Canyon de Chelly: The View From the Top

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June 15, 2019, Chinle-

Many people, when comparing Arizona’s myriad of canyons, prefer smaller ones. Canyon de Chelly (pronounced SHAY), high on the eastern edge of the Colorado Plateau, has its thousands of afficionados.  It was one of the alternatives to the Grand Canyon, for Dineh people seeking to hide from Kit Carson’s forces, during the run-up to the Long Walk.

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Today, the place is, reasonably, packed with visitors of all ages- taking jeep tours, riding horseback, walking with authorized Dineh guides, or on their own (along White House Trail, which will be the subject of the next post).  Some are happy with viewing the magnificence from rim overlooks.  Still others are okay with just camping, at the NPS-run Cottonwood, or at the privately-owned Spider Rock Campground. Then, there is the chill-out crowd, hanging out at Thunderbird Lodge.

My focus was two-fold: Take in the South Rim overlooks, camp at Cottonwood, then hike White House Trail and end with the North Rim viewpoints.  That worked well, and so-here are views from each of the overlooks, beginning with Tunnel Canyon and ending with Mummy Cave.

Tunnel Canyon Overlook:

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Tsegi Overlook:  (Tsegi is Dineh for “canyon”)

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Junction Overlook: (Canyon de Chelly {South} and Canyon del Muerto {North} converge here.)

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The overlook, and other highlights, of White House Trail, will be featured in the next post.

Sliding House Overlook:

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Face Rock Overlook:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Spider Rock Overlook:

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Now, from the North Rim, here’s a view from Antelope House Overlook: (This ruin may only be viewed up close, if one is accompanied by a registered Navajo guide.)

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Massacre Cave Overlook:  (The cave itself was the scene of a wanton slaughter of Dineh women and children, by Spanish soldiers, in 1805.)

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Mummy Cave Overlook: (This also accessible only on a guided tour.  Mummy Cave is the largest Ancient Puebloan ruin in Canyon de Chelly National Monument.)

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So, as you can see, there is a wide variety of learning activities at Canyon de Chelly National Monument.  An old favourite hike, White House Ruins Trail, is among them and is the subject of the next post.

 

 

Honest Abe and the First Nations

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February 12, 2019-

It is human nature to approach, and evaluate, other people by the same standards one holds to oneself.  It takes a lot of open-mindedness, and patience, for the average person to view people of different cultures as those of different cultures view themselves.  When  homogenization of cultural viewpoint takes deep root in a nation’s dominant culture, there is the appearance, if not the reality, of racism.

From thence, has risen the persistent assessment of people not of the dominant culture as being somehow inferior to those assimilated to said culture.  President Abraham Lincoln, on several occasions, hosted First Nations delegations, at the White House, during various points during his Presidency.  His purpose was to encourage them to assimilate into “the Christian culture of the majority of American citizens.” , as he regarded traditional ways of the nomadic among the indigenous peoples, and their non-Christian traditional Faith Communities, to be just shy of barbaric.

Not addressing the more than 200 years of atrocities committed by Europeans against both First Nations people and African-Americans, in the contiguous territory of the United States, and the nearly 200 earlier years of brutality against people of colour in other parts of the Americas, Mr. Lincoln, perhaps pre-occupied with the Civil War, found time to carefully evaluate, and dismiss all but 38 of the cases against 302 Lakota fighters, for alleged atrocities against the settlers of European descent, in the newly admitted State of Minnesota, during the six-week Dakota War of 1862.  Those 38 men were executed, in the largest non-combat execution act in U.S. History.

His record is far murkier, and less circumspect, with regard to the Sand Creek Massacre, in Colorado 1864 and the Long Walk, of Dineh and Inde (Navajo and Apache) people, from their traditional lands to Boque Redondo, in eastern New Mexico, beginning in 1863.  The Homestead Act and Pacific Railway Act of 1862 made settlement by European-Americans easier, and movement of goods far more efficient, but made no consideration, at all, of the needs of First Nations residents.

In fairness, Lincoln sincerely believed in the importance of  “civilizing” the First Nations people, which the leaders of those Nations, far from being ignorant or savage, viewed as both ironic and ludicrous, given the “brother against brother” reality of much of the “War Between the States”.  Cochise and, later, Geronimo,  saw the propensity for fighting among all groups in the Southwest as being pandemic:  Whites against whites, whites and Mexicans against each other, both groups against First Nations-and vice versa,

Lincoln espoused forward-looking policies towards southern slaves, primarily to ruin the economy of the Confederacy, whilst viewing people of African descent as being “legally” 3/5 of a free white man and viewing indigenous people as only worth the price of the land from which they might be removed-unless they became Christian. Abraham Lincoln was a man of his times, and can’t really be judged solely by the standards of our own imperfect era, however much more enlightened we might like to view ourselves.  He does not, however, deserve to be regarded as a universal emancipator of all those who were being persecuted during his tenure.

My own view is that people of various groups are more alike than different and that we, of each group, have more to learn from one another than we have to impart on others.  This, I have learned, consistently, from visiting many areas of this country-and some parts of other countries.

Tales from the 2016 Road: The Long Walk of 1864

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Entrance to Fort Sumner National Monument,NM

July 1, 2016, Fort Sumner, NM-  There are several places in the United States, that every citizen should see, if for no other reason than to know that unity is a delicate thing.  Fort Sumner, a place of captivity for thousands of people, in the 1860’s, is such a place.

I have known, and  worked with, Navajo (Dineh) and Hopi people, for several years.  The Dineh, along with the Mescalero Apache (Indeh) people, were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands, in 1864, by one of the most unfortunate edicts of President Lincoln, who had a blind spot, where Native Americans were concerned.  He never stopped being an Indian fighter.

The people endured the harsh life of captives, very similar to what the Japanese internees endured in the camps of World War II.  The difference was that the Dineh and Indeh people built the camps, including the quarters of their overseers.  Many died of disease and starvation, in this squalid place.

The people were released in 1868, on orders from President Andrew Johnson, who had no real axe to grind with the Navajos or Apaches.  They walked homeward, and the Navajo wept, when they spotted one of their sacred mountains, Mount Taylor, east of Albuquerque.

Here are some of the sights that presented themselves to me, during my visit here, this morning.  The first shows the pyramid-like structure that houses the museum displays and theater, that tells the story of the Long Walk.  The ranger initially interpreted my foregoing the film, as a sign of disinterest in the actual events.  A conversation, afterward, corrected that misconstruance.

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Monument Headquarters, Fort Sumner, NM

The second photo shows the area, as it might have appeared when the captives first arrived in Bosque Redondo, as the woods were called back then. The Commemoration Stone, first brought here by Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah, in 1994.

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Nature Trail, Fort Sumner, NM

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Commemoration Stone, Fort Sumner, AZ

The descendants of both Navajo and Mescalero Apache internees, and many others from various tribes, bring items of dedication to this memorial site.

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Memorial Site, Fort Sumner, NM

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Barracks for US Army troops, Fort Sumner National  Monument, NM

The above is an example of the structures which captives were forced to build, for the housing of their overseers.

Below is a flock of Churro Sheep, raised by Navajos and now viewed as an heirloom breed, for the quality of their wool and meat.

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Churro Sheep, Fort Sumner National Monument, NM

This visit, which I had planned for quite some time, was a sobering reminder of just how far we have come, and a caution of how far we can fall backwards, in our inter-human connections. Like Manzanar, and Berga, Germany, it is a place that the smug and self-assured would do well to see, as a wake-up call.

NEXT UP:  Return to Amarillo’s Happy Southwest 6th Street.