Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Arizona Travel News ( Press Release )
Canyon De Chelly National Monument
Offers Lessons in Human Spirit
Courtesy Mesereau Public Relations
Arizona, USA. A trip to Canyon de Chelly National Monument is almost
certain to leave visitors with a sense of wonder when they experience the breathtaking scenery
and fascinating cliff dwellings. Learning about the people who lived there in ancient days as well
as those who live in the canyon today is key to a truly memorable experience. It is the poignant,
and at times, tragic human history that makes Canyon de Chelly a place like no other on earth.
As with other canyons in the Four Corners region, Canyon de Chelly in northeastern
Arizona is home to many Anasazi ruins. The Anasazi - "Ancient Ones" - lived in the canyon for
more than a thousand years and left around 1300 A.D. Their homes were engineered using
timbers and adobe-style bricks. Most of the homes were built into the canyon walls and faced
south to take advantage of the winter sun. Some contained multiple levels that housed as many as
30 to 40 families. The most impressive structures are large cliff dwellings, built between 1100 and
1300, in the Pueblo period.
The Anasazi left the area around 1300. The reason for their disappearance is
debated with the most popular theory being a prolonged drought forced them
out. The people of Canyon de Chelly and other nearby Pueblo centers left their homes
and moved to other parts of the Southwest. Some of the present-day Pueblo Indians of Arizona
and New Mexico are descendants of these pre-Columbian people.
The Hopi and Pueblo Indians are believed to be the most closely related to the
Anasazi. The Hopi lived in Canyon de Chelly at some time between 1300 and
The Navajo, related culturally and linguistically to the various Apache
Indians in the Southwest, moved from northern New Mexico into the area around 1700.
In the 1700s and 1800s they recorded the arrival of the Spaniards and the introduction of cows,
horses and sheep into the area.
The Navajo fought with the Pueblo Indian villages and Spanish settlements
along the Rio Grande Valley. As a result, the Spanish, Mexican, and American governments
conducted their own battles with the Navajo. As a Navajo stronghold, Canyon de Chelly figured
In 1805 Lt. Antonio Narbona, later the governor of the Province of New Mexico,
led a Spanish expedition in an all-day battle with a band of Navajos fortified
in a rock shelter in Canyon del Muerto. At the end of the day, Narbona's
contingent had killed 105 Navajos, including 90 warriors. Today, the rock
shelter is called Massacre Cave.
In 1864 Kit Carson led a detachment of United States cavalry to Canyon de Chelly.
Carson''s troops defeated the Navajos and forcibly removed more than 8,000 Navajos 300 miles
to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. At the end of the "Long Walk," an early reservation that was
really a prisoner of war camp was designated. After four years, however, the Navajos were
permitted to return to their homeland.
Around the turn of the 20th century, a trading post was constructed at the
mouth of the canyon and is now the Thunderbird Lodge dining facility. The
trading post emphasized the protection of the canyon and its artifacts and was
the main starting point for those exploring the canyon.
Today, some 80 families still live in the canyon where they farm and raise
animals. Visitors can see the working farms and the traditional Navajo houses
six- or eight-sided hogans with the doors facing east to greet the sun
Tourism also plays a significant role in the Canyon''s present-day economy.
Thunderbird Lodge provides the only accommodations in Canyon de Chelly. It
features 72 modern rooms, dining facilities, gift shop, rug room and tours. Of
its 72 employees, more than 96 percent are Navajo.
Full-day tours depart at 9 a.m. and return at 5 p.m., taking visitors on a 60-mile round trip
through Canyon del Muerto to Mummy Cave and Canyon de Chelly to Spider Rock. Half-day
tours last 3«« hours, depart at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and take visitors into the lower halves of both
Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto.
With the exception of hiking the White House Ruin trail, travel in the canyons is
permitted only with a park ranger or authorized Navajo guide.
Thunderbird Lodge is open year-round. For reservations, call 1-800-679-2473.
For online information on Thunderbird Lodge, go to www.tbirdlodge.com.