The Privilege of Finding Home


Recently I was at a retreat on a property that had been owned by some of the first white settlers to the region. I visited the cemetery of this family that dated back to the mid-1800s. During a hike on the property, I perched on a rock to take in the scenery. As I breathed in the red and green boulders, I thought about how this isn’t really my landscape.

I have no ancestral ties to this land. My family arrived in the early 20th century. Even if they were pioneers and settlers, this isn’t our land to claim. I have to remember the history of this stolen land.


I’ve only ever lived in urban areas but the wild west is where I find myself relaxing and exhaling. Born in California and having grown up in Colorado, the landscape of the Western United States is what is ingrained. The cold Pacific Ocean, the red rocks of Utah, the snow-capped Rocky Mountains—these are the natural wonders that shaped my childhood.

While attending college in Paris, I spent four years searching for nature to rejuvenate. I’d take the train to the suburbs, hoping for rest in the sprawling parks designed by landscape architects of the 18th century. While it gave me peace I couldn’t find in Paris, the manicured lawns and evenly spaced trees didn’t give me a wild sense of wonder.

After graduation, I thought I’d find that wildness in the Himalayas of Nepal. I spent three months in Kathmandu, pressed in by people and animals and overwhelming smells. The mountains were there, always in the distance (when the smog cleared). While they were powerful, they weren’t accessible.

So I returned to Colorado, realizing that this is where I could rejuvenate. Now we are raising our girls in the midst of this landscape. We take them to Moab where the sight of the massive red rock formations help me breathe deeply. We drive north to Wyoming where the smell of wild sage fills our car and the canyons and hills remind me of a Western novel, where cowboys and bandits camp and hide.

As our girls grow and we create memories that will make the West part of their identity, my husband and I are thinking of ways to intentionally weave the history of this land into our family’s explorations. This year, as we prepare for a family visit to Yellowstone and the Tetons, our family is reading books about Sacagawea, the Shoshone guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition. We have a board book for our three-year-old, a couple easy chapter books for our six-year-old, a biography and a novel for my husband and I. We’ll stop at Sacagawea’s memorial en route to the Tetons and remember those whose land this was originally. This family book club is a small thing, but I hope it creates a lasting habit of remembering those who came first.


I’ve been thinking about our neighborhood, located in the largest suburb of Denver. When we moved, we were thrilled to discover that ours was one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the state. We were glad our girls would be attending a school that had over forty languages represented. This was our dream—to raise our children with a global perspective.

We moved into our house in December, so we spent the first few months seeing our neighbors but not getting to know them. It wasn’t until that first summer, when everyone came out of hibernation, that we got to know our incredible cul-de-sac. We couldn’t ask for better neighbors, made up of families with children the same age as ours and grandparents who love our girls well. And yet, for as diverse as our neighborhood and school is, our immediate neighbors are all white.

It didn’t really make me uncomfortable until our oldest started kindergarten. Where did all these other families live? They are from our neighborhood, but not from our little pocket.

My pride in living in a diverse neighborhood began to diminish. Yes, our school is amazingly varied but I’m not living in proximity to those neighbors. We bought a nice home in a nice pocket of this diverse neighborhood. We still used our privilege of qualifying for good loan programs to take our pick of any of these houses.

It made me think about my love of the west. This landscape is part of who I am and yet I’m still a visitor. I’m able to explore this land because of the terrible history of Manifest Destiny. In our neighborhood, I’m able to be part of this cultural diversity because of our family’s privilege.

We’re committed to this neighborhood and in raising our daughters at the local schools. But I’m wondering what more I can do. How can I learn more about the history of this part of town? How can I come alongside the story?

What is the history of this place I’m calling home? How can we thoughtfully put down roots in a neighborhood that is not predominantly white? How does our family honor the history of this area while finding our own place here?

This summer, I’ve committed to reading more about the history of Colorado from a Native American perspective. The Ute tribes were the ones who are indigenous to this region, so I’m seeking out books about and by Ute authors. I think I need to do the same for my neighborhood. I recently noticed in the summer activity guide that the Aurora History Museum has some family free days. I think that’s a good place to start.