Monday, May 2, 2016

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

The name chelly (or Chelley) is a Spanish borrowing of the Navajo word Tséyiʼ, which means "canyon" (literally "inside the rock" < tsé "rock" + -yiʼ "inside of, within"). The Navajo pronunciation is [tsay-yuh]. The Spanish pronunciation of de Chelly [chay-yee] was adapted into English, apparently through modelling after a French-like spelling pronunciation, and now is Canyon Duh Shay.

Located in NW Arizona, within the Navajo Nation, the canyon is a marvelous carving accomplishment, thank you Nature. The name history above is thanks to Wikipedia. Within oversight by the Navajo Nation, access to the canyon is by guide only. Our Jeep tour was just Cathy and I, our guide, James Yazzie, and the beat up, dusty and muddy vehicle. It was great. The canyon is unique in its completely sandy bottom. Wide for the lower part becoming narrow as you drive deeper into the rising canyon walls. It is Springtime and the floor wash area was flowing in a shallow stream. We drove in that most of the tour as the sandy floor is very firm. The canyon is all sandstone. Interesting that it was once sand which was naturally processed into stone and since has been returning to sand. People have lived here continuously since the Anazazi. Some remains of their cliff dwellings exist. James Yazzie’s family owns land in the main, wide, “residential” area and has for many generations.  We drove by four of his family’s ranches. One owned by his 102 year old aunt. There is no electricity or running water and the canyon is unoccupied in winter. In season, there is much agriculture and livestock ranching. James was quite full of himself and we learned pretty much about all his life’s accomplishments during our 3 hour tour. He was the type who just talks with many repeats. Any of our comments were met with a yeh or an um and he was off yacking away again. He was weak on geography but good at canyon history and we did learn about the cultural history of the canyon. Such as how his ancestors would hunt deer by chasing on horseback until the deer was exhausted and collapse then they would suffocate it using corn meal flour. This was so they could have the hide intact with no puncture marks to use for clothing, etc. After each kill they would hold a ceremony to thank The Great Spirit for the gifts that the animal provided. They used all of it. Bones for tools, certain organs for water bags, etc. I guess the ceremony was kind of like our saying grace at table but making a party out of it.  On our ride out of the canyon we caught up with some wild horses and they galloped beside us for a bit, splashing in the shallow water. That was great.  

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