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Indigenous Voices of the Colorado Plateau

Navajo Places

Canyon DeChelly Monument Valley Window Rock

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Canyon de Chelly (pronounced "dee shay") has been listed as one of the seven wonders of the Navajo world. The canyon's human inhabitation dates back at least to the time of the Ancient Puebloan Basket Makers, who occupied this canyon from 350 to 1300 C.E. Many of the Navajo people chose to settle in Canyon de Chelly to protect themselves from encroaching Anglo settlers as well to avoid the United States military, who invaded the Canyon during the mid-1800s for war campaigns against the Navajo.

Canyon de Chelly was designated a national monument in 1931 to protect and preserve the numerous archeological resources existing on the canyon rims, walls and bottomlands. Thanks to an arid climate and the shelter of numerous caves and overhangs, an unusual variety of delicate artifacts and organic remains have been preserved.

A wonderful way to experience Canyon de Chelly is to arrange a tour. While traveling on the floor of the canyon, awe and wonderment overtake the visitor. Gazing up at the monumental cliffs above, the visitor realizes how small they are and how immense the natural world can be. These tours can be arranged with the Park Service to travel through the interior of Canyon de Chelly. A four-wheel drive vehicle, a Park Service permit, and a licensed Navajo guide are required in order to access the canyon's interior and numerous archeological sites.

The visitor can also experience breathtaking views by driving around the rim of the Canyon on either the South Rim or North Rim drives. Looking over the edge of Canyon de Chelly is not for the faint of heart, but the numerous overlooks are spectacular viewing. Canyon de Chelly, as seen from either from the bottom or the rim, can make the visitor feel as though they stepped into a landscape painting. All senses are forced to come alive in an overpowering feeling of grandeur.

Digital Resources
Newspaper Clipping from 1916
Newspaper Clipping from 1923

Canyon de Chelly National Monument
DesertUSA Visitors' Guide to Canyon de Chelly


Monument Valley stretches across the state boundaries of northeast Arizona and southern Utah. The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is located just over the Utah state line in Utah's San Juan County.

The formation of Monument Valley began about seventy million years ago. During this time the entire Monument Valley area was covered by a shallow sea. During the Miocene era, cataclysmic forces caused the Colorado Plateau to bulge upward and break apart, causing the water to drain away.

The wind also helped in forming Monument Valley by stripping away the sediments that surrounded the Triassic and Permian rock making up the Monument Valley formations.

Volcanic activity aided in forming parts of Monument Valley, creating the igneous formation known as Agathla Peak and other nearby igneous formations.

Monument Valley brings thousands of visitors each year because of the natural beauty of its landscape.

Digital Resources
Monument Valley


Window Rock Window Rock, Arizona is a place of unsurpassed beauty and power. The "Window" has an arch of about sixty feet. When you gaze up through the Window, your view is of the heavens. Whether you see rain or sunshine, the view is just as spectacular.

In ancient times people were attracted to this place because of a spring that was located there. People would mark symbols on the rocks at the spring. Fragments of pottery found there established the fact that these admirers of the Window Rock lived in the area a thousand years ago.

The Formation of the Window

Window Rock is a pothole-type natural arch eroded through Entrada sandstone. Chemical exfoliation deepened a pothole in the rock until it breached the back of a shallow recess in the cliff several feet above its base. Subsequent weathering, freezing and thawing created the smooth oval front entrance of the arch. This process continues to the present--in 1996, a slab of rock fell from the west abutment.

Adjacent to this structure are the Navajo Nation governmental offices. The tribal council meets in a building that is only several hundred feet south of the Window. The area around this formation is maintained as a tribal park, and visitors can view the Window from the parking lot directly in front of the arch.

Digital Resources
Window Rock

Navajo Central

The Navajo Tribe. Welcome to the Land of the Navajo, A Book of Information About the Navajo Indians (Window Rock, Arizona: Museum and Research Department, Navajo Nation, 1974).


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