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Yesterday I posted a picture of ‘Spider Rock‘ from the Rim of Canyon de Chelly and this morning, on Facebook, I saw this picture, posted by Daniel Draper. He is one of the premier, licensed Navajo guides at the Canyon. I have done a number of posts about him and his talented & famous daughters. Just wanted to share this with you. IF you are visiting Canyon de Chelly make sure to contact Daniel. He can show you the Canyon like no other. He specializes in photographic tours. He grew up IN the Canyon and his family owns land in the Canyon. He knows it like the back of his hand.
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Attribution WILL be enforced.
Next to the much visited ‘White House’ ruins (the only place you can hike down to on your own without a Navajo guide), ‘Spider Rock‘ is the most iconic feature of this words-just-can’t-do-it-justice National Monument. I have posted other pictures of ‘Spider Rock‘. This was an attempt to be more creative.
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2015: Navajos permitted to sell on the pavement &
sell art featuring the local stone from the Canyon.
One of the paintings on stone shown above —
which we bought.
Notice the thickness of the stone.
Other example of paintings on stone.
They are getting pushed around. The Navajo Nation is not doing much to protect them. They do not have the skills, experience & the resources to take on the Park Service. Plus, they are petrified of harassment at the personal-level. Being barred from access to the Canyon — chief among them.
It is true that they are no longer being shot, made to undergo ‘Long Walks’ or have their children forcefully send to Christian boarding schools. But, nonetheless, the persecution is cruel and hurtful.
Between our visit in April 2015 and our recent trip at the end of July, THREE very specific attacks have take place.
- Navajos can no longer display their wares for sale to the tourists on the ground or on tables. Their displayed good have to be on a parked vehicle. So, if they have a truck they can use the tailgate. Many do NOT have trucks. So, they put towels on the hood and trunk of their cars and display their wares that way.
- Navajos can no longer sell any art featuring stone from the Canyon. They have to use purchased slate.
- The Park Service is threatening to stop them living in the National Monument part of the Canyon.
This persecution in inane and very distressing.
In the end this is THEIR land. What is left of all the land that used to be theirs by right.
Having them sell their art and jewelry from the ground or tables did NO harm. They did NOT get in the way. This is not the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. The car parks are rarely packed. Plus the Navajos provide a VALUABLE service — since you will never find or see a Park Ranger on the Rims. The Navajos acts as FREE guides and narrators.
As for the stone … What can you say. Yes, I agree that nobody should be allowed to chisel any new stone from the Canyon. But, there are tons of stone lying around. And here is where it gets crazy and very frustrating. There are NO such restrictions re. stone at ‘Monument Valley‘ and that is Navajo land too. Difference, NO Park Service.
They say they want to build a pavilion in which the Navajo can sell their wares. They have one of those at ‘Monument Valley’. It is EMPTY!
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I don’t, BUT do YOU — other than, of course, the justly famous Navajo Code Talkers?
Well when we were at Canyon de Chelly (AZ) last week I asked this from five ‘educated’ & ‘articulate’ Navajos: two licensed Navajo guides, two very bright and talented students and one gifted artist. They could NOT come up with any names — other than ‘you know there is that actor‘. I didn’t know, and had to Google him. Not sure he is that famous.
So, what gives here? This bothers & worries me.
There are supposedly (per what I heard on the radio while out in the ‘Navajo Nation‘) close to 400,000 Navajo in the U.S. That is a respectable number.
So, I started by checking it out on Wikipedia. I found this, NOT counting the native artists — and they, with all due respect, don’t really count because they have no competition so to speak.
Maybe I am being unrealistic or missing something. But, I, however, don’t think so.
Let’s go back to the start. You would have expected the five Navajos that I spoke to rattle off a list. A list they knew. One guide told me that nobody had ever asked him that question, i.e., who are the famous Navajo.
Yes, they have issues and problems. I have seen it first hand. This was NOT my first rodeo with Navajo. It was my fourth visit to the Navajo Nation and I have been spending time in Arizona Indian reservations since the early 1980s.
Things, ALAS, are NOT getting better. If anything worse. Yes, of course, you see a few exceptions — youngsters doing real well and that give you hope — but not as much as you would like,
I intend to write more on this because I did spend a fair amount of time talking to as many Navajos as I could to try and understand their issues and lives.
My goal is to try and help them as much as I can — and I know that I can’t do much. But, maybe I can give them a voice, some visibility and a platform.
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This is a modified version of ‘Planning Your Visit‘ information included in the National Park Service Guide.
The Navajo Nation has added the ‘Visiting Navajo‘ section right at the start. The first sentence of that is IMPORTANT. Canyon de Chelly, like the rest of the Navajo Nation, is on New Mexico time rather than Arizona! That can be confusing. My Garmin Fenix 5, which gets its time (when it can) from GPS, took it in its stride. But, for the first few hours I was never sure whether my Fenix 5 was right or wrong.
This guide, in photocopied black & white, is on the back of a b&w map of the Canyon — again taken from the National Park Service Guide, which, however, is in color.
They have this guide in the small Navajo Nation Office, adjacent to the ‘Thunderbird Lodge’, that you have to visit to get backcountry permits to enter the Canyon with a Navajo guide, either by jeep, horseback or on foot.
Hope this helps.
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In reality this is the ONLY way to see and get to know Canyon de Chelly. Going into the Canyon on horseback is fun (and we have done it twice) but you can’t cover as much ground and, from our experience, the guides that do horseback are not as ‘proficient’ as those on the ‘jeeps’. (But, there could be exceptions and we LUCKED out in that we got ‘Daniel Draper’ who has been doing jeep tours for 29-years). Yes, you can hike down to the ‘White House‘ (which we have also done twice) but you don’t get to see any of the key ‘pictographs‘ (painted) or ‘petroglyphs‘ (carved).
This was the second time I had done a ‘Thunderbird Lodge Tour‘ — albeit 19-years apart. The first time, in 1999, was in the BIGGER Korean-war era Army vehicles they used to have. But, then there was the infamous 2012 roll-over that (eventually) killed two. Everything changed after that — including the ownership of the iconic & historic ‘Thunderbird Lodge’. The 6-wheelers they use now are smaller and newer.
We lucked out — as was invariably the case during this entire 4-day trip to the Canyon (my 4th). Very few people. Most of the time, wherever we would be the only ones there. That is nice and highlights the trademark serenity of the Canyon (which is my favorite part).
We did not book a private tour. We just booked (in the morning) the 4-hour, 4pm (sunset) tour. We were told be there 20-minutes early.
Well it was just the two us, Teischan & I, and that was special. I, with extensive experience with Navajo, soon established a good rapport with Daniel — and I think he enjoyed it too, in that I was not a total novice when it came to the Canyon or the Navajo. We had such a good time that I invited Daniel and his two daughters for dinner with us (at ‘The Junction‘) and they accepted. We had a great time and the two, extremely talented daughters, regaled us with songs after the dinner.
The tour was good. We learnt a lot.
Totally recommend it. Yes, there are other tours. From what I can see they are roughly the same price, i.e., ~$70/person for 3-4 hours. But, I liked the tour we took.