Adam Teller was our Navajo guide from Antelope House Tours as we descended into and traversed the canyon for nearly 4 hours. We listened as he shared ancestral stories and contemporary history of the people of the canyon. His perspective was particularly interesting as he holds degrees in anthropology and indigenous cultural studies and he had a fire in his belly about rewriting history through Navajo eyes.
We met his father and aunt, as many families still live and farm the canyon floor. The canyon has been deepening gradually, its floor eroding for 1000’s of years and now the remnant cliff dwellings are nestled in caves and niches at several distinct heights with clear waterlines that denote the timeline progression of cultural inhabitants. The highest levels still contain artifacts over 5000 years old. Adam laughs when he hears the question “how did people climb the sheer cliff faces to their dwellings?” and is rueful of the western anthropologist who replies that it was in order to create an effective defense against other tribes of Indians – making the women and children virtual prisoners in their own homes. And of course there is controversy about which tribes were the first and who displaced whom….but recent DNA research indicates that the Anzazi, Pueblo tribes and Navajo and all connected.
We were lucky enough to meet Kathryn who, after a career in business management, has begun farming the land of her ancestors and who sold us, from her own sheep and local plant dyes, two lovely hand carded, home dyed, hand spun and hand woven small rugs with traditional Navajo designs. Even in this modern day you can still find authenticity.
Later, as the sun set we skirted the rim of Canyon De Chelly and looked down upon the path we had traveled. What a day! What a saturation in ancestral culture as we continue crossing the more than a million square miles that is Navaho Nation. Thank you Adam.
PS. We have now had our third travel survival incident with someone running into our car in the carpark while we were with Adam deep in the canyon… not too serious… we found the Navaho Law Officer and made an official report and continued on our merry way…. Lets hope that is it!!!
Oh yeah… For all you fellow followers, while at Chinle we were lucky enough to catch the initial release of 3 episodes one after the other of series 4 of True Blood!!