An Encounter at Canyon de Chelly

By Maria Moss

It was a clear and sun­ny day in ear­ly April when we arrived with a stu­dent group at Canyon de Chelly (pro­nounced dəˈʃeɪ/ or də·shā′). We had left our hotel on the Hopi reser­va­tion, locat­ed about one hun­dred miles to the north, ear­ly in the morn­ing. Our des­ti­na­tion: White House Ruin down in one of the creeks at Canyon de Chelly in north­east­ern Arizona.

As Sab­ri­na and I walked down the steep trail, we encoun­tered two peo­ple, a man and a woman. They were dressed in the offi­cial Nation­al Park Ranger out­fit and wore the firm felt hat so char­ac­ter­is­tic of out­door offi­cials in the Unit­ed States. White House Ruin, locat­ed with­in the bound­aries of the Nava­jo Nation, was built by the Anasza­si (or Ancient Ones), towards the end of the 11th cen­tu­ry. Why the Anasza­si left around 1300 A.D. is still debat­ed among archae­ol­o­gists; lat­est find­ings indi­cate that cli­mat­ic rea­sons – the increase in tem­per­a­ture and the cor­re­spond­ing decrease in rain­fall – might have been the reason.

“Shall we ask them for an inter­view”? Sab­ri­na, cell phone in hand, looked ahead at the two peo­ple slow­ly approach­ing. Then she looked at me. I was doubt­ful: “Will they grant us an inter­view right here, on the spot?”

Well, they did.

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