Thursday, October 8, 2015

Visions of Utah - Monument Valley

The Mittens, Monument Valley Navaho Tribal Park
The Mittens, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Monument Valley
After the lunar planes of Arches, we made our way down to the Navajo Nation. The vast expanse of the Nation in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico is home to some of the ubiquitous sights of the Hollywood West. With a brief nod to Mexican Hat, we blasted down Route 163 to Monument Valley. The Navajo have invested well in tourism, and their tribal parks are a good example.

If you've ever seen a western movie, you've likely seen the formations of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. The chance to take a rough-bodied tour truck rattling down a dirt road into the midst of these giant mesas was incredible. The wind was whipping little bits of cloud across a deep blue desert sky, and drowned out the sound of the parking lot motorcoaches, crying children, and other tourist trappings behind us. There was a definite sense of immense solemnity as we passed in and out of the shadows of these behemoths. 

Even in this highly visited area, the challenges of the Nation poked through the carefully crafted tourist experience. The fancy new visitor center contrasted roughly with the broken-down trailer homes in the distance and the quiet girl who offered us turquoise jewelry from a rickety stand at a stop on the tour. 

Even with an acknowledgement of cultural differences, you could feel the shadow of the past looming long across the path here in this place where their ancestors held the line against the American genocide of the 19th and 20th centuries after the Long Walk. These wounds contrasted jarringly with the oddly overwhelming proliferation of John Wayne memorabilia and imagery throughout the visitor center and grounds. While Wayne certainly helped make the Valley the iconic face of the west in movies like Stagecoach, he also is the epitome of the cowboy in the simplistic cowboy versus Indians mentality. Like everything else in the Nation, the relationship between the brutal past and the Hollywood soaked present is complicated. Regardless, the landscape and People remain, shaped but not removed by the winds that have torn at them. 

Cliffs, Monument Valley
Mesa Cliffs in Shadow, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Monument Valley NTP Panoramic (B&W)
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park panoramic

West Mitten, Monument Valley
Mitten, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Mittens and Sandstone, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

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