Water Lines: Colorado Mesa University hosts evening with 19th century explorer
Free Press Weekly Columnist
On Thursday, May 7, the community is invited to spend an evening at Colorado Mesa University with the 19th century explorer John Wesley Powell, the leader of the first expedition on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Powell will be portrayed by the noted historical performer and humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson.
The event begins with a reception at 6 p.m. in the lounge on the second floor of the Colorado Mesa University Center. Jenkinson’s performance will begin at 7 p.m. in the Meyer Ballroom, adjacent to the lounge, and it will be followed by a book-signing.
Light refreshments and beer donated by the Palisade Brewing Company will be available free of charge at the reception for those who pre-register with the CMU Water Center. There will also be a cash bar. Registration details can be found at http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter or by calling 970-248-1968.
Powell is best known for the epic, three-month descent he led down the Green and Colorado rivers in 1869, which included the first-known passage by people of European descent through the Grand Canyon. Powell’s journals tell of harrowing rides through unknown rapids in uncharted territory, after which he often hiked solo up to the canyon rims to make geographical observations, despite the fact that he had lost one arm while serving as an officer in the Civil War.
Despite his fame as an adventurer, Powell’s primary contributions to history were as a scholar and a thinker. In addition to his famous river trip, he made dozens of additional journeys into the region in the course of his career as a geologist, ethnographer and government administrator. Powell directed the United States Geological Survey and advocated for patterns of settlement and irrigation that would harmonize with the geography and hydrology of the arid West. He also proposed that state boundaries be based on watersheds. He spent the final years of his career directing the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution.
Jenkinson has dedicated much of his life to researching the historical characters he portrays and to bringing back and defining the “living theatre” of Chautauqua, which emphasizes education with audience participation to enhance the learning and entertainment experience. He is the recipient of one of the first five Charles Frankel prizes, the National Endowment for the Humanities’ highest award (now called the National Humanities Medal). He was also the first public humanities scholar to present a program at a White House-sponsored event when he portrayed Thomas Jefferson for a gathering hosted by President and Mrs. Bill Clinton.
This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. You can also find the Water Center on Facebook at Facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or Twitter at Twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.
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