BY: MEGAN POSER
Navajo ABST day 2
Yá’át’ééh from Navajo Nation!! The day started with a 7:30 AM breakfast at the Hogan Restaurant. After we were full of energy and great food, we went over to Coalmine Canyon. Coalmine Canyon is a very sacred place for the Navajo because this is where the Long Walk occurred. The Long Walk started back in 1864 when President Lincoln, U.S. Army General Kit Carson and his troops rounded up over eight thousand Navajo men, women, and children and forced them off of their land. They had to walk hundreds od thousands of miles against their will. A huge part of the Navajo culture and their beliefs are rooted in the four sacred mountains, and it was heartbreaking for them to have to leave that behind. Thousands of Navajo died on this walk, but some survived by hiding it within the deep in the valleys and on the cliffs of the Canyon. Some Navajo believe that the Canyon is haunted by the spirits of those who had lost their lives during the Long Walk. The Canyon is also significant to the Navajo as they want to protect Mother Earth and preserve their sacred land as well as tribal sovereignty. Our group was able to climb up to the edge of the cliffs and rope climb down into the valley as well. It was genuinely one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life. I was simply speechless at the sight of the red, orange and black rock formations. The trails had a muddy-clay-like texture so it was a little bit of a slippery trek, but we all made sure to be safe and stick together. Depending on comfort level, a few students opted to enjoy the views at the top rather then rope climb down. Students were able to reflect on climbing down into the valley. We talked about how we had a newfound respect, but also a deep hurting for those who had to hide there during the Long Walk. We could not imagine trying to run down these slippery trails to save our lives and protect children. Additionally, there was no sign of water nor food there- just rocks, clay and weeds, so they must have been extremely malnourished. After we hiked back up as a group, we drove over to Alien Rock. Alien Rock is a place on the reservation where you can see these huge circular rocks- nobody really knows exactly how they got there, but they assume they are some kind of meteors. It was pretty cool to have the opportunity to touch these interesting stones and ponder their origins. After we all got our fun pictures by the rock, we ate a nice packed lunch before walking over to the Navajo Code Talkers Museum. This museum was an emotional documentation of how the Navajo we utilized in World War II to pass along messages without the Axis forces knowing our plan. The original Navajo code had approximately 200 terms and was developed by the “First Twenty-Nine” in 1942. Coders assigned a word to each letter of the alphabet and would spell out messages. (For example, if one were to spell CAT, the letter c would connect to the English word cat, which in Navajo is moasi, a would connect to the English word ant, which in Navajo is wol-la-chee, and t would connect to the English word tea, which in Navajo is d-ah). Unfortunately, after WWII the Navajo were never given recognition for their work, they were just told not to share the code in case it needed to be used again. In fact, it wasn’t until 25 years after that the government released the information of how the Navajo assisted during the war. A short walk away from the Navajo Code Talkers Museum was the Explore Navajo museum where we got to hear their views on creation, their hogans, and their art (including rugs, drawings, etc.) We ended the night with some group reflections and a delightful homecooked Navajo meal. We are so thankful for today’s experiences and cannot wait for a full day of service tomorrow!