Saturday, November 2, 2013

Easy ways to experience Navajo America

Traditional Navajo Hogan
The Grand Canyon. Unique art galleries and boutiques. Stunning golf courses. For travelers, the American Southwest is filled with innumerable attractions. Though it permeates almost every aspect of the regional culture, however, the Native American communities of the Southwest can often seem distant and inaccessible to visitors. In fact, interacting with native communities and cultures is easier than many travelers realize. The Navajo Nation a 25,000-square-mile sovereign state in the high desert of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah is a good place to start. The Navajo occupy the largest tribal reservation in the country; the area is home to more than 100,000 Navajo people.

Ride through Monument Valley

A 91,000-acre tribal park on the Arizona-Utah border, the towering red rock pinnacles and bright orange mesas of Monument Valley believed in Navajo mythology to be the carcasses of defeated monsters, buried in the sand offer the most iconic images of the Southwest. Road routes are easy and take in the big viewpoints, but a backcountry tour with a local guide shows you the valley through Native American eyes.

Canyon de Chelly is a dramatic 26-mile gorge near Chinle, Arizona.

It is sacred to the Navajo and filled with ancient petro glyphs of snakes, antelope, and the stark white handprints of medicine men. Deep in the canyon, ruined settlements of the Anasazi predecessors of the Navajo can be found, built high into cracks in the sheer cliffs like vertiginous sandcastles of mud and stone. The views from the top are spectacular but to appreciate the history of the canyon you need to explore inside accessible only with a local guide.
Canyon De Chellylowres

Sleep in a Navajo Hogan

Made of interlocking logs held together with compacted mud and earth, Hogan’s, the traditional home of the Navajo, are still used by many families. They also play an important part in Native spiritual and ceremonial life. Inside, the design is a reflection of the living world: pillars to represent the four cardinal directions, a circular spiral roof for the sky and a door facing east to welcome the rising sun. Spending the night in one is a treat: they are not fancy, but they are comfortable and miles from any large urban area provide a great night of sleep. Discover Navajo, a Navajo Nation culture and tourism organization based in Window Rock, Arizona, has information on overnight Hogan stays on the reservation.

Visit with a medicine man

By looking through a crystal at a pile of hot coals spread out on the compacted earth floor of a Hogan, Navajo medicine men are believed to be able to divine aspects of a patient's life and help them using prayer, chanting and blessing with sacred feathers and arrowheads. Still employed in contemporary Navajo society to heal both physical and mental ailments, traditional ceremonies are powerful expressions of the culture. Many medicine men will not treat non-Navajos, but a few will. Ask around and you may get lucky.

Sleep under the stars

For the ultimate Southwest fantasy, nothing beats riding out on horseback to camp in the backcountry, where you can roast corn on an open fire and listen to traditional Native American stories.

However, the real show begins when the stars come out stargazers lay on blankets and sleeping bags by the embers of a fire while the shining arms of the Milky Way swirl overhead.

Learn about Navajo rugs

Navajo rug weaving is one of the most intricate and beautiful of all the Native arts in the Southwest. Techniques are a closely guarded secret, passed from mother to daughter. The effort involved in making rugs is intense: a single three-to-five-foot rug can take more than 2,000 hours, or eight months, to produce.

Watch the sunset at an ancient cliff village

Sunset at an ancient cliff village
Built into an immense alcove in Betatakin Canyon, 60 miles east of Tuba City, Arizona, a beautifully preserved 13th-century Puebloan cliff village is the centerpiece of Navajo National Monument.

At dusk, the walls glow bright peach and light up a surrounding forest of pinion pines, yucca plants and giant Douglas firs. Short trails to scenic viewpoints include interpretive signage that offers insight into how ancient Puebloan people used everything the desert provided to thrive despite arid conditions. ( Src: CNN)


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