Indian Country and the Southwestern United States by DaveWyman
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Bison Skulls, Santa Fe
While some might call these buffalo skulls, don't do it around anyone who spends much time around a natural history museum. Buffalos are really, of course, the American bison, (Bison bison), the largest of terrestrial mammals on the North American continent.

Our trip ended in Santa Fe with a few hours of exploration of the colorful capitol of Santa Fe. Then it was time to head to Albuquerque and say goodbye to our participants.
Potterer at the Jemez Pueblo
Our Last Sunset in the Southwest
Self Portrait, Chaco
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Chaco Ruins in Silhouette
Ruins and Canyon Wall, Chaco
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Ruins and Clouds, Chaco
Chaco Canyon Window and Wall
Geology on Display at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
Chaco Canyon Ruins
Chaco Canyon was a major center of culture for the pueblo peoples between 900 AD and 1150 AD. The Chacoans quarried sandstone blocks and hauled timber from the distant flanks of mountains; they created 15 complexes, the largest buildings in North America until the 19th century.


Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a United States national historical park. The ruins of the building make up the most dense and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the Southwestern U.S.

The park, in northwestern New Mexico, sits between Albuquerque and Farmington, in a remote canyon cut by the Chaco Wash. The final 16 miles of road we took from the east side of the park were washboarded dirt. The effort reach Chaco, though, was worth it.
Fire in the Sky - Mesa Verde
In the morning, we thought the forest of burned trees we drove through was less than attractive. We changed our minds as we drove past the same trees at sunset.
Cliff Palace Moments After Sunset
Hopi Woman at Mesa Verde
We met a couple who, like us, were touring Cliff Palace. I overheard a snippet of conversation that had with the ranger, and realized the man and woman were Hopi – descendants of the Anasazi who built and inhabited Cliff Palace and the other cliff dwellings in the Southwest. The woman graciously posed for her photograph, and later, at my invitation, she and her friend joined us for dinner - another one of the serendipitous moments on the trip.
The Anasazi?
Rangers Shadow, Mesa Verde
Ranger Tour at Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde
We were on the last tour of the day, on the last tour of the year.
Still Life at Mesa Verde
Kiva Light - Mesa Verde
At Spruce Tree House, it is possible to descend on the ladder into a reconstructed kiva, the religious center of life for the Anasazi. Each extended family in the cliff dwellings in the Southwestern U.S. had their own kiva.

Pueblo peoples believe their ancestors emerged into the present world via an underground world. According to anthropologists and archeologists, the first Native Americans who became tethered to their land – rather than living as hunters and gatherers – dug simple shelters in the earth to keep them safer from the sometimes harsh elements of their surroundings.
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
We spent much of a day at Mesa Verde State Park, in the company of my friend from our college days, Elizabeth Bauer. Liz is the former curator of the natural history museum in the park.

Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling on the North American continent. Abandoned by 1300 AD, its inhabitants built and rebuilt the structures - homes and religious centers (kivas) from about 1190 through 1260 AD. Why the people - the Anasazi - came to live in the cliffs is not understood. Nor do we know why they left their homes, although the best guess is that they left because of overpopulation in the midst of a drought. We do know the Anasazi settled on the lands occupied now by the Hopi Pueblo people in Arizona, and by the people living in the various pueblos along the Rio Grande River in New Mexico.
Shiprock and Horse
I pulled our van off the highway, intending to park where we could juxtapose a collection of buildings against massive Shiprock. A better scene appeared when we came across a small herd of horses willing to pose for us.
Shiprock and Raven
According to geology, Shiprock is a 12 million year old volcanic plug. The 1700-foot high edifice is sacred to the Navajos; they all it "Tse Bi dahi," the Rock with Wings. The Navajo folk myth explains that Shiprock was once a giant bird that transported ancestral Navajos to their present home in New Mexico.

Anglos first named the peak "The Needle." United States Geological Survey maps show the name "Ship Rock" dates from the 1870s. The name most Anglos use now, "Shiprock," comes from the peak's resemblance to a 19th-century clipper ship.
Old Saddle
While admiring a color saddle, one of the Navajo men we met asked if I'd like to see an older one. It seems to fit in well with the general scene. The horse, of course, has been replaced by ubiquitous pick-up trucks on the Navajo Nation.
Father and Child Near Tsaile, Arizona
Mother with Child in Navajo Cradle Board
Our group photographed the Lukachukai Mountains; we were parked a little off the main road. Somewhat amazingly, a Navajo couple pulled off the highway to see if we needed help, and then invited us to photograph around their home, which was a combined ranch and tire repair shop.

Several members of an extended family made us feel at home, and one of the moms brought out her son, secured to a traditional Navajo cradle board.

What an unexpected treat! I've learned, after years of conducting small groups throughout the western U.S., to embrace the serendipitous encounter.

The wood from a Navajo cradleboard is reputedly made from the eastern side of a cedar or juniper tree unmarred by lightning. The head loop, bent like a rainbow, is supposed to keep the infant safe, while the backboard represents Mother Earth and Father Sky.

Babies are swaddled in cloth and held securely via ties of rawhide. Cradleboards keep infants safe until they are ready to crawl.
Sheep Near Tsaile, Arizona
Reservation Dog, Tsaile, Arizona
The View into the Window of Our Van
Roof Butte, at 9,823 feet in the Chuska Mountains, and rising above the community of Tsaile on the Navajo reservation, is framed in the window - and in a reflection - of our van.
The Sandstone Eye - On the Rim of Canyon de Chelly
A puddle of water in the slickrock reflects the sun along the north rim of the national monument.
Canyon de Chelly Still Life
Photographing Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly
Photograph by Jean Ray, my assistant on the trip.
Spider Rock, Grass Tufts, Canyon de Chelly
Spider rock is sandstone spire rising 800 feet from the canyon floor.

According to the Navajo, long ago monsters roamed the land and killed many people. Since Spider Woman loved the people, she helped Monster- Slayer and Child-Born-of-Water to search for their father, the Sun-God. He showed them how to destroy the monsters.

Because she saved the people, the Navajo made Spider Woman among their most important and gods. She chose the top of Spider Rock as her home. It was she who taught the Dine (the Navajo) the art of weaving upon a loom. And children are warned that if they are bad, Spider Woman will carry them up to her abode, where she will eat them.
Footbridge in Canyon de Chelly
Cliffs of Sandstone, Canyon de Chelly
The name Chelly (or Chelley,) is a Spanish borrowing of the Navajo word "Tséyi" which means "canyon" in the Navajo language. "Chelly" is pronounced, in English, as "shay," apparently modeled by English speakers after a French pronunciation of the word.

However it's pronounced, Canyon de Chelly one of the most spectacular places to visit in the Southwest, with it's mix of cliffs, Navajo farms, and the ruins of Anasazi cliff dwellings.
Friendly Dog, Canyon de Chelly
In Canyon de Chelly
While the larger scene dominates, there is beauty everyone in the canyon.
In Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona
The cliff walls and ancient ruins of three canyons – Canyon de Chelly, Canyon del Muerto and Monument - make up a unique U.S. National Monument unit, because it consists of land wholly owned by the Navajo Nation, evan as park matters are administered by the National Park Service.

We had a special tour into the bottomlands of the monument, because entrance to the canyon floor is restricted: visitors are allowed only in the company of a park ranger or an authorized Navajo guide (with the exception of the White House Ruin Trail).

Our tour was led by Victoria Began, who also operates the popular "Changing Woman" coffee house (with the only latte-making machine on the reservation).
Buffalo Horn Against the Sky, Hubble Trading Post
The Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is in Ganado, Arizona, on the Navajo reservation. Members of the Hubbell family operated the trading post until 1960, when it was sold to the National Park Service. Still in operation, a non-profit organization, Western National Parks Association, maintains the trading traditions established by the Hubbles long ago.
Entrance to Richardsons Trading Post, Gallup, New Mexico
Richardson's Trading Post, established in 1913, offers an almost dizzying array of exquisite Native American artwork. This elk head graces the entrance, (and a white bison stands in the Navajo rug room). We spent some time exploring the vast reaches of the building; in a way, it's a natural history museum.
Escape From Acoma
Jane makes her way down the "secret passage" from the mesa top at Acoma; most people choose the bus ride back to the cultural center, at the base of the mesa.
The Couple at Acoma (At the Cultural Center Below the Pueblo)
A trick of perspective makes it appear this sculpted couple are kissing - in reality, their lips are several feet apart.
Acoma Pueblo Man in Reflection
Our guide got into the spirit of our photography, and offered to include himself in reflection in one of the cisterns that hold rainwater for the Acomans.
Girl at Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico
Acoma Pueblo
At Acoma Pueblo
Faint Reflection of Marilyn at Acoma Pueblo
Kiva Ladder and its Shadow, Acoma Pueblo
Soaring Raven, Acoma Pueblo
The Common Raven (Crovis Corax) has served as a symbol of mythology and folklore. Residents sometimes refer to raves as the Acoma air force. Acomans also believe the Raven created the world as we know it.
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