keeping with the Navajo tradition, seven little people woke up before
sunrise on April 22, to leave Leupp Schools Inc. at 5 a.m. for the
heart of Navajoland. By 9 a.m. (MDT), they boarded the six-wheeled
jeep that took them on an incredible journey into the past at Canyon
young energetic Navajo man, Davison Descheny, served as the guide,
driver and chaperone. Along the way, he disclosed the significant
and sorrowful events of the canyon's history that related to
the Navajo. This unforgettable excursion helped the Talented and
Gifted (TAG) students in second and third grades attain new information
about their own history and culture.
Benally, a park ranger added that, "when Canyon de Chelly was
established as a National Monument in 1931, consideration was made
in favor of the Navajo people; that is, to leave Canyon de Chelly
as Navajo land and not public land as most National Park units are.
is a resident community that uses the canyon floor for farming,
grazing and daily living. Therefore, entering Canyon de Chelly is
considered trespassing on private property. Permission to enter
the canyon is granted through hiring an authorized guide and obtaining
the necessary backcountry permit. Archaeological and sacred sites
have greater protection with this system."
the Spanish arrived here, the Pueblos called our ancestors, Navajo.
So in their records, the Spanish recorded that word to refer to
our people. Navajo is a Tewa Indian word meaning "People of
the cultivated fields." Therefore, Navajo is not a Spanish
word, according to Canyon de Chelly National Monument signage.
Kit Carson first entered Canyon de Chelly in 1863, Barboncito took
his band of 300 Navajo men, women and children to the top of "Tsélá"
or Fortress Rock. At the very top, they used three ladder poles
to climb up. They pulled up the poles to keep the enemies from following
them. Stocking up on dried meat, peaches, corn, prickly pears and
pinon nuts to last for three months, they eluded capture. At night,
they used yucca rope to climb down the steep canyon wall to get
drinking water. The soldiers never heard the Navajos get water.
and the U.S. soldiers that entered Canyon de Chelly destroyed and
burned Navajo hogans, food supplies, fruit trees, animals and natural
spring. Carson's scorched earth campaign forced the surrender
of 12,000 Navajo people, which led to the tragic event known as
"The Long Walk" to Hwééldi or Fort Sumner,
N.M. Following military roads, the Navajos walked 10-15 miles per
day to cover more than 300 miles. Hwééldi is for the
Spanish word, "fuerete," which means a strong place like
or Hástii Dágháá (Man with the Mustache)
born in 1820, was from the Sliding House area of Canyon de Chelly
according to Gary Henry, a Navajo silversmith at the Canyon de Chelly
National Monument Visitor Center. Henry lives in that same area
of the canyon. Barboncito belonged to the Ma`ii deeshgiizhnii (Coyote
Pass) clan. He died in 1871 at the age of 51. As a very important
Navajo leader, he negotiated the peace treaty at Hwééldi.
General William Sherman wanted only one Navajo Leader to negotiate
the peace treaty, Barboncito was selected. Together, these two men
including Jesus Arviso and James Sutherland drafted the Peace Treaty.
Barboncito spoke Navajo to Jesus Arviso, the interpreter for Barboncito,
who then translated what Barboncito said into Spanish to James Sutherland.
James Sutherland could speak Spanish and English. He was the English
interpreter for Gen. Sherman.
June 1, 1868, 29 Navajo leaders signed the Peace Treaty of 1868
with the U.S. Government. This treaty allowed the release of about
8,000 surviving Navajos from Hwééldi on June 18, after
four long years of affliction. Their homeland was now called the
Navajo Reservation. On the return trip, when the Navajo people saw
familiar landmarks, they cried. Some died from absolute jubilation.
The Navajos arrived home in late July 1868.
was a Mexican captive. At age 13, a Navajo family traded him for
a black horse from the Apaches. They called him "Bi'éé'lizhini"
or Black Shirt, and gave him a Navajo clan, Áshihíí
(Salt). He was bilingual in Spanish and Navajo.
people called him "Adits'a'ii" or Interpreter.
When the U.S. soldiers came to Navajo land in the early 1860s, Arviso
became an interpreter for the Navajo headmen. He spoke to the soldiers
in Spanish, who then translated what Arviso said into English and
went on the Long Walk to continue interpreting for the Navajo people
at Hwééldi. For this reason, he was an important man.
Jesus retired in 1884, when Henry Chee Dodge became the first Navajo
both men experienced life at Hwééldi; Chee Dodge was
only 4 years old when he arrived there. After witnessing many changes
and development on Navajo land, Arviso died in 1923 at his home
in Tohatchi, N.M.
Link, a former director of the Navajo Tribal Museum for 18 years,
describes that at Hwééldi, they baked bread for Navajo
families. Navajo men would line up to get loaves of bread to take
to their respective families. However, before getting home, it was
all consumed. And families went hungry.
resolution of the problem led to the birth of fry bread when the
Spanish women taught the Navajo women how to make hot bread. Rather
than making square-shaped sopapillas, Navajo women made round bread,
in the shape of the frying pan.
Rock is a spire about 800 feet tall. According to Navajo belief,
Spider Woman lived at the top of Spider Rock. They also say this
is the place where she taught the Navajos how to weave rugs. For
that reason, Spider Rock is very special and a sacred site.
winter of 1805, Antonio Narbona led the Spanish Conquistadors into
Canyon de Chelly. It was a punitive expedition to punish the Navajos
for raiding and taking Spanish slaves.
a Navajo woman yelled at them in Spanish, "You are not welcomed
here. Go away."
this woman was a former Spanish slave and had learned to speak Spanish.
She had managed to escape from her captors and returned home to
Canyon de Chelly. At this point, the Spanish began shooting at the
Navajos hidden in an alcove high up in the canyon wall.
of the Spanish climbed up to the alcove. A bold Navajo woman struggled
with him and fell down the canyon taking the Spanish with her. Accordingly,
the Navajos called this place, "Adah aho' doo' nili"
or Two Who Fell Off. A rock art at the Standing Cow Ruin depicts
the coming of these Spanish into Canyon del Muerto. Two white dots
above the Spanish riders represent the two days of fighting.
aftermath resulted in the massacre of 115 Navajo babies, children,
women and grandparents. Unaware, the young warriors were away on
a hunting trip in the Lukachukai Mountain. An old man who survived
the attack covered himself with dead bodies to hide from the Spanish.
At night, he left to tell the others about what had happened.
oral history has been passed on, which we learned about. Today,
this place is known as the Massacre Cave.
Canyon de Chelly are examples of Anasazi, Hopi and Navajo rock art
including a flute player, horsemen, deer, antelope, a Standing Cow,
painted hands, snakes and other significant symbols.
and petrogylph are the two types of rock art found in Canyon de
Chelly. Petroglyph is a Greek word that means carved rock. "Petro"
means rock and "glyph" refers to carving. As such, petrogylph
is a word used to describe pictures and symbols carved into the
rocks by the ancient people. Pictographs are rock paintings using
powdered rock/sand, blood, charcoal and other things.
Francisco Coronado led the Spanish Conquistadors into the Southwest
searching for the "Seven Cities of Gold," only to find
pueblos made of mud and stones. In 1598, Juan de Oñate and
his army moved into present-day New Mexico and settled along the
Rio Grande River. They brought livestock and tools like hammers,
axe, saw, hoes, lanterns and seeds in wagons.
Navajos wanted those things the Spanish had. Soon, they met. As
a result, Spanish had strongly influenced and changed the Navajo
culture and language. We soon began raising horses, sheep, goats
and cattle. We also learned the art of silversmith from them. Today,
Navajo silversmiths continue to make beautiful Navajo jewelry.
Spanish words are a part of the Navajo language for money and food.
Examples: "alóós" for rice; "gíinsi"
for 15 cents; and "dimííl" for a million;
"mondigíiya" for butter; "másí"
for cat; "yáál" for rial; and "wéeno"
for bueno. There are many more adopted Spanish words.
Navajo leaders had Spanish surnames because they were easier to
pronounce and write than their Navajo names. To this day, many Navajos
still have Spanish surnames such as Mariano, Herrera, Arviso, Chatto,
Jesus, Sandoval, Willeto and others.
Begay is Talented and Gifted teacher at Leupp Schools Inc.)