Little Colorado

During my long wait for the tribal elders to go over my project proposal I visited the region north of Hopi.  This includes Black Mesa, where the coal mine is, and just across from that Navajo National Monument where several ruins of Hopi ancestors are built into the cliffs.  The Parks Service and the Navajo that live in the area calls the inhabitants of these ruins Anazasi or Puebloan peoples.  I had a Hopi guide from the park service take me to some of the ruins and he explained to me that the people that lived here were his ancestors and the Hopi people’s ancestors.  They were not Anasazi, a term that was developed to lump all puebloan living peoples in the Four Corners Region of the United States at the time.

On our hike we descended into a small tributary of the Little Colorado River.  What I would call a small stream, would be fed by seepage from the sandstone canyon that surrounds the area.  But the people in this area would rely on this river or stream as it would feed and produce all of their agriculture and they would have to use it for hydration, washing and cleaning as well.  I still couldn’t get over the fact that people in such an arid climate could exist without a plentiful water supply.  The reasons why water was so sacred to these people became more and more clear with every day that I spent in the region.

There was actual running water to be seen.

In the photograph above you can see a small ledge of earth to the left of the river bank.  My guide told me that was a highly appropriate spot for corn to be harvested and planted.  It would have more than adequate water throughout the planting season.  What I found astonishing is that these highly strategic areas that were appropriate for planting were incredibly small and therefore the crop yields had to be fairly low.  If you also take into account the size of the Hopi corn stalk, which yielded smaller, tougher ears of corn, it was hard to imagine a substantial population living in the region.

Tomorrow, the cliff dwellings.


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