2) Cather explains that the cliff dwellers "seem not to have struggled to overcome their environment.
Tourists wanted to see more than just empty ruins when they visited the cliff dwellings; they wanted to see whatever material evidence was left of the day-to-day lives of the cliff dwellers.
For Cather, visiting Mesa Verde is about recovering a period of time when people such as the cliff dwellers were "absolutely unenterprising in the modern American sense" (85).
Al asserts that one must approach the mesa with "the proper spirit of romance" (114) in order to "bring back to life" the original inhabitants, but his sense that the spirits of the cliff dwellers question his and his brothers' motives for invading the ruins betrays his own uneasy awareness of their mixed motives--that they sought to resurrect an important part of the cultural heritage yet commodify this heritage to win "fame and fortune" (130).
Rather than living in a "dignified relation" to the land, rather than "interpreting" and "personalizing" the relation of the buildings to the land, as Cather writes of the cliff dwellers, speculators merely grafted the buildings onto the land haphazardly, so much so that these buildings could easily be carted off to new locations when the speculations failed.
The tourists who would follow Cather's advice to visit Mesa Verde and see through Wetherill's eyes would engage in a collective act; like the cliff dwellers' participation in ritual, generation after generation of tourists would go on "gravely and reverently repeating the past," reverencing through repetition the meaning inherent in the lives of the cliff dwellers as it had been validated by Dick Wetherill's vision.
The imaginative possession of landscape that for Cather marks the cliff dwellers and Dick Wetherill as superior arises from the intoxicating rush that accompanied taking economic possession of land.