Anyone familiar with the southwest part of the United States is familiar with the Native American tribes of the area. However, if you are not aware of how Native Americans impacted the culture of the Southwest, there are several tribal parks that are open to the public in Arizona.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
For many generations, the Navajo have herded sheep and planted corn in Monument Valley. This beautiful area of Arizona is home to the most scenic portion of the Navajo Indian Nation. Within Monument Valley there are 30,000 acres of land that has been carved by eons of wind and rain. These red-stone monoliths, standing hundreds of feet high, are captivating images that have been seen on western television shows and western movies where actors like John Wayne clamored up their steep, rocky slopes.
There is a 17 mile self-guided driving tour that you can take, although the terrain is very rough and the roads are not paved. There is also a 15 minute walk from North Window to the end of Cly Butte. The visitor center on Monument Valley offers a wide variety of Native American hand crafts, as well as many different documents and photos that give the history of the Navajo in this region. You also have the opportunity to take a guided tour from a Navajo tribal member for approximately $25 for two hours.
Navajo Cultural Center of Kayenta
This small cultural center located in Kayenta, Arizona contains a small outdoor park that provides an opportunity for a walking tour of the Navajo beliefs and traditions that have shaped their tribe. While this is an informal tour opportunity, it will give you the chance to read about the traditions the Navajo brought to the region and how they influenced the culture of today.
The Navajo Nation Council Chambers
This structure resembles a Navajo ceremonial Hogan. Located in Window Rock, Arizona the murals on the walls of the structure depict scenes from the history of the tribe. Visitors can actually observe live sessions in the chambers where 88 delegates representing 110 chapters on the third Monday of every fourth month. Near these chambers is a national monument dedicated to the Navajo soldiers who helped in WWII by becoming Code Talkers.
In Hopi, Second Mesa translates into “the center of the universe.” Shungopavi is the largest and oldest village on Second Mesa and was founded by the Bear Clan. The Hopi villagers still living at Second Mesa make silver overlay jewelry and coil plaques. The art of making these coils have been passed down from generation to generation, and have become a highly desired artifact. While at Second Mesa, you can see where the famous Hopi Snake Dances are held, however, the dances themselves are considered sacred and cannot be viewed by visitors.
By taking a tour around the Native American tribal areas while in Arizona, you will be getting a crash course in Arizona history, as well as the history of the United States. It is well worth the effort.