This photo was taken in Canyon de Chelly (pronounced ‘Shay’) National Monument in northeastern Arizona. The hogan is the primary traditional home of the Navajo people. In the past they were round and cone-shaped, but now they are typically octagonal with the door facing east to welcome the rising sun, as well as good fortune. Today, while some older hogans are still used as dwellings and others are maintained for ceremonial purposes, new hogans are rarely intended as family dwellings. This particular hogan is located in the canyon bottom. The setting is beautiful, and I was struck by the contrast between the old building and the tire leaning against the side. (Click pic for larger image)
The canyon is situated in arid high country and lies entirely within the Navajo Nation reservation. Starting with the original inhabitants, the Anasazi, there is a rich history of human habitation in the canyon going back 1,500 years or so. The canyon covers about 84,000 acres and there are multiple old cliff and canyon bottom dwelling sites, and today the canyon continues to be home for Navajo families.
Over the years the canyon has been the site of many explorations and exploitations. In the early 1,900’s looting of archeological sites was commonplace and Canyon de Chelly became a magnet for both collectors and plunderers, from individual and institutional pot-hunting raids, to legitimate, extensive archeological survey and excavation projects. Charles Day and his son Sam built a trading post at nearby Chinle in 1902. The U.S. Department of Interior appointed the elder Day caretaker of Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto in 1903, which offered an excellent opportunity to excavate and remove artifacts from many sites. In 1906, the Days sold a large collection to the Brooklyn Museum of Natural History, where it has occasionally been exhibited since. That same year the American Antiquities Act was passed, finally providing statutory protection for Southwest antiquities and nurturing the infant scientific discipline of responsible archeology.
The only way to see the canyon bottom today by vehicle is to either travel with a guide or park ranger, or take one of the available canyon tours. We chose the latter, which left from nearby Thunderbird Lodge. We bounced along in a venerable old 6-wheel all wheel drive transport which had been converted to a tourist hauler. The half-day tour was bumpy, but our driver/guide Ron was both knowledgeable and entertaining. There were frequent stops for photo opportunities and leg-stretching – the history and amazing scenery made the trip well worth while. There are also roads which skirt the top of the canyon and several scenic lookouts offering amazing views in all directions.