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Friday, 01 March 2019

The People of the Four Sacred Mountains: The Navajo

Written by Jim Chamberlain
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They call themselves the Diné (Din Nay), the people. They have inhabited the Four Corners region of the United State for hundreds of years. Their traditional homeland is contained by four mountains they consider sacred. Mt Hesperus and Mt. Blanca in Colorado, The San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, and Mount Taylor in New Mexico. They currently occupy one of the largest reservations in the United States, but it only encompasses a portion of their traditional homeland.

Iconic places like Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, Window Rock, and Antelope Canyon attract visitors to view the beauty of Navajo land. It is the people and their culture which developed here that makes visiting here memorable. This land is like a giant church bounded by four sacred mountains, its landscape providing lessons to guide their lives. I look at a beautiful mesa and see a postcard while a Navajo might see a natural sculpture left by ancient gods reminding the Diné to live in peace.

“The People” are one of the most pragmatic and adjustable members of the Native American tribes that exist on the North American continent. They lived in maternal clans that had no central government until modern times. They were one of the only groups of Native Americans who were both herders, farmers, and hunter gatherers. While not having a warrior society or ethos they dominated their neighbors in the Four Corners region of the Southwestern United States with hit and run raids that enriched them with sheep and horses.

Their famous peach orchards in Canyon de Chelly and their abundant corn fields showed their talent as farmers which they learned from their Hopi neighbors. The Spanish brought sheep and horses to the Dinetah (Din Nay Tah), land of the Diné, in the 17th century. They soon became master horsemen and expert herders. They would move their herds across the vast landscape with the seasons. These remarkable people inhabit a stark, vast, and beautiful landscape that they are bonded to both in body and spirit.


Horse And Rider


I had the privilege of visiting and photographing members of the various clans that inhabit the Canyon de Chelly area of Arizona on a Arizona Highways PhotoScape with renown Navajo photographer and author Leroy DeJolie. Leroy stated “This is the center of the earth, and certainly the center of my heart. This is where my cultural values began.” The Navajo are friendly and open about sharing their culture and history with those who visit the many scenic places that dot their land. I was struck by how proud yet flexible they are. They are a people to be admired.


Leroy DeJolie And Adam Teller

Amazing wall art and petroglyphs are found all over the land beneath the sacred mountains. Some were painted by the Ancestral Puebloan People, formerly called the Anasazi, and some are more recent Navajo additions.


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Last modified on Tuesday, 09 April 2019

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