Monday, July 20, 2015

Canyon de Chelly, Home of the Navaho

This month, I’m going to talk about Canyon de Chelly National Monument and the part it plays in my newest release, Decoding Michaela
By Yoopernewsman real name Greg Peterson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de Shay) National Monument was established on April 1, 1931. The canyon is located in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation and is wholly owned by the Navaho Tribal Trust of the Navajo Nation. It is the only National Park Service unit jointly managed with a Native American tribe.
One of the longest continuously inhabited places in North America, Canyon de Chelly contains ruins of early inhabitants, the Ancient Pueblo People (also called Anasazi.) The monument covers 83,840 acres and encompasses the floors and rims of three canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument. These canyons were cut by streams originating in the Chuska Mountains just to the east.
White House Ruins by Hydrargyrum at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
The name Chelly (or Chelley) is a Spanish rendering of the Navajo word Tséyiʼ, meaning "canyon" or "inside the rock". The Spanish pronunciation de’tʃeʎi was adapted into English: de shā.
Canyon de Chelly had long been home for the Navajo people before it was invaded by Mexican forces led by Lt. Antonio Narbona in 1805. Later, in 1863, Col. Kit Carson and U.S. troops defeated the Navajo within the canyon, resulting in their removal to the Bosque Redondo reservation in New Mexico. Due to poor water and lack of fire wood, they were allowed to return to their native land in May 1868.
Navajo Woman & Child, near Canyon de Chelly, by Ansel Adams [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Today, approximately forty Navajo families live in the park. Most park visitors view Canyon de Chelly from the rim, following North Rim Drive and South Rim Drive. Ancient ruins and geologic structures, such as the towering Spider Rock, are visible in the distance from turnoffs along the routes. Visitors are allowed into the canyon only when accompanied by a park ranger or an authorized Navajo guide. The only exception to this rule is the White House Ruin Trail.
Canyon de Chelly - Spider Rock
Spider Rock by Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
The National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 25, 1970. In 2009 it was recognized as one of the most-visited national monuments in the United States. 
Canyon de Chelly is the setting for the final portion of Decoding Michaela (Romancing the Guardians, Book Two). It will also be featured in upcoming books in this continuing series, and will play a major role in the final book, when the Guardians of Danu come together to battle their enemies.
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00074]
Now here’s a look at the canyon through Michaela’s eyes. Her guide is Josie Tseda, who stars in the next book, Capturing Gabriel.

Josie drove them into the canyon the next morning in her Jeep. It was a rough, dusty ride but even without the promise of seeing Lara, the scenery was worth any discomfort. The sheer rock walls and fantastic formations were painted in amber, crimson, burnt umber and orange hues that took Michaela’s breath away. Carved out of the walls were caves, some small, some large enough to hold the ruins of apartment-like stone structures.

Pointing to one such cave, Josie said, “See those pueblo ruins? They were built by the ancient ones who lived here in prehistoric times. Canyon de Chelly is a national monument because of those ruins. They’re guarded by Park Rangers. Tourists are allowed to hike only on one self-guided trail. If they want to see more of the canyon, they have to hire a licensed Navajo tour guide.”

Obviously proud of her heritage, she added, “The canyon lies within the Navaho Nation and a number of families live here. They mostly farm and ranch either sheep or cattle, or both. My dad has a small place up ahead. He grows peaches and herds a few sheep for their wool, which he weaves into blankets.” She chuckled. “Tourist love Navajo blankets.”

As they wound through the canyon, Michaela admired the narrow valley dotted with fruit orchards and pastures where cattle and sheep grazed. Among the green patches stood farm houses or domed, multi-sided hogans, the traditional Navajo shelter, Josie explained. She turned onto a bumpy path leading to one of the latter. As they stopped outside the entrance, an older man with long graying hair walked outside. His dark copper face was lined with age but he stood straight, head erect. He smiled broadly when Josie jumped out of the Jeep.

“Yá'át'ééh, daughter.”

“Yá'át'ééh, Father,” she replied, rushing to give him a hug. “I have brought you more guests.”

Decoding Michael is available on these sites:



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  1. What awesome pictures, Lyn, and the information is definitely something to remember. I do recall Kit Carson destroying the peaceful Navajo's peach orchards. Canyon de Chelly is definitely on my bucket list...we went to Mesa Verde not long ago and wow. Best of luck with the book!

  2. Thank you, Tanya! I am hoping to go there in September on my way back from the InD'Scribe Convention. I'd like to hire a Navaho guide to drive me and hubby through the canyon, want to snap some photos and get a better feel for the place. I always like to visit the local of my stories, if possible. Wish I could afford to fly down to Colombia, where the next book is staged for the most part.

  3. Wonderful, Lyn. The photos were just grand. I have heard of this tribe but didn't realize the place. Yes, Mesa Verde is the closest I've come to seeing and learning about this kind of life. Thanks so much for the information. And much luck and good wishes for your new novel, Decoding Michaela.

  4. Glad you enjoyed the photos. There are many more on the net, but they are mostly copyrighted. I don't want to get into any lawsuits!

    The Navajo are a fascinating people, but then all Native American tribes are. Too bad so many were decimated by our white ancestors.

  5. What an interesting article, Lyn. I am sure you enjoyed researching this place for your story. Loved your photos, Lyn.
    All the best...

  6. Thanks, Sarah, for giving the post a read. Glad you like the photos! Best wishes to you, my friend.

  7. We've visited the rim, but didn't go down into the canyon. It's a beautiful area. I loved DECODING MICHAELA and look forward to the next book.


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