Monday, May 27, 2013


It was an eventful weekend in beautiful Canyon de Chelly (Friday-Sunday, May 24-26) for the members of the 2013 Navajo Oral History project.

Nizhoni is the Navajo word for beautiful. That is an appropriate word for Canyon de Chelly. The canyon consists of two main sections: Canyon Del Muerto to the north, and Canyon de Chelly to the south. Both are part of the Canyon de Chelly National Monument that is part of the U.S. National Park Service. At the same time, the canyons serve as home to many Navajo families who have lived and farmed the land in and around the canyon for hundreds of years.

Our group is fortunate to have a great relationship with the Lettie and Flemen Nave family who have land at the junction of the two main canyons. The land has been in Lettie's family since before the days of Kit Carson and the U.S. Cavalry's incursion into the area.

The 2013 NOH participants started their weekend in the canyon by meeting the Naves at the Canyon's visitor's center and then went on an aggressive hike down Yei Trail on Friday morning. This is a very old trail with hand and footholds cut into the rock. In some places, a metal bar or cable has been affixed to the rock to aid climbers. 

(above photo by Nik Strand)

(above two photos by Skylar Ogren)

(The above photo is one of the blog editor's favorites, because it shows that he is actually wearing his knee brace while hiking in the canyon -- his wife will be pleased. photo by Whitney Harlos)

(above photo by Nik Strand)

The next five photos are neat canyon images by Madison Duncan:

Below are six more images of the canyon and the group by Brett Gustafson:


Students explored the shallow caves in the canyon wall at the Nave Camp.
(above photo by Whitney Harlos)

(above two photos by Darin Strohmenger)

On the canyon floor, it was a short hike to the Nave Camp and some snacks before hiking out to White House Ruins. There, the group viewed ancient Anasazi ruins and looked over the table of arts and crafts vendors in the area.
(above: White House Ruins, by Whitney Harlos)

Lunch at the Nave Camp was followed by an education program on the history of people who inhabited the canyon over the centuries, led by Flemen Nave. He showed stone artifacts he's collected on his many hikes through the canyon, including stone axe heads, knives, grinding stones and other tools.

(above photo by Elise Nelson)

Lettie Nave then gave a presentation on her life. She talked about her great-grandfather who was born two years after The Long Walk, when thousands of Navajos were forced by the U. S. Cavalry in 1864 to walk 450 miles from their ancestral homelands to Bosque Redondo, now known as Fort Sumner in New Mexico. Hundreds died along the way. Thousands more perished during the four years of forced relocation before the Treaty of 1868 allowed them to return to their land within the four sacred mountains.

Lettie also talked about her parents, and the challenge they endured when Lettie was born at Christmastime in the canyon following a snowstorm. She described her 11 siblings and how each prospered and how several have come back to live in the canyon with their families. 

(above photo by Elise Nelson)

(above: Lettie Nave, by Whitney Harlos)

A delicious dinner, prepared by Lettie, Flemen and their daughters: Becky and Kay, featured Navajo Tacos. The students helped by making frybread which served as taco shells to be filled with ground beef, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and cheese.

Following dinner, Lettie taught the group the Navajo Stick game. Two rounds of the game were fun and exciting. In both cases, a player staged an amazing come-from-behind victory: Tom Hays in the first game; Miranda Haskie in the second.

In the next two pictures, Skylar Ogren scored a neeznah' (10 points). He was very excited.

(above four photos by Robbie Christiano)

Tom Hays won the first game and received congratulations all-around and a Navajo bracelet as a prize.

Prof. Miranda Haskie won the second game.

Later in the evening, the group hung around the fire, played games and eventually went to their tents to get a good night's sleep before the next day's hikes and activities.

Here are photos of a group of students playing the Ninja Game. The blog editor doesn't understand the game, but the students sure seem to have fun with it.

(above three photos by Elise Nelson)

Several of the WSU students in the group decided to forego their tents and instead sleep on sleeping bags outside, under the stars, in a small box canyon just above the Nave Camp. They had a small camp fire and enjoyed each other's company and the beautiful nature of one of America's truly beautiful places: Canyon de Chelly National Monument, on the Navajo Nation.

 (above six photos by Darin Strohmenger)

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