VISITING THE NAVAJO NATION - Native tour and photo essay
Horseshoe Bend in Paige Arizona on the Navajo Reservation. ©Tachiinii Photography
Published July 9, 2019
Editor’s Note: This article was first published by Medium.com. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Last week, I took a road trip back home to the Navajo Nation with my friend AJ. As I shared with AJ, my tribal reservation is considered the largest in the United States and it covers three states: Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. This trip, I decided to visit a few Navajo Nation landmark places that I, as a tribal member have never visit — at all.
We left Los Angeles around 4 am and decided to drive through Las Vegas, take a short stop at Zion’s National Park then down into Paige, Arizona. As we got closer we saw blue among the red mesas, Yes! We were near Lake Powell, which meant we would be driving towards Glen Canyon Dam.
Glen Canyon Dam, Paige Arizona on the Navajo Reservation ©Tachiinii Photography
Glen Canyon Dam, Paige Arizona
The Glen Canyon Dam has a dark history with the Navajo people. I know that some of my relatives were forced to relocate when construction started in the 1940s. I also heard that many Navajo’s died while working on the Dam. More information can be shared here: Glen Canyon Dam
Our next stop was visiting Antelope Canyon — a place I always wanted to visit and got more familiar with due to Instagram. All my life I heard about the canyon, but didn’t know the beauty of this canyon- and it was on my reservation. If you decide to visit, you’ll have to make reservations (funny saying that). Please book with my friends’ family touring company called Ken’s Tours: Lower Antelope Canyon — they are amazing and so helpful with booking a tour. Oh yeah, forgot to mention there are two types of tours; lower and upper. I had heard that the lower tour was better so we decided to do the lower tour.
Antelope Canyon — Lower Canyon ©Tachiinii Photography
Antelope Canyon, Paige Arizona
Our tour guide happened to be a Navajo woman who I found out is related to me through our Navajo clan system. (I’m starting to feel like – I’m home) All the tour guides at Antelope Canyon are filled with so much information about the canyon; the culture, the history, details to the canyon, etc… trust me, you’ll enjoy the tour.
Note: You cannot film while touring the canyon, but you can take pictures. Also, try to take a water container that latches to your pants — you will thank me as you’ll be climbing up and down very narrow stairs. You cannot take backpacks during the tour, only a phone, a camera, and water are allowed. (FYI: Tip your tour guide, they will provide a ton of information, suggest settings with your camera, and even take photos of you)
Antelope Canyon, Paige Arizona
Our tour at Antelope Canyon was about an hour. The next stop was visiting a little area behind Big Lake Trading Post called “Navajo Village.” If you want to see traditional dwellings and learn a bit more about my culture, please stop by Navajo Village. The woman there (forgot her name) is very sweet.
Next up on our tour of Navajo was Horseshoe Bend which is about 5 miles away. The city now charges to park there — it was $10. I heard there is a shuttle, but we didn’t have time to research, so we paid the $10 to park. Once you park, you’ll have to hike a little to get to Horseshoe Bend, so take some water with you. Once you reach the location you will see something so unreal in the desert.
Horseshoe Bend, Paige Arizona ©Tachiinii Photography
Yes, it is breathtaking and a bit scary. (Did I mentioned I was afraid of heights?) Well, if you are too — you now have been warned. I was hyperventilating when I saw people taking selfies for their social media accounts, including my friend AJ.
All I will say is please BE CAREFUL the sandstone can crumble at anytime.
AJ and I at Horseshoe Bend, Paige Arizona
After a day of hiking, learning about Navajo Culture and visiting sites we started our drive towards Flagstaff to the Twin Arrows Navajo Casino and Hotel, which I highly recommend. Trust me, after hiking in the hot sun for over 3 hours and driving all day through California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona it is worth staying in a comfortable hotel. At the hotel, I ran into a friend (yes, Navajo’s are everywhere and I seem to run into one everywhere — I love being Navajo).
I love this hotel, and I hope you will to. While we stayed here, my friend AJ learned a bit more about my culture and he also tried a few different dishes of traditional Navajo food — which we both had for dinner and breakfast.
Twin Arrow Navajo Casino and Hotel, Flagstaff, Arizona
Sadly, we were only able to stay one night at Twin Arrows, but it was well worth it — as we were able to re-charge for our next adventure. While at the hotel, I highly suggest walking around and check out the beautiful southwest artwork. Also, there are signs all around providing information about the Navajo culture that ties into the structure of the hotel – it’s very interesting. Lastly, most of the art displayed throughout the hotel are from local Navajo artist.
Our next stop — Monument Valley, Arizona which is about a 3 hours drive toward the Utah, Arizona border. The drive was a bit long, and the temperature was definitely rising. So be prepared, it’s hot, dry and windy. Drink plenty of water, have lotion as your skin will dry up fast. Keep applying sunscreen as it was a scorching hot day that reached 108.
Monument Valley, Arizona ©Tachiinii Photography
This location is famous — it’s where many Classic Hollywood Westernswere filmed. They do offer group tours into the valley, but we didn’t take any tours — only pictures and we did take a tour within the gift shop. Oh yeah, if you are looking for the Forrest Gump site — where he stops running, from the movie: Forrest Gump it’s about 20 mins away on the Utah side. Check it out if you have time, we didn’t, but we will next time around.
AJ and I looking fabulous at Monument Valley, Arizona.
Next stop the Four-Corners and Shiprock New Mexico.
Four Corner: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico
We made it to the Four Corners and it was still hot and windy. It took us about an hour and 45 mins to get to four-states. The Four-Corners Monument is pretty small, but it does have local Navajo vendors selling artwork and memorabilia. To my surprise, I ran into another Navajo friend I hadn’t seen in years. (I think I shocked my friend AJ by seeing another Navajo friend hee-hee). Get your selfie by standing on all four states, it will be a great story to share and post on Instagram.
We got back on the road after a quick visit and tour. By now we’ve been on the road for over 6 hours. Our next place where we are staying is in Red Valley, Arizona where my family lives. On the way, we stopped in Shiprock, New Mexico where I grew up and went to high school.
Nighttime in the desert was amazing (billions of stars) if you love star-gazing you’ll love the Navajo Reservation. We started our day early and visit with the family in Red Valley, Arizona, but we had to get back on the road as we have an agenda to stick with, we needed to get to Window Rock, Arizona by 10 am.
Window Rock, Arizona ©Tachiinii Photography
We drove through Buffalo’s Pass, gave a morning offering to the creator, and I showed AJ Wheatfields Lake and campsite near Chinle. After 2 hours of site seeing the Lukachukai, and Chuska Mountains we finally got to Window Rock, Arizona, our Navajo Nation Capital where we planned to stay for the next few days. You will see why when you read my next article Diné Pride so look out for that article coming up soon.
After five days on the Navajo Nation Reservation, we started our journey back to Los Angeles. Next time around we will be visiting, Canyon de Chelly Chaco Canyon and the Anasazi Indian Ruins in Colorado, Aztec and Flagstaff area. I’ll also have to visit my relatives at Second Mesa on the Hopi Reservation. (missed them this time around)
I HOPE YOU ENJOYED OUR PHOTOS FROM OUR TRIP.
One last thing… we took I-40 and made a pit stop in Winslow Arizona to visit “Standin’ on the Corner” ya know the song by the Eagles “Take it Easy.”
Take the stop and get your selfie, then afterward walk down a block and check out the amazing murals by some native artist including Yancey Katoney. You’ll love the murals and the old town feeling. Check my Instagram of Yancey work at Tachiinii Photography.
“Standin’ at the Corner” in Winslow, Arizona
AS THE SONG GOES… TAKE IT EASY AND ENJOY THE SOUTHWEST ROUTE 66 THROUGH THE NAVAJO NATION.
Good bye and thank you in the Navajo language.