If there is a fee involved pass it on… To give a little background the canyons are located inside Navajo land and as such are owned and operated by the Navajo. From my understanding one is not allowed to simply go there without a Navajo escort and so they have setup tours to visit the canyons. I shot over to the area that day with enthusiasm of seeing the same canyons I had seen in photos with the magic light and slick water carved walls. Though as soon as I came within 10 miles or so of the place I noticed the coal burning power plant emitting it’s toxic gases into the air and was instantly downed. Little did I know this plant would end up being less than a mile or so away from the canyons. Upon arriving at the parking lot of the tour area I was instantly thrown back at how commercialized the whole thing was. There were giant tour buses coming in from vegas with mostly Asian tourists among many others. The tour area held a small shack where you’d pay $35 dollars for a 4x4 ride with a small group and a Navajo escort to the canyon. While parking the bike and securing my gear I felt the dense atmosphere and already regretted being there. Watching the moon set behind the high powered lines and coal plant sure didn’t help.
I set out to do what I had planned and went up to the shack, paid my fee and proceeded to wait with a the other tourists. As luck or faith or chance would have it the group I waited with were 6 and I ended up being odd number 7. Since the converted bed of the 4x4 tour truck only fit 6 I got to ride shotgun with my guide. Who again by chance or what have you ended up being non other than the granddaughter of the original Najavo elder who as a child stumbled upon and discovered the canyons. Not being much of a conversationalist I somehow ended up deep into one with my guide. She proceeded to tell me the whole story behind the canyons, her grandmothers discovery and so forth. She opened up and basically talked the entire ride there while I mostly just listened. In addition to hearing about the canyon and it’s history we somehow ended up talking about the power plant. She told me how the power company had persuaded her grandmother among other elders to sign a land contract to build the plant. Promises were made that jobs would be made available to the Navajo and that the electricity generated would be first routed to benefit the local area and people. Nothing but lies as is the norm with ALL industry and corporations of this planet. She went on to mention how local livestock, plant life and unfortunately the very people of the area were chronically ill and suffering from the emissions of the plant. The power generated was sent out to power places outside the Nation like Vegas. She mentioned how different cancers, lung and immunity diseases were common in the area, affecting everyone from the elderly to the young. The more I listened and learned the more disgusted I became and the more I wanted to leave however I knew I had to experience what was happening and stick through it.
“Those who seek the truth deserve the penalty of finding it”
Once we got to the staging area of the canyons I was overwhelmed by the amount of people and 4x4s in the place. There must have been at least a dozen trucks and over 50 people standing around, each group of tourists with their own Navajo guide. The guides somewhat coordinated leading the groups through the canyons so we were waiting for our turn. After my guide stepped off the truck and back into the “real world” all I saw were dollars signs in her eyes. After riding through the Nation and witnessing the shacks, drunks and poor conditions these people had to endure I really couldn’t blame her. She finally led our group through and the place was packed to the point where it was claustrophobic to be there. The groups were rushed through and there was maybe 6 feet of space between us. Sometimes groups piled up while people flashed photography of themselves against the beautifully smooth carved walls which must have taken nature millions of years to carve. I felt like I was alone in a sea of zombies and the only one taken back by what was happening to this magic place and these once proud and flourishing people. Though with camera in hand I was so disgusted and overwhelmed by the whole experience that I only managed to snap a few shots. It felt wrong to be there! This was a sacred beautiful place turned commercial merely because of the conditions the very native people of this land were forced to endure. Thoughts and feelings ran wild while witnessing the masses hypnotized by the beauty while ignoring the truth. I wanted nothing more but for this whole experience to end!
The whole ride back again riding shotgun I was shocked and stunned while listening yet to more and more about the Navajo and their miserable daily lives. I got back to the parking lot packed up and left the place in disbelief, anguish and with my stomach in knots. I couldn’t belief what I had just heard, learned and witnessed but I knew my gut had led me there for a reason. I spent the rest of the day in silence just wanting to find a hole to crawl into. I headed northwest towards the Vermillion cliffs where I would spend the night listening to the Colorado carving away at the land and contemplating the events of that day.