Tag Archives: Dine/Navajo

Canyon De Chelly, The Most Lovely Grand Canyon

18 Mar

Visiting Canyons seems to be my newest craze.  I have written about seeing three grand canyons in the blog below.  This past week I visited what I think is one of the loveliest canyons: Canyon De Chelly, a National Monument and National Historic Place, located in Arizona on the Navajo Reservation.

Covering over 131 square miles in three canyons that merge together, Canyon De Chelly has been the home of the Navajo people, or Dine, for hundreds of years.  The Canyon itself ranges from 30 feet deep, where you can enter it near the town of Chinle, to over 1000 feet deep.  Its red sandstone cliffs are amazing to see.  The ancient pueblo homes of the original inhabitants can be viewed from the top of the Canyon as well as some by tours to the bottom.

There is more than just beautiful scenery and astonishing sites to be seen, there is the history of the Navajo to be learned.

img_2297

Spider Rock

We visited the rim alongside Spider Rock, where the Navajo believe that the Dine emerged into this world. She helped her people learn skills and protected them.  The Spider Rock is an amazing natural stone structure. To see its reach to the sky from the bottom of the canyon helps to envision the Navajo legends about the Spider Woman who lived there.  How else could one get up there?  It is just majestic as it reaches over 800 feet from the bottom.

Pueblo dwellers also lived in the Canyon.  You can still see the remains of their structures at White House and the Mummy Cave, as well as at other spots.  We viewed these two sites.  And they are amazing that so many centuries later the buildings are still recognizable and seem to exist outside of time.

But it is not only the formations and the ancient pueblos that make Canyon De Chelly special, it is also the history.  Navajo peoples have lived in the valley for centuries. It is here that they had their orchards and their farms.  It is here that Kt Carson, under the auspices of the US government, invaded the canyon to remove the Navajo. He used a scorched earth policy to destroy and starve the people in the Canyon. In an act of terror and misguided desire to cleanse the canyon of its native peoples, thousands were killed and rounded up for a long and treacherous march to New Mexico in 1864, where the Dine were kept prisoner at Fort Sumner for four years.

Finally, in 1868, the Navajo people were allowed to return home to their Canyon and try to rebuild their lives on what was now a protected Reservation. They were not returned to all their lands, but part of them.  This beautiful site still carries the memories of those who did not survive.  Some families still have claim to the land in the canyon’s valley. They still farm there and live there in the summer months.  To learn what happened to the Navajo/Dine people was depressing.  To see how harsh the US was on the first peoples made me want to cringe. But I felt some lightness of spirit to see that the canyon has been returned.

We visited the Canyon in March, where it was not supposed to be snowing, on a Road Scholar educational program.  It was informative and wonderful.  I must say the snow enhanced the beauty of the stone and the canyon.  Although we were unable to go to tour the bottom of the canyon as planned, due to the water and mud, seeing what we did was more than enough to make us deem this the loveliest of the Canyon’s we had seen.

I am glad that we decided to not just go to the Canyon De Chelly, but to have two excellent guides, one Navajo and one Hopi, from the Road Scholar program, who guided us through the two reservations and explained the history of their peoples as well as the magical and beautiful places we visited.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/08/15/my-third-grand-canyon-waimea-canyon-kauai/