The Southwest is known by many to be an enchanting oasis of landscapes, in fact, long before Arizona became a state, people were drawn to the land for its beautiful weather and stunning vistas. While their Southwest is rich in beauty, it is even richer in history. Tracing back at least 12,000 years ago, the first American Indians found this rugged region and decided to make roots. Currently, 22 distinct tribes – each with their own unique history and customs – dwell within Arizona’s borders. You can see the influence these tribes have had on our local history while visiting the ancient American Indian ruins around the state or at a history museum to hear stories from the first people to call Arizona home. Slightly larger than West Virginia, Navajo country stretches across a vast swath of land made up of parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Here is a list of sacred Native American lands where you can learn more about the rich native heritage – plan your trip with DETOURS Native America!
Window Rock is the administrative capital and administrative center of the Navajo Nation, deriving its name from the hole in the 200 foot high sandstone hill, thus the name Window Rock. Located about 27 miles northwest of Gallup, N.M., and about 6 miles southeast of Fort Defiance, Arizona, it is just across the New Mexico-Arizona state line, on the Arizona side, in Apache County. If you have time, make a trip to Window Rock, Ariz., and headquarters of the Navajo Nation Council Chamber, housed in a beautiful large hogan built in the 1930s. If the doors are unlocked, you can quietly slip inside, sit in the chairs against the wall and observe policymakers in action. Be sure to respect the native culture, we put together a list of things you need to know before visiting the Navajo Nation.
Explore the Navajo Nation Museum, you will learn the Navajo history of the “Long Walk,” which led to the signing of the historic Treaty of 1868, and visit the Navajo Veterans Memorial Park where a statue of a Navajo code talker has been constructed. The Navajo Tribal Zoo opened in Window Rock in 1963 featuring reservation animals such as bear, coyotes, snake, elk, and the golden eagle. The Navajo Nation Zoological and Botanical Park offers a wide variety of plants, animals, fishes, birds and insects native to the Four Corners area of the Navajo Nation such as elk, mule deer, Mexican gray wolf, black bear, cougar, golden eagle, bighorn sheep, lynx, Rio Grande wild turkey, raccoon, Canadian goose, and fox. The Navajo Nation Zoo is open Monday through Saturday and is free to the public.
Canyon de Chelly
Canyon de Chelly National Monument preserves the distinct architecture, artifacts, and rock imagery of the Archaic people (2500-200 B.C.), the Basketmakers (200 B.C.-A.D. 750), the Pueblo (750-1300), the Hopi (1300-1600s), and the Navajo (1700-present). Archeological evidence suggests that people have lived in Canyon de Chelly for nearly 5,000 years. The original inhabitants were the Archaic people, who lived in seasonal campsites, conducted hunting and gathering expeditions, and did not build permanent homes. Their stories are understood through the remains of their campsites and the images they etched and painted on the canyon walls. By about 200 B.C., a fundamental shift occurred in the way people lived within the canyon. The Basketmakers started to sustain their community through farming, instead of by hunting and gathering. As their agricultural skills improved, their lives became more sedentary and they built communities of dispersed households with large granaries and rudimentary public structures. Canyons de Chelly and del Muerto, Arizona, constitute a center of unique importance in the study of the prehistoric peoples of the Southwest.
Millions of years of land uplifts and stream cutting created the colorful sheer cliff walls of Canyon de Chelly. Natural water sources and rich soil provided a variety of resources, including plants and animals that have sustained families for thousands of years. The Ancient Puebloans found the canyons an ideal place to plant crops and raise families. The first settlers built pit houses that were then replaced with more sophisticated homes as more families migrated to the area. More homes were built in alcoves to take advantage of the sunlight and natural protection. People thrived until the mid-1300’s when the Puebloans left the canyons to seek better farmlands. Canyon de Chelly National Monument was authorized in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover in large measure to preserve the important archeological resources that span more than 4,000 years of human occupation. The monument encompasses approximately 84,000 acres of lands located entirely on the Navajo Nation with roughly 40 families residing within the park boundaries. The National Park Service and the Navajo Nation share resources and continue to work in partnership to manage this special place. Last summer, we took some of our concierge friends on a tour to Canyon de Chelly, check out some of the photos from our trip.
The Navajo name for the area is Tse Bii’ Ndzisgaii, which means ‘valley of the rocks.’ Monument Valley’s isolated rock formations are eroded remains of their Rocky Mountain ancestors, formed by sandstone deposits and geologic uplift and then shaped by wind and water. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is located on the Navajo Nation – one of the largest American Indian tribes. This sandy preserve bathes the region between Arizona and Utah in rich red hues, adding to its reputation of having some of the most dramatic and mesmerizing light.
With the steady flow of settlers into Indian controlled land, Eastern newspapers published sensationalized stories of cruel native tribes committing massive massacres of hundreds of white travelers. Although some settlers lost their lives to American Indian attacks, this was not the norm; in fact, Native American tribes often helped settlers cross the Plains. Not only did the American Indians sell wild game and other supplies to travelers, but they acted as guides and messengers between wagon trains as well. Despite the friendly natures of the American Indians, settlers still feared the possibility of an attack. We strongly recommend taking a private tour of Monument Valley for the best western experience.
Hubbell Trading Post
The oldest continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Nation and the United States, Hubbell Trading Post is an important thread in the fabric of Navajo history. Established in 1876, this mercantile and others founded by John Lorenzo Hubbell came to be the lifeline of supplies for Navajos looking to re-establish themselves following the “Long Walk” of 1864. It was also a place for Navajos to meet and socialize in the days before the automobile. Hubbell’s has been serving Ganado selling groceries, grain, hardware, horse tack, coffee and Native American Art since 1878. John Lorenzo Hubbell purchased the trading post in 1878, ten years after Navajos were allowed to return to their homeland from their terrible exile at Bosque Redondo, Ft. Sumner, New Mexico.
During the four years spent at Bosque Redondo, Navajos were introduced to many new items. Traders like Hubbell supplied those items once they returned home. Hubbell had an enduring influence on Navajo rug weaving and silversmithing, for he consistently demanded and promoted excellence in craftsmanship. He built a trading empire that included stage and freight lines as well as several trading posts. At various times, he and his two sons, together or separately, owned 24 trading posts, a wholesale house in Winslow, and other business and ranch properties. Beyond question, he was the foremost Navajo trader of his time.Hubbell family members operated the trading post until it was sold to the National Park Service in 1967. The trading post is still active, and operated by the non-profit organization, Western National Parks Association for the National Park Service. They continue the trading traditions the Hubbell family started. Explore this incredible landmark with DETOURS Native America.
Are you interested in visiting some of these sacred sites? Send your inquiries directly to DETOURS Native America owner Donovan Hanley and let him help you create your own Native American itinerary! #detoursnativeamerica