The largest U.S. Indian tribe, the Navajo Nation consists of more than 298,000 members, about 106,800 of whom live in New Mexico. The reservation includes approximately 27,000 square miles. Its boundaries extend from northwestern New Mexico into northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah, a combined area larger than many U.S. states.
Three smaller bands of Navajos are also located away from the main reservation boundaries at Alamo, To'hajiilee and Ramah. Key cities include Crownpoint, Shiprock, Alamo, To'hajiilee and Ramah. The capital of the Navajo Nation is Window Rock, AZ, located about 25 miles northwest of Gallup.
The Navajo people call themselves Diné, which in their own language, meaning "The People." The Spanish, it is believed, started using the term Navajo when they entered the Southwest. They have endured much suffering in their past, including the infamous Long Walk in 1860, when the U.S. Army forcibly marched more than 8,000 Navajos to Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner, where they were incarcerated for four years before being allowed to return to their homeland. The Navajos and the U.S. government signed the Treaty of 1864, creating the basis for relations still honored today.
Natural and Cultural Resources
The Navajo Nation is rich in natural and cultural resources. Major attractions include Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (435-727-5870) and Canyon de Chelly National Monument (928-647-5500) www.nps.gov/cach in Arizona and parts of Utah. View the Chuska Mountains and Church Rock (visible from Red Rock State Park near Gallup). Chaco Culture National Historical Park (505-786-7014) www.nps.gov/chcu, the Bisti Badlands and Shiprock Peak are also interesting sites to visit.
Camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing are allowed in various areas with a permit. For more information, call the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department at (928) 871-6647, or the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife at (928) 871-6451.
Art lovers will marvel at the sheer number of Navajo rugs, sand paintings, jewelry and other traditional crafts available throughout the reservation at various trading posts as well as at the tribally owned Navajo Arts & Crafts Enterprise stores, (928) 871-4090. Impressive Navajo silversmithing and dramatically patterned rugs and wall hangings are for sale at monthly auctions in Crownpoint (third Friday of each month) and elsewhere, (505) 786-7386.
Events and Attractions
In early October, Shiprock hosts the annual Northern Navajo Fair and Nightway Chant (Yei-Be-Chei Healing Ceremony). No recordings or photos are allowed at the ceremony. Also, visit the Four Corners Navajo Tribal Park, which has a visitor center, demonstration center, Navajo arts and crafts booths, picnic tables and restrooms. P.O. Box 2520, Window Rock, AZ 86515; (928) 871-6647, www.navajonationparks.org
The tribe also hosts the annual Fourth of July Celebration and PRCA Rodeo in Window Rock, as well as the Navajo Nation Fair, usually the Wednesday through Sunday following Labor Day. Billed as "The World's Largest American Indian Fair," the event features a multi-sanctioned All-Indian Rodeo, traditional Navajo food, song and dance, an intertribal powwow, concerts, parade, the Miss Navajo Nation Pageant and exhibits. Contact the Navajo Nation Fair Office at (928) 871-6478. www.navajonationfair.com
Other places of interest include the Navajo Nation Museum and Library, Ch'ihootso Indian Marketplace, Navajo Nation Zoo and the tribal headquarters, all located in Window Rock. The Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, (928) 755-3475, near Ganado, AZ, is also a fascinating place to visit and shop.
The Four Corners Navajo Tribal Park has a visitor center, demonstration center, Navajo arts and crafts booths, picnic tables and restrooms (928) 871-6647.
General information and a free Discover Navajo Visitor Guide are available through Navajo Nation Tourism, P.O. Box 663, Window Rock, AZ 86515, (928) 871-6436. www.DiscoverNavajo.com.