Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Navajo Blessing
We walk in our moccasins upon the Earth
and beneath the sky
As we travel on life’s path of beauty
We will live a good life and reach old age.

Many American Indians still enjoy life in the Southwest,  and some call Canyon de Chelly (pronounced day Shay) home. Chelly is a slightly modified Navajo word Tseyi, meaning canyon or literally, under the rock.

Located in northeastern Arizona, Canyon de Chelly is completely located within the Navajo nation’s boundaries. Navajo Indians live and work here today among the red rock cliffs with ancient dwellings along their faces and lush valleys below.

Right at the edge of the South Rim parking lot, several wild horses that frequent the area, grazed on the sparse grass. This beautiful scenic drive takes about three hours so be certain that you have plenty of drinking water. There are trails to the bottom but you must be escorted by a guide from the Navajo tribe on all trails except the one leading to the White House Ruins.

One of the spectacular points along the rim trail is Spider Rock, twin sandstone spires with the tallest being 800 feet high. Traditional Navajo believe the taller of the two spires is home to Spider Grandmother. Spider Rock is considered sacred to the Navajo and is associated with Spider Woman, who taught the Navajo how to weave on a loom which Spider Man told them how to make.  Spider Woman also is the enforcer of obedience in children. Part of a Navajo chant heard there still remains in my mind today: With beauty in Nature, I walk.

Another highlight in the area is White House Ruins, which are remains in a sandstone cave of adobe dwellings from a previous culture.  They are believed to have been constructed by Anasazi people “the Ancient Ones”.  There was a time when you could roam up into the cave and walk where the Anasazi walked. But today it is fenced off due to tourists taking bits for souvenirs and thus destroying the historic value of the spot.

At the information center, the Navajo Indians have a beautiful gift shop with handmade Indian crafts. While visiting there talked with Gary Henry and his brother Teddy, Navajo jewelry craftsmen, and their sister Winnie, who leads many of the tours and weaves beautiful blankets.

The beautiful but tough sister, Winnie,  says that weaving is “to weave together the pieces of your own life.” Weaving is her special art given by Spider Woman’s spiritual touch.  Her mother told her, “If you know who you are, where you come from, and where you are going, you will never get lost in this world.” Winnie will tell you that her culture and religion live within her and will never come out.

Gary designed this beautiful two-sided necklace of native stones in a bear claw design – my treasure for this adventure. He grew up in Canyon de Chelly, running up and down the trails as a child. They lived in a hogan, a traditional Navajo dwelling, and their family raised sheep. At that time there was no water or electricity in the canyon, so meals were cooked over a fire, and the evening was spent listening to stories and playing their music.

Canyon de Chelly is a spiritual place where the soul responds to the beauty of nature, which abounds. When we leave, they say Hagona, which means “see you again”. To walk in beauty and die naturally of old age is the Navajo notion of the good life. Hozona h’astleen! May everything go well!

Canyon de Chelly is located in northeastern Arizona.  Take Route 191 to Chinle, Arizona and the Canyon is directly east of town. From the Visitors Center you have a choice of the North Rim Drive or South Rim Drive.  Each drive takes about three hours to complete.

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Comments on: "Canyon de Chelly – Home to Navajo Indians" (3)

  1. Great article and fantastic pictures! Love your necklace what a find! Love reading about your trips, makes me what to pack up and go.

  2. This post has got to be one of my all time favorites, scenery, horses!!

    • Glad you enjoyed it! You can sense the spirit of the ancestors as you soak in the beauty of the world around you. Appreciate your visits.

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