Navajo National Monument now lies within the borders of the Navajo Nation. But this place has been home to many different Indian tribes.
Before the Navajo, this was home to San Juan Southern Piute and Zuni Indians. But the Indians whose mark on the landscape is most obvious today were the Hisatsinom, ancestors of the Hopi.
Seven centuries ago, these Ancestral Puebloan people sought out canyons like Tsegi Canyon, to establish their settlements. They planted crops of corn, squash, and beans. They hunted the wild game that came to the river to drink.
They built homes in the valley, along the canyon rim, and up the sides of the cliff. They piled sandstone blocks, used mud as mortar, and reinforced the ceilings with wood beams. They built into and around natural caves and rock outcroppings, augmenting their iconic architecture.
The structures on the mesa and down in the valley have long since crumbled due to erosion from the wind and rain. But the cliff dwellings, nestled into niches in the rock, still stand today.
At Navajo National Monument, you can see three of these 700-year-old structures. Walk along the mesa to view the dwellings from above, or take a 5-mile guided tour into the canyon to Betatakin cliff.