Some people even say that it can be as spectacular as the Grand Canyon itself! Established as part of the National Park Service in April of 1931, this monument is located in northeastern Arizona and covers a whopping 83, 840 acres. It is the home of three major canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument. This monument’s namesake canyon is often mispronounced. The correct pronunciation for the Canyon de Chelly National Monument is either “de SHAY-ee,” or more commonly, simply “de SHAY.” The name comes from a Spanish borrowing of the Navajo word “Tséyiʼ,” which translates to “canyon” or “inside the rock.”
The Navajo Tribal Trust of the Navajo Nation owns and manages all of this land. It’s the only monument that functions that way! In total, forty Navajo families reside within the canyon. They live among not only the ruins of their descendants, but also the ruins of other indigenous tribes like the Ancient Pueblo Peoples, or Anasazi. To protect the privacy of these peoples, visitors aren’t permitted to explore in the canyons without a Navajo guide or a park ranger. The only exception is the White House Ruin Trail. But, there are convenient drives around both the north and south rims that offer spectacular views of the canyons.
Spider Rock is an incredible spire of sandstone that rises 750 feet off of the desert floor. Nestled up against it, but not quite making the grade in height, is Speaking Rock. These two incredible rock towers are the result of many, many years of erosion, and they have come to represent the park more than any other formation. It isn’t uncommon to see these rock formations on television or in commercials.
No… this isn’t some undercover, hero’s wife you’ve never heard of. Sometimes call Spider Grandmother, this mythical creature is a deity of the Navajo culture. The Navajo people believe that, when they surfaced from the underworld, Spider Woman made sure that the noble people who hunted down evil creatures had plenty of power. Not only this, but she protects people passing through the canyon who find themselves in danger and in need of assistance. In one particular story, a man is being chased by his enemy through Canyon de Chelly but is quickly running out of options. Running past Spider Rock, the man sees a silky cord descend before him, and uses it to climb his way up the rock and to safety.
Legend claims that Speaking Rock, huddled up against Spider Woman keeps her informed on all who could be considered disobedient or mischievous. Children, for instance, who haven’t been on their best behavior, misbehave knowing that Spider Woman might descend from her spire to collect them and take them back to her abode. Against its surroundings, the peak of Spider Rock is dusted a chalky color that is said to be the bones of the children who misbehaved.