Author(s): Jessica Christie

Year: 2017


My paper will discuss how the Navajo construct Canyon de Chelly as a quintessential place on the reservation. The canyon has been occupied at least since Basketmaker times in the first centuries A.D.. Archaeological investigations have identified Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings from roughly 700 to 1300A.D. followed by a brief Hopi presence. Navajo people began to settle Canyon de Chelly in the late 1700s. Unlike the Ancestral Pueblos, the Navajo lived on the canyon bottom and reused some of the facilities of their predecessors for storage. They also added their rock art to earlier panels.

What makes Canyon de Chelly a quintessential place unlike other historical sites on the reservation are the rich oral narratives populated by the ancestral Holy People, which claim the canyon as Navajo intangible heritage. I will analyze these processes through White House ruins and Spider Rock where archaeological materials and ceremonial knowledge have been dynamically linked to construct a decidedly Navajo political history. The argument that the Navajo have been in the canyon as long as their spiritual ancestors, the Holy People, has been used in land claims cases. Canyon de Chelly is being reinvented as quintessential place in spiritual, political, and economic contexts.

Cite this Record

NAVAJO LANDSCAPE CONSTRUCTION AT CANYON DE CHELLY: A QUINTESSENTIAL PLACE. Jessica Christie. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430908)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15341