Canyon de Chelly

Land of Standing Rock
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Chinle Wash
Chinle Wash runs through the canyon

Joseph Campbell, the famed student of mythology and religion, once called Canyon de Chelly "the most sacred place on Earth."Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist with a few ideas of his own about mythology and religion, concurred. In Jung's opinion, Canyon de Chelly, a complex of wide chasms in northeastern Arizona, was the only place he knew other than the Valley of the Nile that so truly embodied the very essence of antiquity.

Sacred and ancient the place is, to be sure. But I got the sense that change was coming to timeless, storied Canyon de Chelly when on my last visit there, 37-year-old Navajo artist Adam Teller asked me whether I knew anything about the Internet.

I'm no expert, I told him, but I do quite a lot of my work these days in cyberspace."Interesting," he replied. "I'm just learning how to write HTML. Some day I'm going to put up a home page for my jewelry business, Spotted Antelope Designs."

Teller smiled when I pointed out that his house, located a few miles inside the canyon just across from Antelope House Ruin, lacked electricity."Yeah," he said, "I thought about a satellite uplink to get around that problem, but that started running into big money. I'll just have to drive into Flagstaff every few days and check my e-mail on my friend's computer. It'll be good to keep track of my customers in Europe. I won't have a phone or a fax, but I'll have the Web." (As of December 1999, you still have to visit him and see the designs for yourself.)

Teller is one of several hundred Navajos whose families have lived within the canyon for hundreds of years. The sturdy stone house where he and his wife live has been in his family since 1868, when the federal government designated Canyon de Chelly part of the Dinetah, the Navajo Nation. Stone is the dominant motif here: In Canyon de Chelly stone pillars vault hundreds of feet in the air, flanking stone cliffs and stone mesas. The very name of the place is a Spanish mispronunciation of the Navajo word tsegi, which means "standing rock."

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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