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Red Rock Road Trip

 Thursday, 9/11/97 

Monument Valley:
Petroglyphs, Ruins & Arches

"When asked by an anthropologist what the Indians called America before the white man came, an Indian said simply, 'Ours.'" ---Vine Deloria Jr.

The Sun's Eye (9kb)

I followed Tom's truck to the first stop, an arch called The Sun's Eye, pictured at left. In my mind's eye, I couldn't help but see a digitally added full moon in the center, but it is presented here in its original form.

This part of the Valley is closed without a guide. It is not restricted to profit from tour groups, but to protect those Navajos who still live in the valley (many of whom herd sheep the same as their ancestors of 300 years ago), and to protect priceless artifacts of Native American heritage, some of which are pictured on this page.

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Anasazi Petroglyphs (11kb)

Awe. That's all I could feel when Tom pointed up the wall and said, "those were drawn about a thousand years ago by people who later disappeared without a trace." They were made by Anasazi, which he translated to mean "enemy of old," or "ancient enemy." That is a Navajo name, as he pointed out sadly, we do not even know what they called themselves.

"Indians think it is important to remember, while Americans think it is important to forget."
---Paula Gunn Allen

Butte reflected in water (12kb)

I noticed as we left, he mysteriously gave a couple of long low whistles, just as he'd done when we arrived. When I asked if this had some significance (I imagined some call to the spirits), he replied, "no, I just like to hear it echo."

I thought about chatting with him about image and marketing, but the man hadn't even negotiated a price before he took me on. He was only interested in being himself. I liked that.

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Ear of the Wind arch (14kb)

Tom's only fare that trip (other than the $30 I later gave him unsolicited) was a German couple in their late 20's. They were quite nice, but most interested in the fact this is not a National Park, but a Navajo Tribal Park. When they asked Tom if the tribe maintained the park and the roads since they owned it, Tom chuckled and said, "The only maintenance done out here is by Mother Nature. And we have never said we own the land, we are its caretakers."

"We do not inherit the land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children."
---Native American Proverb

Ruins of Anasazi graineries (11kb)

Pictured at left are Anasazi graineries, 700 to 800 years old. They were fenced off to keep visitors from damaging the fragile ruins. Vandals have been a problem here, as I saw petroglyphs with "Alice" scrawled over them. Many artifacts have been stolen. As Tom stood there telling us about these troubles, he looked down, picked up some shards, and said, "these are pieces of ancient pottery. You can look at them, and touch them, but you can't take them with you."

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Petroglyphs of Kokopelli (11kb)

Around the corner were these petroglyphs of Kokopelli, a flute player whose Native American heritage dates back as early as 200 AD. On a gift shop statue it said, "this legendary well-travelled and footloose figure was a god to some, a nuisance to others, and a bearer of good luck and health to many." When pictured lying down playing his flute, it is thought he was praying for rain. But no one really knows what these drawings mean. As Tom pointed out, the petroglyphs pictured at the top of this page feature animals with horns that curl in a direction unlike that of any known animal in the history of North America. He seemed to believe they drew their dreams, or one "visionary" from their clan did. Some of those dreams have since been overwritten by 20th Century "visionaries" with names like "Henry Loves Alice."

"The Indians knew that life was equated with the earth and its resources, that America was a paradise, and they could not comprehend why the intruders from the East were determined to destroy all that was Indian as well as America itself. " ---Dee Brown

Moccasin Arch (12kb)

On the way to Moccasin Arch (at left) and Big Hogan (below), we encountered two spots that caused Tom to slow his heavy duty, high clearance, 4x4 vehicle ... to ... a ... crawl. After he rocked heavily through this yet unseen obstacle, the male German tourist turned around with a look that said, "there's no way he's going to make it, and it is my duty as a tourist to watch this catastrophe." Tom's forward progress revealed a 4 foot long, 2 foot deep chasm, filled with mud. In 1.5 seconds, a chorus of voices ran through my head: "No Way" "C'mon, it's a rental" " "No Way" "There's no other way out" "No Way" "This is why they made Full Coverage Per Diem Insurance" "I need warp speed *NOW* Scotty!"

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Big Hogan (11kb)

The White Whale did me proud through that, and an equally daunting second "pothole." But it was time for me to go check out of Goulding's, so I asked Tom for directions back to the valley loop road. He said, "you see that tree there? You go around that curve and you'll see some rocks, and then another tree, and then you'll be at the loop road."

I drove for what seemed like miles, fording a shallow stream ... twice. Rocks? Yeah, they were all over. Trees? Fewer in number, but since this road had no turnoffs, I assumed I wasn't lost, and I eventually pulled over a rise into the parking lot that overlooks The Totem Pole with a cloud of dust, startling some polyester clad tourists. As I inspected the White Whale for missing parts, I heard one of them complaining about the rough condition of the parking lot.

Lady, you have no idea....

"If you tie a horse to a stake, do you expect he will grow fat? If you pen an Indian up on a small spot of earth, and compel him to stay there, he will not be contented, nor will he grow and prosper. I have asked some of the great white chiefs where they get their authority to say to the Indian that he shall stay in one place, while he sees white men going where they please. They can not tell me."
---Chief Joseph

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