Vision and Place

Human visions have shaped fundamental contours of the sui generis place in western North America called the Colorado River Basin. Diverse and often conflicting, such visions have been held collectively and individually, embodying wide-ranging aspirations and imaginings as to how the basin proper and its vast outlying areas should be inhabited. One-armed Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell was a seminal visionary in this realm—leader of the 1869 Colorado River Exploring Expedition, author of the 1878 Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States, Founding Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of Ethnology (1879-1902), and Second Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (1881-1894). It would be difficult to overstate the influence of Powell, his ideas, and successors thereto on the character of the basin. For good or ill, it bears his name with Lake Powell, as just one testament.

2019 marks the sesquicentennial of Powell’s epic 1869 Expedition down the Green and Colorado rivers—a celebratory occasion for both a Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition (SCREE) and earnest scholarly re-visitation of Powell’s legacy. Powell regarded the 1869 Expedition as a journey “into the great unknown.” Yet myriad aspects of how the basin and adjacent environs are currently being inhabited suggest this phrase applies with equal force to the basin’s future and our navigation of it. This basic premise underpins the multi-author volume being prepared in conjunction with the SCREE project—tentatively entitled, Vision and Place: John Wesley Powell and Re-imagining the Colorado River Basin. It is a multi-disciplinary collaboration involving 18 authors, 8 visual artists and 2 cartographers hailing from the Colorado River Basin states and beyond. The volume aims not only to shed light on Powell’s visionary ideas upon the sesquicentennial, but also to consider the contemporary influence of those ideas in and around the basin, and ultimately to prompt dialogue about what we wish this beloved place to become.

Contributing Authors


Jason Robison

Jason is an Associate Professor at the University of Wyoming College of Law. He teaches in the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program, serves on President Nichols’s Advisory Committee on Native American Affairs, and writes mainly about transboundary water law and policy, particularly relations over water among federal, state, and tribal sovereigns in the American West. A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, Jason came to UW in fall 2013 after completing his Ph.D. in law (S.J.D.) at Harvard University, where he focused his dissertation on the labyrinthine body of laws governing water allocation and management in the Colorado River Basin—i.e., the “Law of the River.” A great admirer of Wallace Stegner and Bernard DeVoto, Jason has the honor of serving as lead editor for the multi-author volume being produced for the sesquicentennial of the 1869 Powell Expedition—tentatively entitled, Vision and Place: John Wesley Powell and Reimagination of the Colorado River Basin.

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William deBuys

Writer and conservationist William deBuys is the author of nine books, which range from memoir and biography to environmental history and studies of place. In addition to Seeing Things Whole: The Essential John Wesley Powell (2001), these works include The Last Unicorn (listed by the Christian Science Monitor as one of the ten best non-fiction books of 2015); A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American West (2011); The Walk (2008); Salt Dreams (1999, which inspired the 2015 movie, The Colorado); River of Traps (a 1991 Pulitzer finalist); and Enchantment and Exploitation (1985). DeBuys also co-authored First Impressions: A Reader’s Journey to Iconic Places of the American West (2017), and his shorter work appears in Orion, The New York Times Book Review, Doubletake, Story, Northern Lights, High Country News, Rangelands, and other periodicals and anthologies. DeBuys holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in American Civilization from the University of Texas, Austin. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow (2008-2009), Carl and Florence King Fellow at Southern Methodist University (1999-2000), and a Lyndhurst Fellow (1986-1988).


Emilene Ostlind

Emilene holds an MFA in creative nonfiction writing with environment and natural resources from the University of Wyoming. She is editor of Western Confluence magazine, a biannual publication from the UW Ruckelshaus Institute that covers natural resource science and management in the West. She has reported on environmental, public land, wildlife, and community topics for High Country News, and is interested in how storytelling can illuminate environmental challenges and lead to better solutions for our western landscapes.


William Gribb

Dr. William Gribb's research has concentrated on the legal and spiritual definitions of land base and land use. His interests are in the location and distrubution of resources, and the management techniques used to utilize and conserve those resources within the cultural context of Native American heritage and spiritual perspectives.


Paul Hirt

Paul Hirt is a historian and Senior Sustainability Scholar at Arizona State University. He specializes in environmental history and the American West. His publications include a 2012 monograph on the history of electric power in the U.S. Northwest and British Columbia titled The Wired Northwest, along with dozens of articles and books on environmental policy and conservation. He directed a project titled, “Nature, Culture, and History at Grand Canyon,” and currently directs a project to develop an administrative history of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program. Hirt also serves as the Arizona State Scholar for the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street Water/Ways exhibit, which will travel to twelve Arizona communities from 2018-2020. Outside academia Hirt advocates for the transition to renewable energy, serves on the board of directors of the Salt River Project, and supports conservation efforts in the AZ-Sonora borderlands.

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Amy Cordalis

Amy Cordalis is General Counsel for the Yurok Tribe. She comes from a long line of Yurok Indians from the village of Requa at the mouth of the Klamath River who have fought for Yurok rights. Her great uncle’s Supreme Court case, Mattz v. Arnett (1973), confirmed the Yurok Reservation as Indian Country and set the stage for the Tribe’s federally reserved fishing and water rights. Before returning home to work for the Yurok Tribe in 2014, Cordalis worked for the Native American Rights Fund and Berkey Williams, LLP on a wide range of Indian law issues. Cordalis did her undergraduate work at the University of Oregon and received her J.D. from the University of Denver College of Law.

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Daniel Cordalis

Daniel Cordalis is a member of the Navajo Nation and a practicing attorney in natural resources and Indian law. Daniel works closely with tribes to protect their water, natural, and cultural resources through litigation, negotiations, land acquisition, and tribal governance initiatives. Daniel clerked for the Colorado Supreme Court and the Native American Rights Fund, and worked for the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C. and as an associate attorney for the Denver office of Earthjustice. He received a bachelor’s in geology from Rice University, a master’s in geography from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and his J.D. from the University of Colorado Law School.


Patty Limerick

Patty Limerick is the Faculty Director and Chair of the Board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she is a Professor of History. In January 2016, Professor Limerick became the Colorado State Historian, and was also appointed to the National Council on the Humanities (National Endowment for the Humanities advisory board). In addition to her path-breaking book The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (1987), Professor Limerick has published Desert Passages: Encounters with the American Deserts (1985) and A Ditch in Time: The City, the West, and Water (2012). She is also a prolific essayist, and many of her most notable pieces are collected in Something in the Soil: Legacies and Reckonings in the New West (2000). Professor Limerick has been a MacArthur Fellow (1995-2000), a guest columnist for The New York Times (2005), and a Pulitzer Nonfiction jurist and chair of the 2011 Pulitzer jury in History. She completed her undergraduate work at the University of California, Santa Cruz, earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale, and was a member of the Harvard history faculty from 1980-1984.


Amorina Lee-Martinez

Amorina Lee-Martinez is a Ph.D. student in environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she is completing her graduate work with Patty Limerick. A native of the Four Corners region of Southwest Colorado, Amorina’s scholarly interests revolve around collaboration for river management, with the goal of finding strategies to overcome disagreement among stakeholders in order to achieve sustainability of water resources in the Colorado River Basin. The Dolores River, a tributary of the Upper Colorado River system, is Amorina’s focus, as reflected in her Master’s thesis, What Helps and Hinders Collaboration for River Management?: Four Case Studies in the Dolores River Watershed.

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Robert B. Keiter

Robert B. Keiter is the Wallace Stegner Professor of Law, a University Distinguished Professor, and founding Director of the Wallace Stegner Center of Land, Resources, and the Environment at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. Professor Keiter’s most recent book is To Conserve Unimpaired: The Evolution of the National Park Idea (2013). His previous works include Keeping Faith With Nature: Ecosystems, Democracy, and America’s Public Lands (2003); Reclaiming the Native Home of Hope: Community, Ecology, and the West (1998); Visions of the Grand Staircase-Escalante: Examining Utah’s Newest National Monument (1998); and The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: Redefining America’s Wilderness Heritage (1991). Professor Keiter has also written numerous journal articles and book chapters on public lands and natural resources law. He holds a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law and a B.A. from Washington University.


Robert Adler

Robert Adler is the Jefferson B. and Rita E. Fordham Presidential Dean as well as a Distinguished Professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. In addition to his book Restoring Colorado River Ecosystems (2007), Dean Adler has co-authored The Clean Water Act 20 Years Later (1993) and two casebooks: Modern Water Law: Private Property, Public Rights, and Environmental Protections (2018) and Environmental Law: A Conceptual and Pragmatic Approach (2016). Dean Adler has also published dozens of articles and reports in law, policy, and science journals, and is a member of the Colorado River Research Group, a small group of independent academics working to help inform policy in the Colorado River Basin. He holds a B.A. in ecology from Johns Hopkins University and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.


Autumn Bernhardt

Autumn Bernhardt is a professor in the College of Liberal Arts at Colorado State University. She is a non-citizen Lakota and former attorney of the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona. Professor Bernhardt’s writing has appeared in The Moon Magazine, the Tulane Journal of Law & Sexuality, Red Ink, Red Rising Magazine, and the anthology Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone, among other publications. In addition to her academic work, Professor Bernhardt has been involved in sacred land and water litigation on behalf of Colorado River Basin tribes concerning the San Francisco Peaks. She also represented the State of Colorado in U.S. Supreme Court litigation relating to an interstate water compact dispute. Professor Bernhardt holds a J.D. from the University of Colorado Law School.


Robert Glennon

A recipient of two National Science Foundation grants, Robert Glennon serves as Water Policy Advisor to Pima County, Arizona; as a member of American Rivers Science and Technical Advisory Committee; and as a commentator and analyst for various television and radio programs. He is also a Huffington Post blogger. His book, Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It, was published in April 2009. Professor Glennon’s best-known publication is Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters (Island Press, 2002), which received accolades from Scientific American, The Washington Post, and The New York Review of Books. Professor Glennon received a J.D. from Boston College Law School and an M.A. and Ph.D. in American History from Brandeis University. He is also a member of the bars of Arizona and Massachusetts.


Daniel McCool

Professor McCool’s research focuses on Indian voting and water rights, water resources, and public lands policy. His nine books include: River Republic: The Fall and Rise of America’s Rivers (Columbia University Press 2012); The Most Fundamental Right: Contrasting Perspectives on the Voting Rights Act (Indiana University Press 2012, edited); Native Vote: American Indians, the Voting Rights Act, and Indian Voting (Cambridge University Press 2007, co-authored); and Native Waters: Contemporary Indian Water Settlements and the Second Treaty Era (University of Arizona Press 2002). He has served as an expert witness in nine Voting Rights Act cases.

In his 30 years at the University of Utah, Dan served as the Director of the Master of Pubic Administration Program, the Associate Dean for the College of Social and Behavioral Science, the Director of the American West Center, and the Director of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program.


Weston McCool

Weston McCool is a Ph.D. student in Anthropology at the University of California in Santa Barbara. Originally from Salt Lake City, Weston obtained a BS and an MA in Anthropology from the University of Utah and an MA from UC Santa Barbara. He specializes in the Archaeology and Ethnography of Great Basin and Peruvian peoples. His publications include: a 2017 article on prehistoric forms of resource defense among Fremont peoples that lived in Nine Mile Canyon, Utah; a 2017 article on strategies for coping with chronic violence among prehistoric agriculturalists of Highland Peru; and a 2015 article on the Ethnoarchaeology of rural alcohol production and consumption among households in the Peruvian Andes.

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Jack Schmidt

Jack Schmidt is a Professor of Watershed Sciences at Utah State University (USU), where he leads USU’s Center for Colorado River Studies. Professor Schmidt has devoted 30 years of research to the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River that flows through it, focusing on the relationship of ecosystem health and the dams, reservoirs, and diversions associated with river management. He recently stepped down as Chief of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, a position he had held since 2011. In both his university and government research, Professor Schmidt has worked to encourage collaboration between federal and state agencies, tribal interests, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions. He recently received the National Park Service’s Director’s Award for Natural Resource Research.

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Rachel St. John

Rachel St. John is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of California, Davis. A native of southern California, Professor St. John’s research focuses on North American history with a particular emphasis on state-formation and nation-building in the nineteenth century. Her first book, Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border, was published by Princeton University Press in 2011. Her current book project, The Imagined States of America: The Unmanifest History of Nineteenth-century North America, explores the diverse range of nation-building projects that emerged across the continent in the nineteenth century. Professor St. John taught at New York University and Harvard University prior to joining the faculty at the University of California, Davis in 2016. She holds a Ph.D. in history and B.A. in history from Stanford University.

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Louis Warren

Louis Warren is the W. Turrentine Jackson Professor of U.S. Western History at the University of California, Davis. His research specialties include American West, environmental, Native American, and California history. Born in Idaho and raised in southern Nevada, Professor Warren’s books include God’s Red Son: The Ghost Dance Religion and the Making of Modern America (2017); Buffalo Bill’s America: William Cody and the Wild West Show (2005); American Environmental History(2003); and The Hunter’s Game: Poachers and Conservationists in Twentieth Century America (1997). He has also authored numerous journal articles and book chapters within the foregoing fields. Professor Warren has been a Guggenheim Fellow (2012-2013) and holds a B.A. in history from Columbia University as well as a Ph.D. in history from Yale University.

Contributing Artists


Patrick Kikut

The themes in my work come from my extensive highway travel. Traveling has allowed me access to compelling landscapes, ecologies, histories, and cultures. These things help me gain an understanding of the West and drive the work I produce in the studio. I work from field drawings and with the intention to offer a sense of the poetry and reality of the expansive spaces I find between our protected National Parks and Forests. It is important for me to include representations of our ever-encroaching culture onto these landscapes. During my travels, I seek out locations that read like an empty stage set, where all the actors have left their props and abandoned the scene. This, I hope, offers the viewer an opportunity to step into the image and engage in a regional narrative that reflects the residue of our idyllic pursuit of Manifest Destiny.

As I look forward to my roll as SCREE lead artist, I will continue to research John Wesley Powell’s life and sound recommendations to Congress as well as the life and work of painter Thomas Moran. Although I have had a deep interest in both men, SCREE is an opportunity to delve deeper into their work and will inform my response to the contemporary challenges regarding land and water use. I imagine this once in a lifetime, 90 day, expedition will have an enormous impact on me as a person and an artist. It is difficult to imagine exactly how this impact will manifest in me but I hope to be humbled as a person and empowered as an artist. I plan to, like Moran, work on field drawings alongside other artists, and scientists and produce a series of work that visually connects the less celebrated upper Colorado River basin to the more popular Canyon Lands and Grand Canyon sections.


David Jones

David Jones, originally from Augusta, Georgia, earned his B.F.A. in sculpture from the University of Georgia in 2000. For the following year, he worked casting iron in the Sloss Metal Arts Artist-in-Residency program in Birmingham, Alabama, before completing his M.F.A. in sculpture at the University of Tennessee in 2004. Relocating to the Rocky Mountain region after graduate school, the western landscape has been a significant influence on the aesthetics and themes of Jones’s work over the last thirteen years. In addition to his studio work, Jones has expanded his creative process to working outdoors in sites such as the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Wendover, Utah, and the Red Desert in southern Wyoming. Jones actively exhibits nationally, but more prominently throughout the intermountain west in cities such as Denver and Santa Fe. Jones is currently on the faculty of the Visual Art Department at the University of Wyoming as an Instructional Art Technician.


Erika Osborne

Erika Osborne’s artistic practice addresses the cultural connections to place and environment. She has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally, with over ten solo exhibitions and over 60 group exhibitions in recent years, including shows at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Nevada Museum of Art, and the Chautauqua Institute. Osborne is represented by Robischon Gallery in Denver. Her work has been highlighted in three books surveying the evolution of land and environmental art in the West. It has also been featured in regional publications along with international art magazines such as New American Paintings, Art Papers, Sculpture Magazine,and Southwest Art Magazine. Osborne’s Re-Manifesting Destiny series addresses the role played by American Sublime landscape painters’ iconic visual language in expanding Manifest Destiny. As an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Colorado State University, Osborne teaches all levels of painting alongside interdisciplinary field courses. She holds a B.F.A. from the University of Utah and an M.F.A. from the University of New Mexico.


Bailey Russel

Bailey Russel is a professor of photography at the University of Wyoming, where he teaches all levels and processes from digital to the earliest photographic techniques. After attending Princeton University as an undergraduate, he earned his Master’s from New York University and the International Center for Photography before embarking on a career as a photographer with shows around the United States and abroad. Russel worked for a number of years in New York City for an array of artists and museums, including spending one year at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has shown at private galleries in New York and extensively in Seattle, particularly at the Seattle Art Museum’s Gallery. Russel’s work ranges from traditional tintypes to large-scale camera obscuras to digital landscape and animal photography. His images for Vision and Place involve re-creating the methods and work of famous Powell expedition photographer John Karl Hillers upon the sesquicentennial.

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Will Wilson

Will Wilson’s art projects center around the transformation of customary indigenous cultural practice. He is a Diné photographer and trans-customary artist who spent his formative years living on the Navajo Nation. Wilson studied photography, sculpture, and art history at the University of New Mexico (MFA, Photography, 2002) and Oberlin College (BA, Studio Art and Art History, 1993). In 2007, Wilson won the Native American Fine Art Fellowship from the Eiteljorg Museum, in 2010 the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award for Sculpture, and in 2016 the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant for Photography. Wilson has held visiting professorships at the Institute of American Indian Arts (1999-2000), Oberlin College (2000-01), and the University of Arizona (2006-08). From 2009 to 2011, Wilson managed the National Vision Project, a Ford Foundation initiative focused on contemporary Indigenous art at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, and helped to coordinate the NM Arts: Temporary Installations Made for the Environment program on the Navajo Nation. Wilson is part of the Science and Arts Research Collaborative, which brings together artists and collaborators from Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 2017, Wilson received the New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts. Wilson is Program Head of Photography, Santa Fe Community College.


Brandon Gellis

Brandon Gellis is a new media artist creating work around contemporary issues of identity and place. His creative practice—deeply rooted in a desire to work with his hands and a love for the mechanics of technology—visualizes relationships that exist across intersections of art, science, and technology. During his M.F.A. work, Gellis became fascinated with biomimicry—the steps humankind will take to advance itself by mimicking biological phenomena (e.g., human beings use of scuba tanks in lieu of gills to enable underwater exploration). His innate confluences exhibition is a critical exploration of human impact on the environment that utilizes diverse new media to reflect on what western North America looked like prior to and after human beings appeared on the natural landscape. Gellis is an Associate Professor in the Department of Visual and Literary Arts at the University of Wyoming. He holds a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an M.F.A. in Emergent Digital Practices from the University of Denver.

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Kate Aitchison

Kate Aitchison’s artwork focuses on human interventions in the natural landscape and her own emotive connection to place. Originally from Flagstaff, Arizona, her explorations around visual imagery stem from aridity in the desert, watersheds, and contemporary ecological patterns in site-specific locations, especially in relation to native and non-native plant species. Aitchison is interested in generative collaborative processes and has worked with conservationists, scientists, and other artists to create projects that span beyond an individual studio practice. Most recently, she participated in a residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, where she carved, printed, and built a wooden drift boat with imagery related to the San Juan River watershed in Utah. Aitchison is an Instructor at Brandeis University and the Rhode Island School of Design. She holds a B.A. from Colorado College in studio art (environmental studies minor), and an M.F.A. in printmaking from Rhode Island School of Design.

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Chip Thomas

Chip Thomas, aka “jetsonorama,” is a native of North Carolina. His life direction changed when he attended a small, alternative Quaker school in the mountains of North Carolina (the Arthur Morgan School). He is a photographer, public artist, activist, and physician who has been working between Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon in the Navajo Nation since 1987. He coordinates the Painted Desert Project—a community building effort which manifests as a constellation of murals across western Navajo Nation painted by artists from all over the world. Thomas’ own public artwork consists of enlarged black-and-white photographs pasted on structures along the roadside on the Navajo Nation. His motivation is to reflect back to the people in his community the love and elements of the culture they’ve shared with him over the years. He sees this work as an evolving dialog with his community. Thomas is a member of the Justseeds Artists’ Co-operative, an international cooperative of 30 socially engaged artists. You can find his large-scale photographs pasted in the northern Arizona desert, on the graphics of the People’s Climate March, the National Geographic Blog, the Huffington Post, and elsewhere.


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Jim Meacham

James E. Meacham is a Senior Research Associate and Executive Director and co-founder of the InfoGraphics Lab in the University of Oregon’s Department of Geography. Jim is a past president of the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) and is a current member of the Oregon Geographic Names Board. His scholarly interests include map and atlas design, and data visualization. He is a co-author on the Wild Migrations: Atlas of Wyoming’s Ungulates (2018), Atlas of Yellowstone (2012), the Archaeology and Landscape in the Mongolian Altai: An Atlas (2010) and the Atlas of Oregon (2001) publications. He teaches map design and production at the UO.


Bill Limpisathian

P. William (Bill) Limpisathian is a graduate employee of the InfoGraphics Lab and doctoral student in the Department of Geography at the University of Oregon. His ongoing research focuses on the neurological cognition of cartographic visual contrast in maps. He has previously worked on cartographic production projects with Esri Press, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, the U.S. National Parks Service, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and other entities.