Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Monument Valley

West Mitten, East Mitten Merrick Butte
We finally got here after a few days travel and it was really worth it. This land is an ancient world filled with Native American Culture and dramatic geology.
Monument Valley (Navajo: Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, meaning “valley of the rocks”) is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft (300 m) above the valley floor. It is located on the Arizona-Utah state line, near the Four Corners area. 
As far as history is concerned, archaeological evidence indicates that the ancient Anasazi people inhabited the valley until around 1300 CE. Today over 100 sites and ruins have been found dating from these ancient people, including rock art. The Anasazi abandoned the area in the 1300's, leaving it empty of humans until the arrival of the Navajo not long afterward. 
The Yei Bi Chei and the Totem Pole
Monument Valley area has been featured in many forms of media since the 1930s. Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films, and thus, in the words of critic Keith Phipps, "its five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they think of the American West. 
Visitors may pay an access fee and drive through the park on a 17-mile (27 km) dirt road (a 2-3 hour trip). Parts of Monument Valley are accessible only by guided tour.
The Eagle Eye
We had a wonderful Navajo guide named Muzi Bent Arm who really gave us a wonderful private tour of Monument valley and took into areas with access restricted to Navajos and their guests. We were able to see the Totem Pole, the Yei Bi Chei Dancers emerging from their Hogan, the Eagles’s Eye, Ear of the Wind, all in the restricted area. Very Cool.
The Hub
Monument Valley is officially a large area that includes much of the area surrounding Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, a Navajo Nation equivalent to a U.S. national park. Oljato, for example, is also within the area designated as Monument Valley.
Ear of the Wind
As a sign of the significance of this place, we met a lot of foreign tourists during our visit, who had no problem driving the hundreds of miles used to get to this very remote location. Monument Valley is very well worth the trek out here.
Highly recommended!
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  1. The use of the term Anaasází is a bit misleading. The word means ancient old enemies. The ruins pre-date Navajos by thousands of years, i.e., they never encountered those Puebloan peoples. Ancient Puebloan culture was an extension or liminal section of Mexica culture. Athabascans (Navajos and Apaches) entered this area of North American at about the same time that the Spanish made incursions into this region, i.e., the 1500s. Athabascans are from the interior of what is now called Alaska, see: The people you are calling Navajos underwent massive cultural change upon entry into this area and adopted Puebloan and Spanish cultural elements. I'm just saying don't use the term Anaasází it is not appreciated by the Puebloan people and keep in mind that the Navajos migrated to this region around the same time of the Spanish....after all sheep aren't exactly fauna from the New World.

  2. Thanks for your knowledgable comments. Although the term Anasází is not preferred by contemporary Pueblo People, it is commanly used by archaeologists to mean "Ancient Ones. I meant no disrespect, I understand that Navajo-Diné Athabascan's ancestors arrived around 1300-1400 CE as hunter gatherers and later adopted crop farming techniques from the Pueblo peoples, growing mainly corn, beans, and squash. When the Spanish arrived, the Navajo began herding sheep and goats as a main source of trade and food. By the mid 17thCentury, the Spanish began using the term "Navajo" to refer to the Diné. I appreciate your knowledge of the ancient Puebloan relationships to the Mexica and other Meso-American cultures (Tolteca?)

    I have a deep respect for Native American cultures and again, thanks for the comment.