2022 Arizona Historic Preservation Conference
The theme of this year’s conference, “Cultural Crossroads,” has been selected in recognition of our host community’s unique geographical location on the banks of the Lower Colorado River. Indeed, Yuma’s historical development has been shaped by the Colorado. Established in 1849 as a strategic outpost of the U.S. Army, the settlement soon became a busy river port for oceanic shipping, and subsequently a crossing waystation for those traveling by horse, stage, and rail across the Arizona Territory. In the twentieth century, these established transportation routes were further leveraged through the construction of large-scale irrigation projects such as Laguna Dam and the Yuma Siphon to transform the desert lands around Yuma into the agricultural breadbasket of the southwest. Today, over 90% of the leafy greens consumed in the United States are produced in Yuma County, with produce and tourists moving along the Interstate 8 “Ocean to Ocean Highway.”
The Cultural Crossroads theme was also selected in tribute to the culture and values of the tribal communities who, from time immemorial, have called the lower Colorado River home. The history of the Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe is inextricably linked to Yuma’s development as the largest city on the Colorado River. The history of the military establishment of Fort Yuma and subsequent boarding school is a difficult one, involving conflict and the forcible imposition of institutions of control. However, it is also a history marked by tremendous cultural resilience. Today, the Quechan Tribe’s durable contribution to the health and wellbeing of the river and the communities that rely on it is evident in the partnerships formed to promote heritage tourism, riparian restoration, recreation, and agriculture.
Yuma’s status as a cultural crossroads was formally established by Congress with the designation of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area in 2000, which celebrates not only the sites that tell the story of Yuma’s development, but also the cultural landscape and river contexts. The Board of Directors and staff of the Heritage Area work in partnership with the City of Yuma and the Quechan Tribe to provide enhanced opportunities to celebrate the river’s historical and natural values.
We hope that the conference will provide numerous opportunities through programming and tours for attendees to experience all that Yuma has to offer. We hope the "Cultural Crossroads" theme will inspire a broader examination of how space shapes the culture and experience of all those who inhabit it, as well as the varied ways in groups of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds come together to transform that space into a multi-vocal place. The culture of the field of historic preservation, itself, is also at a crossroads, and we as practitioners are challenged with ensuring that the places we preserve tell the full story of Arizona for all Arizonans. The conference planning committee hopes to hear from those of you who are using the tools of preservation to foster cross-cultural dialogue and research to craft more equitable and representative places in Arizona and the broader Southwest.