Monday, February 16, 2015

Arizona's Canyon de Chelly...

Seven hundred feet below rim of Canyon de Chelly, Navahos still farm, carrying on a tradition thousands of years old.
Navaho family in front of traditional hogan, circa 1927...photo courtesty Northern Arizona University.

In spring  about a dozen Navajo families still return to their old homesteads at the bottom of Arizona's Canyon de Chelly. (pronounced dee chea).  For thousands of years various tribes have lived and farmed the canyon; the most recent, Navahos, have used it for centuries. In 1931, Congress authorized 84,000 acres — entirely on the Navajo Nation — as Canyon de Chelly National Monument.  Today, about 80 extended Navajo families have the right to use the canyon.

Lupita McClanahan stands inside a structure at bottom of Canyon de Chelly...photo courtesy Daniel Kraker, NPR
Most reside on the rim, but a few, like Lupita McClanahan, still reside, at least part time, within the canyon. Her aim is to hold on to the traditions she learned growing up here; when her family grew corn and maintained 200 fruit trees.

"When you pick a peach you drop it in the bucket — dong, dong, dong — and the sound of it is still with me today."
But 50 years later, just a few trees still bear fruit. Extended drought has driven many farmers to the ease of life on the rim.
McClanahan's home is a traditional octaganal Hogan with an east facing door, dirt floor and log walls chinked with mud. To supplement the farming, she and her husband, Jon, operate a guide service in the canyon.

Lupita McClanahan, wearing a traditional Navajo hair knot tied with white yarn, in a shelter her husband built.
Wilson Hunter, deputy park superintendent, grew up here, too. "Everything was there we needed," Wilson says, "If we needed water you just start digging with your hand along the side of the wash. Get a little hungry, go to the cornfield and get some corn and just build a fire, and we roast 'em."

...text adapted from NPR article.


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