Historic Watchtower Becomes Gathering Place
Grand Canyon National Park’s famous Watchtower at Desert View was designed by architect Mary Colter in 1933 “to introduce the depths of Native culture to the traveler.” Colter modeled the 80-foot tower after the architecture of the Ancestral Puebloan people, and Hopi artist Fred Kabotie filled it with stunning murals of Hopi life.
In 2015, tribes who have used the canyon as a gathering place since ancient times repurposed the Watchtower from a visitor center to an inter-tribal cultural heritage site. The tribes now gather for public cultural demonstrations, celebrations, elder and youth programs, authentic tribal interpretive programs, and just to be “home” again. Visitors can share and learn about the tribes’ rich cultural heritage while experiencing the breathtaking landscape that gave birth to Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, Havasupai, Hualapai, Yavapai-Apache and Southern Paiute.
Westbound Route 66 travelers enter the vast Navajo, or Diné, Nation before leaving New Mexico. The 27,000 square mile reservation stretches from northwestern New Mexico into southeastern Utah and northern Arizona. Route 66 westbound enters the jurisdiction of the Navajo Nation before dropping south of Navajo lands near Holbrook, Arizona.
The Navajo Nation has the largest land area of any tribe in the U.S. and more people speak Navajo at home than any other American Indian language. A side trip north on New Mexico Highway 491 from the east side of Gallup followed by a turn west onto 264, will take you on a day trip to visit the Navajo capital of Window Rock and some significant sites.
In 1864, more than 8,000 Navajo (Diné in their language) men, women and children were forced on a 400 mile march from their northwestern homelands to the Bosque Redondo Reservation, located east of Gallup, New Mexico. Walking in harsh winter conditions, approximately 200 died of cold and starvation. More perished after arriving to the desolate reservation.
Known as Hwéedi: Naaltsoos Sáni’, the Long Walk, this journey was the Navajo Trail of Tears. The Diné were imprisoned until June 1, 1868 at Fort Wingate, when Navajo leaders signed an agreement to confine their people to a designated reservation area and cease raiding activities.
Easily visible from Route 66, Fort Wingate was decommissioned in 1912. In 1925, the site was used for an Indian school. During World War II, it was used as a military munitions storage center – and it was here that the famous Navajo Code Talkers trained. If you look closely, one can still see the small munition bunkers dotting the landscape south of Route 66.
Fort Wingate is approximately 12 miles southeast of Gallup, NM. To reach it, take Interstate 40 exit 33 for Highway 400 toward McGaffey; the fort will be visible along the road after it reaches the mountains. Historic Fort Wingate is behind a fence; to seek access, call the Wingate Elementary School at 505-488-6421.
Annual Navajo Code Talker Holiday
Celebration, Window Rock Veteran’s Memorial Park
Navajo Nation Fair
Navajo Nation Fairgrounds, HWY 264
Window Rock, AZ 86515
Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort
22181 Resort Blvd
Flagstaff, AZ 86004
- Church Rock
- Window Rock Monument & Veteran’s Memorial Park
- Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site
- Coal Mine Canyon
- Dinosaur Tracks
- Little Colorado River Gorge Navajo Tribal Park
Fire Rock Navajo Casino
(Two miles east of Gallup on Historic Route 66)
1800 Church Rock, Church Rock, N.M. 87311
Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort
22181 Resort Blvd.
Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Coal Mine Canyon
Coal Mine Canyon, just southeast of Tuba City, is a striking combination of red mudstone, bleached white rock and coal streaks. There are picnic tables on the rim of the canyon, and sunlight plays on the many-colored rocks, making it a great spot for photos.
Crownpoint Rug Auction
Once a month, usually the second Friday, the Navajo Rug Weavers’ Association of Crownpoint sponsors an auction of genuine, handmade Navajo rugs. The event is an opportunity for buyers to purchase directly from weavers. The auction is held in the Crownpoint Elementary School, about 30 minutes north of I-40 on state highway 371. For more information call 505-786-2130 or visit www.crownpointrugauction.com
Window Rock is the capital of the Navajo Nation. A park near the tribe’s Administration Center features the graceful red stone arch for which the capital is named. Recently, the Navajo have built a Veteran’s Memorial at the base of Window Rock to honor the distinguished Navajo history in the U.S. military.
Navajo Nation Fair
Held right after Labor Day weekend, the Navajo Nation Fair features an Indian rodeo, parade; cultural showcase; contest powwow; traditional songs and dances; a carnival and concert; fine arts show; the Miss Navajo competition; frybread contest; livestock show and judging; and a wild horse race. For more information, visit www.navajonationfair.com or call 928-871-6647.
Hopi Cultural Preservation Office
PO Box 123
Kykotsmovi, AZ 86030
Hopisinom, the People of Peace, are the westernmost of the pueblo peoples. Their homeland is called Tutskwa and they refer to their ancestors as Hisatinom, People of Long Ago. Orayvi (Old Oraibi) is the oldest continuously inhabited community in all of North America. For more than 2,000 years, the Hopi have lived in what is today known as the Four Corners region. Their reservation, located in northeastern Arizona, occupies about 1.5 million acres, comprising only a small portion of their traditional lands.
Visitors can spend the night at the motel alongside the Hopi Cultural Center at Second Mesa and enjoy a traditional Hopi soup with a piece of crispy fry bread in the adjoining restaurant. Outside, established crafts people and young aspiring artists set up tables to show and sell their creations. Perhaps best known for their Katsinas, carved representations of the spirits that visit the villages during ceremonial dances, Hopis are also known for their intricate silver jewelry designs, their weaving and for coil-built pottery.
Hopi Arts Trail: A group of artists and galleries located along Highway 264 that welcome visitors into their homes and studios.
Ancestral Hopi Villages: A 4,500-acre preservation of over 300 Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites located just over a mile north of Winslow, Arizona. It features historical exhibits, interpretive programs, bird-watching, and hiking. The visitor center displays pottery, baskets, and other artifacts, as well as offering an introduction to the human history of the park area. There is a year-round campground, restrooms with showers (closed in winter), and an RV dump station.
Homolovi State Park
HCR 63, Box 5
Winslow, AZ 86047
Tuuvi Travel Center & Café
Hopi Cultural Center
Restaurant & Inn
HWY 264, Milepost 379
Second Mesa, Arizona 86043
Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites
Tuba City, Arizona 86045
A hundred years ago, nearly all Hopis were farmers, descendants of a tribe that believed they were caretakers of the earth. They practiced dry-land farming, perfecting ways to grow crops in the barren desert. They grew corn, beans, squash, melons and chilies.
Today, about 10,000 Hopis live in 12 villages located on and around First, Second and Third Mesas. There are 13,000 enrolled tribal citizens—however, all do not live on the reservation full time.
Tribal ceremonies and cultural activities still reflect the agricultural calendar of planting in the spring, growing in the summer, harvesting in the fall and laying dormant in the winter.
Hopi Katsina Dolls
Traditionally, katsina dolls are used as teaching tools. They are the carved representations of the Katsinam, the spirit messengers of the universe. The Katsinam come to Hopi in the form of clouds, bearing life-giving rain.
Different Katsinam represent different aspects of life; for example, the Soyoko Katsinam help teach children proper behavior. Misbehaving children are threatened with being given to the Soyoko, a threat that often instills correct behavior.
— The Heard Museum
Katsina dolls, carved from the roots of cottonwood trees, represent approximately 300 Katsina deities. Some superior carvers make their dolls whole, out of one piece of wood. These dolls teach the young girls and boys the role of these spirit messengers.
— Hopi Cultural Center
941 Hualapai Way
Peach Springs, AZ 86434
Once relatively isolated from Euro-American intrusion on their 5-7 million acres of canyon gouged homelands, 14 bands of Pai (pronounced “pie”), or People, survived by subsistence and trading with their indigenous neighbors. One of those bands, the Hualapai, or “People of the Tall Pines,” was forced onto a 1-million-acre reservation created for them in 1883 following a failed revolt against the United States. The reservation is cradled between the Colorado River and the western portion of the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It is a fraction of the land they used to occupy.
Most Hualapai (pronounced Wal-lah-pie) live in Peach Springs, a settlement chartered in 1881 around a railroad depot located at the southern end of the reservation lands. Today, the longest remaining stretch of Historic Route 66 in Arizona travels through Peach Springs, and the Hualapai are gaining economic footing with several travel enterprises that entice visitors off the interstate.
- Hualapai Market
- Grand Canyon West Gift Shop
- Hualapai River Runners
- Grand Canyon West
- Helicopter Tour
- Horseback Rides
- Hualapai Ranch
- Authentic Native American Village
Diamond Creek Restaurant
Peach Springs Trading Post
The Hualapai Tribe acquired the Peach Springs Trading Post circa 1950, and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
Peach Springs served as an inspiration for the fictional town Radiator Springs in the Pixar movie Cars, which depicts the losses that it and many other cities along Route 66 faced after they were bypassed by Interstate 40.
Grand Canyon Skywalk
Opened by the Hualapai Tribe in 2007, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is located at Eagle Point, where it’s easy to see the shape of an eagle in the natural rock formation of the canyon wall.
The Skywalk is glass and horseshoe-shaped, enabling visitors to step off of the rocky ground and into the air for a look down into the depths of Grand Canyon West—stunningly visible through the clear floor. The cantilevered glass walk juts 70 feet past the rim of the Grand Canyon and 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. The Skywalk is sturdy enough to hold the weight of a dozen fully loaded 747s, and is stable enough to withstand winds up to 100 mph.