The Story of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (2024)

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, known by the Navajo as Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii, is said to be one of the most photographed places on earth. The valley is host to towering sandstone rock formations that have been sculpted over time and soar 400 to 1,000 feet above the valley floor. Combined with the surrounding mesas, buttes, and desert environment, it truly is one of the natural wonders of the world. Set aside by the Navajo Tribal Council in 1958, the park covers almost 92,000 acres in northern Arizona and southern Utah and lies within the Navajo Nation reservation.

How did these incredible sandstone towers form? LikeArchesandCanyonlandsnational parks to the north, Monument Valley showcases eons of nature's erosive power, yet has distinctive formations unlike anywhere else in the world. For millions of years, layers upon layers of sediments settled and cemented in the basin. The basin lifted up and became a plateau; then the natural forces of water and wind slowly removed the softer materials and exposed what we see before us today. The spires, buttes, and other formations are still slowly chipping away but will be around long after we are gone.

The formations in Monument Valley have achieved some Hollywood fame as the backdrop of many movies and television shows, beginning with several John Wayne films includingStagecoachin 1939. The visitor center offers museums, souvenirs, restrooms, a restaurant, a lodge, and much more. Guided tours of the park are available by vehicle and by horseback.

The Navajo Parks and Recreation Department, which manages the park, shares this message with visitors: “The Navajo people have a custom that has endured. Whenever visitors come they are always treated as honored guests. They are offered shelter, warmth and nourishment so they can continue on with their journey. The same hospitality we offer to you, and we hope that you have a safe and pleasant visit to our land.”

Here's another way to look at it: Monument Valley is like a national park, but it falls within the jurisdiction of the Navajo Nation's 27,425-square-mile (71,000 square kilometers) territory in the Four Corners region of the United States. Of that 17 million acres, more than 91,000 acres are set aside as Monument Valley Tribal Park — a space larger than Arches National Park.

This iconic symbol of the American West is internationally recognizable, having appeared in countless movies. Both the park headquarters and visitor center offer information on the area and exhibit Navajo archaeology, arts and crafts. A self-guided scenic drive leads to overlooks of the park's famous formations, while further exploration is offered via guided tour.

The Story of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (2)

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The Story of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (2024)


The Story of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park? ›

The Tribal Park was a milestone in Indigenous history. Monument Valley was the first of its kind thanks to the forward thinking of the Navajo Nation tribal Council. Monument Valley was established in 1958. It was the first Tribal park of its kind and has since paved the way for other tribes to create protected zones.

What is the Navajo legend of Monument Valley? ›

The buttes of Monument Valley tower around 1,000 feet above the desert floor below. According to Navajo legend, they are the carcasses of long-defeated monsters. The buttes are made of red sandstone and are isolated hills with steep sides and a flat top.

What is the story behind Monument Valley? ›

For millions of years, layers upon layers of sediments settled and cemented in the basin. The basin lifted up and became a plateau; then the natural forces of water and wind slowly removed the softer materials and exposed what we see before us today.

Who are the Navajo people in Monument Valley? ›

Navajo Culture in Monument Valley. The Navajo people, the Diné, passed through three different worlds before emerging into this world, The Fourth World, or Glittering World. The Diné believe there are two classes of beings: the Earth People and the Holy People.

Why is Monument Valley sacred? ›

It's crucial to recognize that Monument Valley is not just a park, but a sacred place to the Navajo people. For them, it's a significant cultural and spiritual location imbued with stories, traditions, and symbolic meaning passed down through generations.

Is Monument Valley a spiritual place? ›

The valley is considered sacred by the Navajo Nation, the Native American people within whose reservation it lies. The Monument Valley View Hotel.

What is an interesting fact about Monument Valley? ›

The area is part of the Colorado Plateau. The elevation of the valley floor ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 feet (1,500 to 1,800 m) above sea level. The floor is largely siltstone of the Cutler Group, or sand derived from it, deposited by the meandering rivers that carved the valley.

Who is the most famous person in the Navajo tribe? ›

Manuelito (died 1893, Navajo Reservation, New Mexico Territory, U.S.) was a Navajo chief known for his strong opposition to the forced relocation of his people by the U.S. government. Died: 1893, Navajo Reservation, New Mexico Territory, U.S. Little is known of Manuelito's early life.

What is sacred to the Navajo tribe? ›

Traditional Navajos and Hataałii make offerings to both the mountains and rivers for the well-being of the Navajo People. The six sacred mountains and the four rivers are revered and are significant to all Navajos and in all Navajo ceremonies.

Which movies were filmed at Monument Valley? ›

In Ford's wake, scores of films have featured Monument Valley, which straddles the border between Arizona and Utah. They include Forrest Gump, Mission: Impossible 2, Easy Rider, Back to the Future Part III, National Lampoon's Vacation and the 2013 version of The Lone Ranger.

Does anyone live in Monument Valley? ›

An estimated 100 Navajo people live in the valley today.

What is the nickname for Monument Valley? ›

“The Navajo name for Monument Valley is Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii. Tsé means rocks. Biiʼ Ndzisgaii means the light, lighting up the valley.

What is Monument Valley in Navajo language? ›

Monument Valley, known as Tse'Bii'Ndzisgaii in the Navajo language, is a 91,000-acre tribal park that straddles the border of Arizona and Utah and is known as a place where natural wonders meet a rich cultural legacy.

What happened in the Navajo origin legend? ›

Traditional Navajos believe the Diné Bahane'1 or the “Navajo creation story” and journey narrative was given to the Navajo people by the Holy Beings. Changing Woman is the Holy Being that created the four original clans of the Navajo and saved humans from the monsters that were destroying the earth.

What mountain is sacred to the Navajo? ›

The boundaries of the Navajo (Din'e) homeland are four sacred mountains: Blanca Peak, Mount Taylor, the San Francisco Peaks, and the La Plata Mountains. The Din'e moved into this area around 1800, and changed from hunting and gathering when the Spanish introduced domesticated animals.

What happened to the totem in Monument Valley? ›

Ida first finds Totem in The Labyrinth. Together they solve the puzzles throughout the level. At the end, the platform the pedestal is on breaks off from the wall behind it and begins drifting into the ocean, with Ida on it. Totem tries to follow her, but soon sinks into the water.

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