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Humanizing the Mesa: Understanding the Pre-Contact Prescott Culture through Literature and Personal Experience

October 7, 2023 @ 9:00 am - 5:00 pm


Join NHI and writer and literature scholar Dr. Reuben Ellis for a day-long reading and journaling workshop exploring how pre-contact indigenous culture is represented in writing.

The Prescott Culture is one of many indigenous groups that prospered in the American Southwest as the ancestors of today’s tribal peoples. They inhabited the Prescott Basin, the Upper Verde watershed, and adjacent areas between CE 900 and 1300 and left behind extensive ruin and rock art sites.

This workshop looks at pre-contact Southwestern cultures–including the Prescott Culture–not through the eyes of the archaeologist, but through the eyes of the reader and writer. Ever since the Spanish entrada, people have been visiting the ancient sites and recording their experiences in writing–everything from journals, memoirs, poems, stories, and novels.

Writers use language to make sense of the ancients, to somehow share the horizon of their present moment with the imagined experience of the ancients centuries before. This course will explore that process, reading together short works by several well-known Southwestern writers–and a few of the writers who have written about the Prescott Culture. Then, after a short visit to a hilltop ruin above Walnut Creek, we will experiment with putting our own experiences into words. No previous knowledge of the Prescott Culture, Southwestern literature, or experience as a writer is required. Journaling materials will be provided.

This program was made possible by Arizona Humanities.

Reuben Ellis, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Woodbury University in Los Angeles. He is also a member of the NHI Board of Trustees. As a writer and scholar of Southwestern American and modern exploration literatures, Reuben is passionately interested in the representation of pre-contact indigenous cultures in literature. Among his publications is Stories and Stone: Writing the Ancestral Pueblo Homeland, an anthology of literature focusing on the pre-contact Southwest.

Register here.


October 7, 2023
9:00 am - 5:00 pm
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Natural History Institute


Natural History Institute
126 N Marina St
Prescott, AZ 86301
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