APR: Navajo Nation families maintain connections to park land
"Every spring and summer, after the winter thaw allows, about a dozen Navajo families still return to their old homesteads at the bottom of Arizona's Canyon de Chelly. The canyon has cradled human civilization for thousands of years. Early Puebloans, ancestors of the Hopis, built cliff dwellings high in the sandstone alcoves. And the canyon has been a sacred refuge to the Navajos for centuries.

In 1931, Congress authorized 84,000 acres — entirely on the Navajo Nation — as Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Lawmakers wanted to preserve the archaeological resources in the canyon. Today, about 80 extended Navajo families have usage rights at the canyon.

Those who live there reside on the rim, and a few, like Lupita McClanahan, still maintain family land down in the canyon.

It's about four miles of rough driving through deep sand to McClanahan's summer home. The farther up the creek bed you go, the higher the orange sandstone cliffs soar into the sky.

McClanahan unlocks the gate to her family's homestead. Her dark hair is pulled back into the traditional Navajo hair knot and tied with white yarn. In every possible way, she's trying to hold on to the traditions she learned growing up here. When McClanahan was a child, her family grew corn and had 200 fruit trees."

Get the Story:
Preserving Navajo History In Canyon De Chelly (Arizona Public Radio 6/24)