Canyon De Chelly National Monument

Canyon De Chelly Spider Rock

Located in northern Arizona, Canyon de Chelly National Monument has a rich history that is connected with the struggle between the United States government and the native peoples of the Southwest, most notably the Navajo and Hopi peoples.

Evidence of old Puebloan and Anasazi villages within the canyon walls suggests the area has been inhabited for more than 4,000 years. The Canyon de Chelly area, however, was a hotspot for strife and unrest in the nineteenth century.

As part of its mid-1800s westward expansion effort, the United States government illegally encroached upon Navajo territory in quest of farmland and natural resources. In response, the Navajo and U.S. forces came into conflict, which culminated in the “Long Walk” of 1864. The U.S. Army, led by Kit Carson, forcefully relocated thousands of Navajo from their traditional lands to a reservation in eastern New Mexico, a distance of more than 300 miles. Many Navajo people lost their lives on the long journey they were forced to make.

The remaining Navajo were granted access to a section of their ancestral territory, including Canyon de Chelly, when a treaty was reached in 1868. However, confrontations and more restrictions on the Navajo tribe’s rights and freedoms occurred throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s due to lingering tensions between the Navajo and the U.S. government.

The Navajo people have a deep and lasting relationship to the earth, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a living reminder of that. The Navajo Nation and the National Park Service work together to maintain the site, which serves as a museum and memorial to the tragic and complicated history of the United States’ treatment of indigenous peoples. 

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