Bent’s Old Fort and Sand Creek Superintendent retires
Looking not nearly old enough to retire, Alexa Roberts retired as Superintendent of Bent’s Old Fort on October 31. She has 25 years with the U.S. National Park Service, but this isn’t goodbye to the Fort or to Sand Creek. “I intend to keep assisting with the funner things around here!” she said. “As a private citizen, I can work on the things I want. I will volunteer, especially at special events at the Fort or Sand Creek. I will work on the administrative history of Sand Creed and continue to work with the Santa Fe Trails group - you know, the fun stuff!”
Albuquerque is home to Roberts, even though her parents are gone and her sister lives far away. She graduated from high school there and also University of New Mexico for bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees. She received her PhD in 1992. She is retiring to her home in Belen, where it is an easy drive over to the Amtrak, on which she can come straight to La Junta. “I live in sagebrush country,” she said, “not so many trees to fall down and drop limbs to cause damage.” From I-25 in Albuquerque, she suggests Highway 60, then the back road, 47, through Isleta, Las Lunas and Los Chavez to get there. She is near the Salinas Missions and Mountain Air, between Belen and Highway 60. Do not use these directions unless you use a map. They could be wrong. It is about 30 miles south of Albuquerque. Las Salinas is the remains of three big pueblos.
“I love this job,” she said. “I love both parks, which will be near and dear to me always.” Roberts started out as an archaeologist, doing contract work. Then she worked in historical preservation for the Navajo nation. Tony Hillerman (of Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee fame) once wrote a novel in an historical preservation background. She called him and thanked him for his flattering portrayal of their work. He was most likely just telling the truth. When she went to work for the park service, she was hired as a cultural anthropologist. She first worked in this area in 1999, locating the actual site of the Sand Creek Massacre. She moved to Bent’s Old Fort in 2007, and became superintendent of both parks.
“I love just sitting in the Plaza at the Fort. I just go down to the Fort and realize what we’re here for.” it is a great staff to work with. “The staff and workers are so dedicated and passionate, it is such an honor to be in these parks, with these people.” Of course she could do without the bureaucratic processes, but the job is worth it.
The communities surrounding the sites are very special, too. She loves working with the people of La Junta, Las Animas, Eads and Lamar and networking with sites like Boggsville. “We have formed a network of support, a coalition around the heritage sites. Canyons and Plains has worked hard to bring this part of the state to public attention and promote heritage tourism. So many like-minded people are working in these communities.” She works on the Otero County Historical lPreservation Board with Rebecca Goodwin, Ed Stafford and President Kevin Lindahl, among others.
The park service mission at Sand Creek was to keep the landscape unspoiled. About Sand Creek, she said, “The legislation that created the National Historic Site was specific on the subject. At the top of Monument Hill, you can see for miles and miles to the east, but the troops came from Fort Lyon, to the south, and the village was in the creek bed. Their first warning was hearing the horses, and by the time they saw the soldiers, in the pre-dawn hours, it was too late. The perpetrator of the massacre was an army officer named Chivington. The town of Chivington was given the option of dropping the name, but even the tribal representatives said it is better to interpret history than try to erase it. Although there was a movement in the 1990’s to remove Sand Creek from the Civil War Battles plaque at the State Capitol, the tribal leaders preferred to put up a new plaque and interpretive sign which discusses the occurrence.
So, retiring to a place not that different in landscape from Sand Creek, but much nearer the mountains, Roberts’ family is her six dogs. She will be back early and often to take part in the fun things that happen at Bent’s Old Fort, Sand Creek, the Santa Fe Trail and associated places.