Navajo Nation

The Navajo Nation occupies a large portion of northeastern Arizona, as well as part of northwestern New Mexico and southern Utah. Its capital is at Window Rock, Arizona.

Cities

Explore Navajo museum, Tuba City

New Mexico

Arizona

Other destinations

Understand

Covering 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers), the Navajo Nation is the single largest Native American reservation in the United States.

Get in

Driving in the Painted Desert

Drive. Navajo Nation is far from major airports, and commuter air service into Farmington and Gallup on the New Mexico side is marginal and leaves you a long way from most of the reservation. Rail service is similarly marginal and distant, although the Amtrak line between Albuquerque and Flagstaff passes through Gallup and along the southern side of the reservation.

Window Rock, administrative center of Navajo Nation, is relatively close to Interstate 40 near the New Mexico-Arizona state line. It and the other major settlements on the reservation (Ganado, Chinle, Kayenta) are reachable by good roads.

Get around

Because this area consists of vast stretches of open land a car is necessary to get around. Be sure to fill up your gas tank when you have the opportunity. Service stations are few and far between in this region.

See

Do

State line survey marker near Teec Nos Pos, Arizona

Buy

Navajo Weavings

The characteristic folk art of the Navajo is the Navajo rug (or blanket). Each region of the reservation has its own characteristic style of weavings, with a few patterns that can be found reservation-wide. As with other folk art, quality and prices vary wildly; small items for the tourist trade can be had for as little as $20 or so, while a gigantic, museum-quality (but brand-new rather than antique) rug from the prestigious "Two Grey Hills" region sold for $60,000 at a Santa Fe Indian Market a few years ago. The key thing to remember is that the value of a particular weaving is the value you place on it. If you see a piece you like, haggle over price if you wish; if you don't get the price you want, look for another one.

Beware of non-authentic imports from Mexico and overseas carried by unscrupulous "dealers" that have tried to capitalize on the market for Navajo work. Many of the "tourist traps" of the region, particularly those just off the reservation, are plagued with these, but most sources on the reservation itself are entirely aboveboard. Some reliable sources of rugs:

Pottery and Jewelry

Most reservation centers that sell weavings also sell pottery and jewelry made in Navajo Nation. Navajo silver work, including concho belts, tends to be of a very high quality. The pottery is quite different from that of the Pueblo Indians to the east, but good Navajo pottery is still an art form and well worth collecting. Two warnings are necessary, however. First, you don't have to get very far out of Navajo Nation to encounter bogus "trading posts" in which the goods are not Navajo at all, but rather cheap imports. This is particularly a problem with jewelry. Second, removal of "prehistoric" pottery from Navajo Nation is strongly discouraged and likely illegal; it is certainly illegal to obtain such work from excavations of archaeological sites, whether acknowledged or not. Settle for the modern stuff; it still qualifies as entirely authentic Navajo arts and crafts.

Eat

One of the characteristic food items of the Navajo Nation is "frybread." This is a flat bread about the diameter of a common tortilla, but quite different from a tortilla in that the process of preparing it (via frying rather than baking) causes it to become crisp and develop bubbles and pockets, so that it more closely resembles the sopaipilla of northern New Mexico. Frybread is eaten alone, with powdered sugar or honey as a dessert, or piled high with lettuce, tomato, cheese, ground beef or chili beans; the latter form is commonly called a "Navajo taco," although it has little to do with a conventional taco beyond the fact that it shares many of the same ingredients. Navajo tacos and other frybread dishes can be found at restaurants, and roadside stands, throughout the reservation, many of which also feature distinctive mutton dishes.

Drink

Alcohol in any form is prohibited within Navajo Nation. If you simply must have a beer, Flagstaff (Arizona), Farmington (New Mexico), and Gallup (New Mexico) are just outside the borders of the reservation. Don't expect to be welcomed with open arms at bars in the latter two, as bars there have serious problems connected with alcoholism on the reservation. The presence of Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff makes night life in town somewhat more convivial.

Sleep

Lodging

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, December 06, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.