The Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona and its people have a unique spirit, beauty and history unlike any other destination in Arizona. Not only does the land have a beauty all its own, its people do as well. The Navajo People are warm, kind, soft spoken and patriotic.
The splendid beauty of Navajo Reservation encompasses nearly 27,000 square miles. The majority of the nation is located in North-East Arizona, although parts of it cross over into New Mexico and Utah.
The key attractions of the Navajo Reservation include Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Navajo National Monument, Window Rock, Four Corners Monument, Petrified Forest National Park, the Bistri Badlands, Canyon de Chelly National Park, Monument Valley Tribal Park, Antelope Canyon and the Little Colorado River. Cultural Events include Pow Wows, dances, rodeos and the Navajo Nation American Indian Fair.
The Navajo Reservation is a combination of old and new. Many of the younger generation leave the reservation to pursue higher education or job opportunities elsewhere. Modern homes, hotels and medical facilities dot the reservation, but some still live in traditional Hogans, with no electricity or phone. We have been told you can still find a medicine man if you need one.
Your journey across these magical lands will take you through pine studded hills, where pine nuts (Pinions) are harvested, roasted in heavy cast iron pans, then sold in roadside stands. You’ll cross high plateaus of grass and wild flowers where grandmothers in traditional dress tend herds of sheep, travel deep into canyons, past ancient ruins built high on the cliffs for protection from enemies, and you may spend time in a valley of spires and spindle like rocks reaching to the sky, a place that looks more suited to mars than earth.
Traditionally, Navajo food is cooked on an open fire. Traditional wild plants as well as vegetables are used by the traditional cooks. For example, to add color to a dish, cedar brush is used. The traditional dress of the Navajo woman constitutes knee length moccasins, velvet or cotton skirt (pleated), blouse usually with long sleeves, a sash belt or Concho, shawl (if needed) and accessorized with Navajo jewelry. The traditional clothing is worn as a daily wear. The traditional clothing of men consists of moccasins, velvet shirts as well as jewelry. The cultural events of the Navajo Nation include Pow Wows, traditional dances (basket dance, fancy dance) as well as traditional songs and cooking competitions. The song and dance ceremony is called the “Enemyway Ceremony” and is considered as a major event. It is believed that this Enemyway Ceremony can relieve a patient who has fallen sick after going to war. Besides this, fishing, boating and hunting are favorite sports among the tourists as well as the Navajo natives. However, a permit needs to be obtained from the Navajo Fish and Wildlife Department to participate in these activities. With so much to do and explore, the Navajo Nation keeps vacationers coming for more fun and adventure.
From National monuments, scenic beauty and tribal parks, the Navajo Indian Reservation has it all!
Besides boasting of rich natural resources like coal, gas, oil and uranium; the Navajo Reservation has much more to offer the tourist. This includes 15 national monuments, historic locales, tribal parks and exquisite breath taking scenic views. Besides this, the Navajo Nation has various fishing lakes and ponds for people who love water sports. The scenic splendor of the Navajo Nation attracts nature lovers from all over the world, which also includes film and television producers, to film their movies in this picturesque land.
The native American art of this land is quite enticing as it is not only inherently unique but also showcases exquisite craftsmanship!
Navajo art is unparalleled and unique and distinctly showcases the skilled craftsmanship of the artisans. It is not just the Navajo jewelry that is gaining popularity. The Navajo rugs and blankets, Navajo pottery, the unique Navajo silversmithing, Navajo baskets all spell out the ethnic and traditional splendor of this land. The beauty of this native American art is fast gaining popularity, although many people are not aware of what exactly constitutes original Navajo crafts.
The “Squash Blossom Necklace” is a popular traditional jewelry item of this land, Although every jewelry item is unique in its design, the “Squash Blossom Necklace” is said to be one of the most traditional and unique jewelry items of Navajo Nation. This beautiful necklace, which is heavy with silver and turquoise, looks fabulous when worn with western clothing.
Concho belts are equally famous among both men and women. The Concho belts can either be worn as a ceremonial wear or even on daily basis. Among these, the “storyteller belt” possesses a unique design and distinctly exemplifies Navajo craftsmanship. Rug weaving again forms a good livelihood for the Navajo weavers, who spin their yarn from wool they raise, and color it with dyes extracted from local plants.
The beautiful and exquisite Navajo Jewelry clearly exemplifies the land’s skilled craftsmanship!
Across the reservation you will find small shops and roadside stands selling a variety of handmade jewelry and art, much of it by the artists themselves, who may allow you to watch them in action. You can find wonderful bargins by buying directly from the artists, however, if you are a novice at judging the quality or authenticity of fine jewelry, it is advisable to buy the Navajo jewelry from reliable and credible retailers, in order to avoid being sold imitation pieces of jewelry. Make sure that you buy from an established retailer who provides you with a written verification of authenticity. The Indians Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 makes it illegal to call jewelry or crafts Indian Jewelry if it is not, but this does not stop unscrupulous dealers from trying to make a quick buck with imitation jewelry. A good place to view and purchase art is the historical Hubbell Trading Post, which dates back to 1876, it carries the artists works and has a huge room filled with fine leather goods, from hats to boots. While you’re here try some Native American food at the restaurant, like Navajo Fry Bread or Mutton Stew!
The Navajo Reservation is home to World War II heros!
Until a recent movie, "Wind Talkers" starring Nicholas Cage came out, many people did not know that some of the most unsung heros of World War II were men from the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations in Northern Arizona. The "Code Talkers" as they were called, were instrumental in the allied victory. The Japanese were never able to decipher the Native American Language. Since the program was top secret, they never received the recognition they deserved.
The messages were decoded in order to decipher the coded message of the Navajo code talkers ???
This was of course not as simple as it sounds. The Navajo code talkers sent coded messages to the recipients who then translated the Navajo words into English and the first letter of each English word was used in order to decipher the coded message. This made the deciphering process a tad difficult because the various Navajo words could be translated into different English terms for the same letter. So, for example, for the letter "A," the Code Talker used "wol-la-chee" (ant), "be-la-sana," (apple), or "tse-nill" (ax). Similarly, the word “America” was coded as "Ne-he-mah" (Our mother) and Submarine was "besh-lo" (iron fish). An excellent tribute to the "Code Talkers" is on display in the Burger King in Kayenta.
A more recent Native American Hero is Lori Piestewa. She was killed in an ambush in Iraq while serving our country. A mountain in Phoenix (Piestewa Peak) has been named in her honor.
Navajo Nation Etiquette:
The Native American Indians are wonderful, patriotic, generous, hard working people. You may find when visiting the Navajo Nation that many of the Navajo's may seem reserved or unfriendly, this is not the case. If you spend any time on the reservation you will understand this is their culture, the Navajo people are humble and reserved. If you engage them in conversation you will find that they are warm, friendly and would enjoy talking with you. When visiting the reservation please respect their laws, as they are a soveriegn nation and have their own laws and Police. (state highways or freeways on the reservation are patrolled by the Arizona State Patrol) Alcohol is not allowed on the reservation. When traveling on the reservation please stay on marked roads and do not venture off road without permission. Before taking any photos of people, please get their permission. A small gratuity is appropriate for a photo. Be sure to ask your tour guides about their history and culture, they are happy to tell about it, and you will have a great learning experience.
Window Rock is the capital of the Navajo Nation. Its distinctive hole in the rock oversees the city. Every year in September the Navajo Nation holds the Worlds Largest American Indian Fair in Window Rock. More than 100,000 people from around the world attend this event. The fair includes a parade, Indian Rodeo, lots of food, ag and livestock exhibits, dancing and the Miss Navajo Nation competition. If you have never visited the Navajo Nation, this would be a great addition to your visit.
The future of the Great Navajo Nation Indian Reservation:
The beauty and splendor of Navajo Nation is distinctly spectacular and is definitely worth exploring. The historical and ethnic heritage of Navajo Nation is also worth delving into. Plans are in progress to strengthen and develop its tourism, which will also help in strengthening and revitalizing its economy.
The Navajo Nation is striving to attain its financial self-sufficiency. Towards this end, the “Navajo Tourism Master Plan" was formulated which will also help creating at least 5,000 jobs. With its rich traditional history and fascinating scenery, Navajo Nation will continue to gain favoritism, climbing the rungs of a hot tourist destination.