Arizona 2017 - Part II
In 1864, following several battles and collapsed treaties, the United States government rounded up 8,500 Native Americans and marched them 300 miles from northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Making this trek in the winter took it's toll on the Navajo tribe. Hundreds of men, women, and children died along the way. Many more would die later when they reached their new home, a barren 40 square mile reservation set aside for them at Bosque Redondo. This march, led by Kit Carson, became known by the Navajo as the "Long Walk."
The reservation quickly turned into a prison camp. The water in the Pecos River that bordered the reservation made the Navajo people sick. Worms destroyed their crops. Their wood supply was short-lived. It wasn't long before the United States could see Bosque Redondo was an epic failure. Still, the Navajo would spend 5 grueling years on this reservation before they were allowed to return to their native lands in 1869 via another treaty. Although the size of their original lands was suddenly much smaller, they were going home.
Obviously this story is much bigger than two paragraphs. You can read more about the history of the walk here: Navajo Long Walk to Bosque Redondo.
The next day, after spending the night in Page, we made our way to a tour of the Lower Antelope Canyon on the reservation. Katie had originally planned for us to tour the upper canyon, but the young lady at our hotel's front desk encouraged us to do the lower. She said if we only had time for one, the lower was the tour to do. Since our time was indeed limited we took her advice. That advice turned out to be five star customer service.
Our tour started from Ken's Tours. Ken Young, the owner, started the tour company as a retirement gig many years ago. He taught himself photography and began to take and share photos of the inside of the canyon. People fell in love with the brilliant shapes and designs brought to life by a unique mix of sunlight, layers of rock, and the formations carved into the earth by years of wind and flash floods.
On the way down to the canyon our guide told us the story of the most tragic of those floods - the 1997 flash flood that swept 12 hikers out of the very canyon we were about to enter. One of the hikers grabbed a ledge and held on until help arrived. He was the only survivor. Several bodies were later found in nearby Lake Powell. Some were never found at all. (12 Hikers Are Swept Away By Flash Flood In A Canyon - New York Times)
You could tell the 20 year old tragedy still haunted some of the locals. Shoot, it haunted me down there. As a result of that horrific day, hikers are required to have guides these days when exploring the canyon and there are now ladders bolted into the rock to make getting in and out of the canyon easier.
Once we got down in the canyon it only took seconds to realize why so many people come to the canyon armed with their cameras. The views down there ranged from breathtaking to miraculous.
On the drive back to Sun Lakes where we were staying with my mom and dad, we hit the Phoenix rush hour traffic. It reminded me of Washington DC traffic - crawling along, living just on the edge of road rage. Maybe even a hair over it. It's then when I wondered out loud, maybe the Navajo are right where they want to be. They may not have been treated fairly, but maybe they did get the good end of the deal. At least the deal in that particular moment.
If you missed part I of my Arizona 2017 trip series, you can read it here: The Grand Canyon - A Grand Reminder We Were All Created To Create.