CANYON DE CHELLY, Ariz. - Students from the Greyhills High School Freshman Academy went on an overnight trip to Canyon de Chelly on Nov 9-10. In addition to hiking and camping, the trip was also an opportunity for the 39 students to experience more of the history of the canyon and their Navajo culture.
Freshman Robyn June stated, "We went there to learn more about our tradition, about the different canyons and people that lived there, how things have a story behind it and how Canyon de Chelly became a National Monument."
As part of a math assignment, students figured out that the hike down to the canyon floor was approximately three miles, and included another six miles to the campsite at Antelope House Ruins.
They also concluded that the hike up Bear Trail the next day added about another five miles. For some, getting out of the classroom and having a chance to run around the canyons was the best part. Others reflected on the beautiful sights and the new things they learned.
Guides from Antelope House Tours accompanied the group and as Mayme Nez explained, "Walked down the canyon with us and showed us different places where people lived."
"The pictures on the walls tell many things, like the one with the cow," added Adriano Shortman. "The guide said it meant a trader who trades cows for different things. Another one was the massacre cave where about 118 Navajos were killed."
Fellow student Treina Jones expressed similar thoughts saying, "Every ruin and drawing we saw had a story behind it. Some of us made the effort to listen to Mr. Teller ... to learn and experience the life that was lived many years ago."
Derek Knight's depiction of his trip seemed equally heartfelt. "My whole trip was great and the thing I loved most was the canyon walls. It was fantastic because I saw houses where my ancestors thrived and art on the walls. When I got to the sites I could really feel that I had been there."
He also mentioned the importance of "learning how to work together," when it came time to set up the groups' tents.
Another focus of the trip was to hear some traditional Navajo stories and singing performed by our guides Adam and Ben Teller, and to enjoy and take part in some traditional dancing. Most students agreed, "The storytellers told good stories and sang good songs." Among the many stories told were the story of "White Beetle and the Holy Ones" and the creation story behind Canyon de Chelly itself. A lot of students also mentioned that they liked the stories about particular rocks and canyon features.
As the students reflected on their trip, many expressed that they were glad they went. Some said that they would like to go back and explore the canyons some more. Amanda Blackhat, echoing the sentiments of several of her classmates, summed up her experience with these thoughts, "This trip has helped me understand the Navajo history more. All the ruins and the storytelling were interesting because it shows how fortunate we are today."