featured image courtesy of Jakub Jasinski http://www.jakubjasinskiphotography.com/
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (national park within tribal territory) was established in 1959. It is an easily recognizable symbol of the American West. Its unique scenery was widely popularized by Hollywood movies, but this is not what this land is about. It is the sacred heart of the Navajo Nation, rich with history, culture, and spirituality. For that reason, I could not simply write about another cheerful memory from my vacation. Sometimes the past has to be brought up, even if it is difficult, just to show respect to the land and its people.
The Navajo is the largest tribe of all Native American Indians It is believed that it arrived in the Southwest between 800 and 1000 years ago. Navajos were known for being fierce warriors. By the 1860s, as more American settlers pushed westward, the Navajo were forced to fight back in order to maintain control of their land and their traditional way of life, but they were no match to the US army. What followed next was one the darkest chapters in American History, called the Long Walk to the Bosque Redondo. Thousands Navajos were forced to walk 300 miles to Fort Summer in eastern New Mexico. The journey took two months. Over two hundred Navajo died from cold and starvation. Bosque Redondo turned out to be nothing more that a prison camp. It was a complete failure of the US government to americanize the Navajo. Four years later, the plan was abandoned. Having endured overcrowded and miserable conditions at Bosque Redondo, the Navajo signed the historic U.S.-Navajo Treaty of 1868. In exchange for peace, they accepted a return of 10 % of their original land. They walked back to their wounded homeland and began their new struggle to survive.
I had mixed feelings approaching Monument Valley. I was excited to see this famous landmark, but on the other hand I was troubled by sad images along the road leading there. Scattered among fields of nothing but dust, there were single standing shacks which were obviously serving as peoples’ homes. For me, it was a reminder the Native American are still torned between their old way of life and challenges of today’s society. It was late afternoon when we arrived at the valley. First, we headed to our hotel, Goulding’s Lodge. I was impressed how perfectly it blended with its red rock surrounding. It is not a fancy hotel, but it is clean and offers all necessities, including a restaurant. (For those who enjoy a glass of wine, the restaurant does not serve any alcohol. I believe, there is no alcohol for sale within miles surrounding Monument Valley.) As soon as we settled in our room, we headed to see the valley.
The Navajo believe that everything on earth is alive and that spiritual and physical world blend together. They worship the winds, sun, and watercourses. For me, Monument Valley delivered just that. With the light of a setting sun, the red rocks came alive, and magnified their presence with variety of shadows. I was pulled into this scene not just by valley’s visual splendor but also by an overwhelming spiritual vibe. The peacefulness, the gentle breeze, and the blue sky took me to another place. I could almost hear the Indian music coming from behind the rocks. With only a few visitors in the far distance, the valley delivered an unforgettable intimate experience.
Later at night, I set on hotel’s balcony and watched the magnificent sunset close the day!