The Navajo Nation: A Photography Guide

The famed Mittens, calling card of Monument Valley Tribal Park, Utah and Arizona. © Jerry Ginsberg
The Famed Mittens, Calling Card of Monument Valley Tribal Park © Jerry Ginsberg

Story and photos by Jerry Ginsberg

These days, whenever I think of the innumerable terrific photo destinations throughout our county, especially the great Southwest, my reaction has become, “Wait until next year.” With travel planning now stuck in limbo waiting out the coronavirus, it doesn’t hurt to catalog some of the places that await us when we are once again free to roam around in search of great places and great images. High on that list are the lands of the Diné Bikéyah or Navajo Nation.

At over 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, this sprawling tract is home to about 180,000 Native Americans. Tragically, they have been hit very hard by the coronavirus. As a result, the reservation has been locked down and prohibiting visitors for some time with an end not yet in sight.

Looking forward to brighter days, let’s take stock of some of the region’s visual highlights.

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NATIONAL PARKS: How do national monuments differ?

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

President Theodore Roosevelt was the original maverick. When he saw a problem, he found a solution, even if he had to bend the rules a bit to create one.

As far back as 1906, this activist president was faced with a need to protect the immense volcanic plug called Devil’s Tower in eastern Wyoming. Characteristically forging his own path, he applied the new Antiquities Act in an unorthodox fashion to create America’s very first national monument. Before he was done, Roosevelt signed 18 national monuments into existence.

Congress had intended the Antiquities Act to protect “objects of historic and scientific interest.” In essence, it was meant to prohibit pot hunters from stripping ancient Native American sites of their treasures. Still, after over a century of precedent, Roosevelt’s creative application of the act has now become settled law, and its continued use is unlikely to be altered going forward.

Certainly not all such monuments come into being in this dramatic fashion. Many wind their way through a bureaucratic process that can take years.

Once a monument is established, it becomes a unit of the National Park Service. Some monuments are administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). No matter how they come into being or who administers them, national monuments do not have national park status, facilities or the number of visitors that frequent national parks.

Of the approximately 130 national monuments presently in existence, 30 have been established in this young century alone. Continue reading