its CO2 wells for energy production.
At the end of the ceremony, all the speakers helped unveil a sign near the museum entrance. Eaton said the museum staff will soon publish new brochures to reflect the name change.
The Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum is at 27501 Colorado Highway 184. It is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March through October. Admission during the summer is $3 for adults and free for children 17 and under.