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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