NAVAJO LAND • CENTRAL ARIZONA
• AN OVERALL VIEW
— Best Bet — Discover Beautiful Navajo: The Official Guide to the Navajo Nation, is a excellent booklet that’s available in most visitor centers and truck stops. It’s filled with general information of Native culture as well as with specifics on various Navajo attractions. Best of all, it’s free.
— Watch your Watch — The Navajo Nation covers parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. This gets tricky during Daylight Savings Time, which is observed in Utah and New Mexico but not in Arizona. In order to keep the time uniform within its tri-state boundaries, the Navajo Nation sides with Utah and New Mexico, putting it at odds with the rest of Arizona. In short, from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November, when it is 10:00 a.m in Navajo Land, it is only 9:00 in the rest of Arizona.
— Insider Tours — There’s no doubt that seeing the Navajo Nation with a Navajo guide makes the experience more culturally enriching and intellectually satisfying. Donovan Hanley, who works with Detours Arizona, is one of the best, but beware. His multi-day tours, which are usually limited to just 13 participants, often sell out more than a year in advance, so book early. www.detoursaz.com
— Licensed Companies — Only businesses that are owned and staffed by Native Americans are allowed to give tours within Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly. Thus, while Donovan Hanley was in charge of our overall tour, he selected Tseyi’ Jeep Tours to show us around Canyon de Chelly. We couldn’t have been happier with our guide, Dennis Tah, who could not only read the clouds but could also drive the gullies. www.tseyijeeptours.com
— Driving — Although the roads through the canyons and valleys of the Navajo Nation are full of bumps and curves, those in the flatlands are straight stretches through open range. Drive with caution and don’t be deceived by the emptiness. Sheep, cattle and other animals call this home.
— Eye Etiquette — Many Native Americans consider it rude to make direct eye contact and offer firm handshakes, so don’t be offended if they avert their eyes and use a light touch when shaking hands.
— Fascinating Documentary — In Search of History: Navajo Code Talker, tells how Navajo recruits developed a code based on their native language that was vital to Allied victory during World War II. 50 minutes. Produced by The History Channel.
— Artisan Crafts — For reasonably priced hand-made Native crafts ranging from pottery to jewelry, stop at Oak Creek Canyon Overlook, located off Arizona State Route 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff. Artisans, who come from the nearby area, take turns displaying and selling their work. Most allow you to take photographs if you also take home a piece of their work.
— Navajo Travel Center — This is more than just a truck stop with restrooms and moderately decent coffee. It’s also a good spot for decent souvenirs and, more important, the buyer has a good eye for Native American jewelry. Exit 325 off I 40, between Sanders and Winslow.
— Hubbell Trading Post — Don’t become immersed with the displays and activity in the trading post that you skip over the more prosaic Visitor Center, which is only a few steps away. It features an excellent weaving demonstration and will give you a new appreciation for the traditional craft.
- CENTRAL ARIZONA (SCOTTSDALE — FLAGSTAFF)
• WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT
— Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort — You don’t have to like gambling to enjoy the Twin Arrows Casino in Flagstaff. Just stop in to see the chandelier, which reflects the four worlds of the Navajo in glittering glass. It’s striking both for its beauty and its cultural relevance. Take time to read the nearby explanatory material.
Finally, make time for lunch at the casino’s Four Elements Café where the salad is so laden with walnuts and cranberries that you’ll think you’ve won the jackpot. www.twinarrows.com
— Oak Creek Vista — A series of curves along Arizona State Route 89A leads to Oak Creek Vista, which overlooks a mini-canyon with spectacular scenery. When you tire of gazing (and photographing) the colorful rocks, you walk over to a group of stands where local Native American craftspeople sell hand-made, reasonably priced jewelry. (See note under Navajo Land.)