Canyon de Chelly National Monument has been called home for several different groups spanning thousands of years. First came the Archaic hunter-gatherers, then the Basketmakers, followed by Ancestral Puebloans, the Hopi and finally the Navajo. It comprises several canyons; but, the two featured were Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto.
The monument is within the Navajo Nation and considered a Tribal Park. It protects several ruins, the canyon floor, and the surrounding landscape. Some Navajo families still farm and raise sheep down in the canyon where conditions are cooler and wetter.
A driving tour takes you to several overlooks of places of significance. Antelope House is so named due to the prehistoric paintings of antelope on the walls adjacent to the cliff dwelling ruins.
Archeologists discovered two mummies buried below the ruins, thus the name. It is one of the largest and best preserved, and believed to have been inhabited for the longest period. It also accounts for the title Canyon del Muerto where the ruins were found.
In 1805, a Spanish military expedition went into the canyon attempting to force the Navajo to accept foreign settlements on their territory. A battle took place and 115 natives were killed when they took refuge at this place.
The fortress is a tall formation that stands apart from the surrounding cliffs. It was used by the Navajo to defend or escape attack by other natives, the Spanish, and the American cavalry. They inserted pegs into the steep walls to climb up which were removed as they moved upward; thus, preventing anyone from following.
A recreated traditional Navajo home, called a Hogan, was built on the Visitor Center grounds. It was furnished as it might be. A native explained the history of the structure, the traditions about it, and how it was used by a family. Hogans are considered central to their way of life, and most families still have one; even if they have a more modern home too.
Camp: Canyon de Chelly NM-Cottonwood CG (NN)
Scene: Pueblo ruins, canyons
Also see: Canyon de Chelly – South