Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Visit To Rocky Ridge

by John Aldrich

The Hardrock/Big Mountain/Rocky Ridge area is one of the most remote in Navajoland. In the mid-1980's there was a great deal of turbulence in this region due to the Hopi-Navajo land dispute. The roots of this dispute rested in the perceived need to establish a firm boundary between the two tribes' lands. This was not a need as far as the people were concerned but was rather something forced upon them by politicians and businessmen. When the court finally handed down its ruling, the result was that thousands of Navajos were forced to leave the land that had been their homeland for generations. Only a handful of Hopi's were affected.

The founding of the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program occurred in this time frame as a result of Linda Myers' interest in helping these Elders who were faced with relocation. Many resisted and spent time in jail as a result. With the help of Grace Smith Yellowhammer, Linda was able to meet and begin bringing food, clothing and supplies to these people, and thus began the semiannual food runs.

Initially the food runs took place at May Shay's homeland at Big Mountain. May's land fell on the wrong side of the new boundary, but rather than move she elected to stay and lease her land from the Hopis. Now the food runs are held at the Robertson family homeland at Hardrock.

Recently we had occasion to travel to this area to deliver Christmas stockings to the Rocky Ridge School. This boarding school is run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and serves a population that is determined to stay on their land despite the hardships of living in such a remote area. The closest stores of any size are in Winslow, ninety miles to the south while picking up mail is a fifty mile round trip. Many have no running water and must haul their water from many miles away.

As one drives north from the Hopi villages on Second Mesa, an expansive landscape unfolds which has little to no evidence of human habitation. This is because Hopis traditionally dwell in pueblos and villages, and this is Hopi land.

The first indication that you have reached Navajo lands is this sign indicating a turn that will take you to the Hardrock Chapter facilities and beyond to Rocky Ridge and Big Mountain.

This view, looking west across Dinnebito Wash, shows the Rocky Ridge area. The water towers are located at the school. At this point the pavement ends, and travel north and south is on rough dirt roads which become impassable after storms.

The Rocky Ridge General Store carries a limited selection of food and supplies. A concession to modern times, videos are available.

A colorful sign near the store espouses the virtues of education.

Here is a typical Navajo home. Most Navajos live in family clusters with multiple dwellings for different branches of the family along with a shared hogan.

The school is seen here. The number of students attending this school has declined in recent years as many students are bused to schools further away.

Leaving Rocky Ridge we pass a flock of sheep. This is a common scene on the reservation, as livestock grazing, especially sheep, is a cornerstone of traditional Navajo life.

With a blizzard warning in effect the morning we left, we beat a hasty retreat back towards Salt Lake City.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the interesting information, especially about the Hopi and Navajo legalities of the eighties. The pictures are beautiful and the map is helpful in seeing where places are that I've heard of in the newsletters.