HISTORY AND TRADITIONS
The first known inhabitants of Monument Valley were the Anasazi Indians, or "Ancient Ones," who constructed the first cliff dwellings over 1500 years ago-then suddenly disappeared from the entire region around the 13th Century. Thousands of these ancient pueblo sites dot the southwestern U.S., and some Navajos claim there are Anasazi ruins in Monument Valley that no white man has ever seen. Native American cultures have always attached religious significance to their dwellings. Although the Navajos and their traditional domed, hexagon-shaped "hogans" are unrelated to the Anasazi, the hogan is regarded as a sanctuary for the family. Among the traditions still observed is the "blessing way rite" performed before the family takes up permanent residence; and in construction, which is always by hand and of native materials, the hogan entrance always faces east toward the rising sun.
Traditional Navajo people still live without running water and electricity. They prepare and spin wool the old-fashioned way, using dyes made from native plants. Navajo rugs are treasured by collectors the world over. Traditional Navajos use native plants for many things, including medicines. The yucca plant alone provides the basis for shoes, baskets, clothing and soap. There is a far greater variety of vegetation in the valley than first meets the eye, and springtime often yields an explosion of colorful wildflowers. About 300 Navajos live in Monument Valley year around.
Although Monument Valley has always held deep spiritual meaning for its inhabitants, its uniqueness was not revealed to the world until the late 1930s. At the end of the First World War Harry Goulding and his wife "Mike" came to Monument Valley to live among the Indians. With no more than tents for shelter, in 1924 they established a trading station, or "trading post," to provide a place where the Navajos could exchange their livestock and handmade goods for the other necessities of life. The Gouldings were always renowned for their integrity, honesty and genuine concern for Indian welfare and were instrumental in establishing a modem hospital for the residents, as well as developing a fresh water source for all to use. However, the Gouldings are best remembered for developing Monument Valley as a motion picture film set, which provided income and assistance for the Navajos' survival. That first film, Stagecoach, was made in 1938.
GEOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY
Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park (30,000 acres) established in 1958 and located on the border of Arizona and Utah within the 16 million-acre Navajo Reservation. Positioned just to the west of the Colorado-New Mexico state line, the park is about 5500 feet above sea level and accessible year-round. Temperatures range from an average low of 25° F in winter to an average high of 90° F in summer. Rainfall averages eight inches/year.
Before human existence Monument Valley was a vast lowland basin. For hundreds of mil-lions of years layer upon layer of eroded sediment from the early Rocky Mountains was deposit-ed in the basin and cemented into rock - mainly sandstone and limestone. Then a slow, gentle uplift created by constant pressure from below the surface elevated the horizontal strata. What was once a basin became a plateau of solid rock 1000 feet high. The natural forces of wind and rain and temperature have spent the last 50 million years cutting and peeling away the surface of this plateau. The simple wearing down of alternate layers of hard and soft rock slowly created the natural wonders of Monument Valley that today stand between 400 and 1200 feet tall.