(2) Cather explains that the cliff dwellers "seem not to have struggled to overcome their environment.
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).
According to Cather, the cliff dwellers' architecture, "absolutely harmonious with its site and setting," contrasts with the "ugly little American towns" tourists pass through while traveling from the East to reach the park (84).
Mesa Verde has the same meaning now as it did to Wetherill: the preservation of the cliff dwellers' organic relation to the land in an "undisturbed and undesecrated" form.
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).
In this sense, Tom implies that he, like the cliff dwellers he identifies with, is "purifying life by religious ceremonies and observances" (Professor's House 220).
The first evidence that Tom finds of the cliff dwellers' civilization, their irrigation mains (193), identifies them with the agrarian life championed by populists.
Peter condemns Louie's Outland venture, asserting that he has "convert[ed] [Tom's] very bones into a personal asset" (47), but this condemnation applies equally well to the Wetherills' and to Tom Outland's conversion of the cliff dwellers' bones into an asset.