Canyon de Chelly
Administrative History
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THE LULL, 1950-1957

Everett Bright, the new superintendent, arrived at Chinle toward the end of June 1950. He expressed gratitude for Guillet's careful preparations for the change in administration and was soon busy continuing improvements and maintenance and serving the visiting public. The major addition to monument facilities in July was a new half-ton pickup, increasing to three the number of vehicles available for work. [1]

David De Harport returned on July 3. [2] His first two seasons of work had been done on foot from Chinle, but this year he had an old army jeep and camped, [3] enabling him to extend his survey further up the canyon. In 20 miles of the main canyon he had a grand total of 342 sites by the end of the 1950 season on September 15. [4]

Charley Steen arrived on July 25 to resume his excavations at Tse Ta'a. [5] He again hired Navajo workers, and this season had Chauncey Neboyia on his crew. [6] He closed down the dig on September 22 [7] and spent another week preparing his collections for shipment to Santa Fe. [8] His was the first major published report to appear on the archaeology of the monument. [9]

Bright devoted considerable energy to physical improvements. In August he installed a grease rack for the maintenance of the vehicles and graded a parking area behind headquarters for Government vehicles. In September he hauled flagstone from the deposits near Ganado and used it in front of the headquarters building and in construction of a drinking fountain. [10] What was left over was used for a walkway around the living quarters. [11] While the picnic areas had been used for camping by visitors for some time, a campground with ten tables and ten fireplaces was now being planned. [12] Bright was unable to secure bids on the project and so began work on it himself. [13] The job progressed slowly because low temperatures hindered the concrete work. [14]

Cooperative work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs on watershed problems was also undertaken. In November Paul Balch visited the canyon to determine what was needed. [15] By the end of the year the Bureau had built 500 jetties to protect fields; of these, 200 were at Twin Trails in del Muerto and 300 not far above White House. The cooperative Bureau-Park Service project was awaiting the opening of bids. [16]

John M. Davis, now general superintendent of Southwestern Monuments, visited McSparron in June and apparently resolved some of the issues relating to the concession permit, for in July he sent a revised draft for signatures by McSparron and Bright. The only change mentioned appears to be minor-exclusion of a provision regarding saddle horses because Cozy merely acted as an agent for Navajos in the matter under the terms of the act of February 14, 1931. [17] Bright was able to return the signed copies a week later and reported that he was getting on quite well with Cozy. He also reported that representatives of the tribe had visited Cozy to inquire about purchasing Thunderbird Ranch. McSparron had quoted a price and thought the prospects for selling his business were good. [18]

This new proposal raised legal questions that the Bureau wanted answered. The Window Rock Area Office wrote the regional director of the Park Service asking whether Cozy paid the Park Service any fees and whether, if he did, Cozy might conclude that he was entitled to a refund of rent he had already paid the tribe. The possibility of excluding Thunderbird Ranch from the monument if purchased by the tribe was also suggested in order to avoid Park Service regulation of a tribal operation. The advisory committee of the council was asking why the tribe had only been granted concession rights to horse rentals in the first place. [19]

Personnel changes in the regional office delayed replying to these questions until October. The regional director's answer seems to have been based on the premise that the Park Service owned the lands within the monument boundaries. He wrote, in part,

I am not familiar with the details of the ordinance referred to by Mr. Fister as passed by the Navajo Tribe requiring traders occupying tribal lands to pay to the Navajos a percentage of gross sales in the form of rentals. However, it is obvious that the Thunderbird Ranch cannot be within Canyon de Chelly National Monument . . . and at the same time on tribal lands. Mr. McSparron is paying a fee for his concession permit No. I-33np-263, issued by the National Park Service, authorizing him to operate a "trading post and guest ranch, furnishing motor transportation services up the canyons del Muerto and de Chelly, and such other services necessary for the convenience of visitors. . ." Irrespective of what his concession fee for that permit might be, it seems that, during the same period, he should not have been required to pay to the Tribal Council a fee of any kind since he could not have been occupying tribal lands if he were occupying national monument lands."

.   .   .   .   .

In Mr. Fister's letter of August 9 he refers to the possibility of relinquishing that portion of the monument on which Thunderbird Ranch and Trading Post are located.

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Without competent legal advice I could not . . . say whether in this case the lands on which Thunderbird Ranch and Trading Post are located could be eliminated from the monument without Congressional action.

Neither the Proclamation of April 1, 1931, nor that of March 3, 1933, makes any provisions as to the preferential rights to be granted to Navajo Indians. The provision to which you refer is, however, included in the basic act of February 14, 1931. I cannot answer your specific inquiry as to why that Act did not grant preferential concession rights as well to Navajo Indians, since our files do not contain a record of the background information leading to the passage of the Act. . . . [20]

Hagerman's fears of the ignoring of Navajo rights would seem to have been well founded. The effects of this communication on Park Service-Navajo relations were to be seen the following year, but the immediate result was Cozy's refusal to pay any further rental to the tribe. [21]

Local community relations continued to be good through the year. Guillet had started Bright out well with the Navajos apparently and when, in his first month as superintendent, Bright faced the problem created by a tourist's dog killing a Navajo sheep, the matter was settled by the visitor's payment of $25 as compensation. [22] The established policy of Park Service aid to Navajos in time of crisis was continued. Morris, acting superintendent while Bright was on leave, helped with the burial of an elderly Navajo man. [23]

By January 1951 the new concrete picnic tables were being installed, as were five of the ten fireplaces. [24] The following, month everything was in place. They were divided among three campgrounds: at headquarters, at White House Overlook, and at Spider Rock Overlook. The Spider Rock Trail was shortened from 900 yards to 100 yards when the road was extended to the new camp area. [25] With the setting up of trash disposal containers and new signs, the monument was ready for a record season of visitation and camping. [26] Other changes during the year included construction of a low stone retaining wall behind the headquarters/living quarters building and of a new display rack and case for publication sales, and removal of the fireplace in the office when an oil heater was installed. [27] David Gorman evidently continued as maintenance man, because there is mention of his breaking an ankle while moving the new concrete tables. [28]

De Harport was the only researcher to work in the canyons that year. He arrived on July 2 and before leaving on November 5 had extended his survey another 3-1/2 miles up the main canyon, adding 20 sites from that area and two from lower reaches of the area for a grand total of 364. He also excavated two small sites and salvaged a burial eroding at Standing Cow Ruin at the request of local Navajos and the Park Service. [29]

Locally Navajo relations seemed to be good. Monument employees joined local school personnel in sponsoring an Easter egg hunt in the headquarter's campground for 300 schoolchildren. [30] An Enemyway held in August near Antelope House was attended by many visitors. [31]

The exceptionally heavy visitation, which diverted so much time to interpretation and guide work that maintenance work fell behind, [32] filled the Thunderbird's guest accommodations to capacity and brought Cozy higher revenues than ever before. [33] This increasingly profitable business was duly noted by the Navajo Tribal Council. Cozy's adamant refusal to continue paying rent to the tribe and Tillotson's assertion of NPS ownership of the land at Canyon de Chelly, however, were doubtlessly the primary stimuli for strong council action. [34] On October 2 the advisory committee of that body passed a resolution stating:

  1. It is the opinion of the Committee, that the Navajo Tribe, through the establishment of the Canyon de Chelly National Monument on Tribal lands within the Navajo Reservation, retained full ownership and control of the lands.

  2. The action of the National Park Service in granting a concession for trading and hotel purposes is not proper or within the authority of the Park Service.

  3. Should the National Park Service claim rights to grant concessions within the area, the Committee hereby requests the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and the Secretary of the Interior to cause the boundaries of the monument to be changed to exclude that portion of the lands on which the Thunder Bird Ranch is located.

  4. An understanding be worked out with the National Park Service and the Navajo Tribe relative to the use and control of the Tribal lands within the monument.

The resolution was approved by Walter O. Olson for Alan G. Harper, area director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. [35]

No follow-up correspondence on the matter has been found, and a routine boundary status report showed no Park Service concern with the tribal action. On November 8 Bright recommended "no change" in the monument boundaries with no qualifying comments. [36] The regional landscape architect and the regional engineer both suggested that the narrow wedges of land created by the sinuous boundaries be utilized in road building. [37] Tillotson, in forwarding the report to the Director, felt that there would be no difficulties involved in working out agreements with the Bureau when needed for road construction and maintenance and supported Bright's original recommendation, which had been agreed to by Guillet and Southwestern Monuments General Superintendent John M. Davis. [38]

In September a young Navajo man, Paul Anagal, committed suicide by jumping from a 700-foot cliff. [39]

The last event involving Navajos with which the Park Service had any concern that year was a minor international incident that lightened the somber mood with a touch of humor. As reported by Bright:

On December 6, a Mr. Anderson an experienced mountain climber from Norway, went down the White House Trail to do some hiking and return by coming out at the mouth of the canyon near our headquarters. About a mile and a half from his destination, for some unknown reason, he turned around and started in the other direction. On the 7th, the de Chelly staff tracked him until dark and returned for flashlights. In the mean time, Mr. Able Garcia, from the Canyon de Chelly Trading Post, was informed by a Navajo that the man was seen in upper del Muerto still going the other way, away from home. Just before we were ready to leave for a continued search Mr. Garcia came in with the lost party. Mr. Anderson admitted he was lost, but he thought there was just one canyon, de Chelly. He was very hungry and glad to be back with his wife and small child who were staying at the Catholic Mission. He had spent the night in a hogan where he had borrowed an overcoat and some extra shoes. When found he had forced his way into another hogan . . . Navajos do not live in the canyons in the winter . . . and was prepaired [sic] for the second night. The overcoat was badly burnt, evidently he had fallen asleep too near the fire. After some bickering the Navajo got a new overcoat from the Catholic Mission and a $5.00 bill from his overnight guest, so all parted company friends. Strange as it may seem, he had entered two hogans that belonged to the same family, they were four miles apart. [40]

The new year brought "rain, snow, sleet, hail, and blizzard," closing all roads except the one to Ganado, and even that was not passable part of the month. As a result, there were no visitors. Cold weather interfered with maintenance projects, but work was begun on a flood diversion wall west of the headquarters building. [41] The cold damp weather damaged the roads, which deteriorated rapidly under heavy use by the Navajos, who were hauling more firewood than usual. Because of light tourist visitation, most of February was devoted to maintenance of roads and other facilities. [42] In March the increased soil moisture helped precipitate slides blocking White House Trail in three places. [43] The damage turned out to be quite extensive, and work on the trail continued throughout the year. [44] A special horse-drawn cart was employed to transport materials along the narrow access. [45] Road maintenance continued despite the wet weather, which lasted all year, and seems to have been accomplished through a pragmatic division of responsibility among the Park Service, Bureau, and perhaps the county. [46] Work began in the fall on a paved road from Window Rock to Ganado. [47]

Concern for a formal agreement, particularly if major road building should be authorized, was still felt, however. In March, National Park Service Director Conrad L. Wirth again raised this matter in relation to the monument boundary in a memorandum to the regional director:

I would agree that ordinarily it is desirable and important that our boundaries fall outside of whatever developments are necessary for a park or monument. Canyon de Chelly seems unique, however, in that there would be no Monument at all if the Indians had not been willing to agree to let us administer a portion of their lands for monument purposes. In view of the past involvements, surveys and approvals required to establish the present jurisdictional boundary, I am inclined to agree that we might well complicate rather than gain from any attempt to convert the Indians to a boundary extension at this time, especially when the need for it appears to be more technical than real. Of course, this does not preclude the possibility that the boundary might eventually be adjusted.

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I am requesting the Chief Counsel, by copy of this memorandum, to seek appropriate provision in the next point of order legislation to cover any necessary Monument road construction, maintenance or improvement on lands situated outside the present Monument Boundary. Please advise whether you concur in this or whether you can work out some alternative arrangement with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. . . . [48]

The matter, however, seems to have remained unresolved at this time.

Erosion control was especially important as a result of the heavy precipitation. In March 150 "native" Russian olive and Chinese elm trees were planted around the headquarters area. [49] Dale S. King, then acting general superintendent of Southwestern Monuments, suggested that the use of truly native species, such as cottonwood, would be preferable, but conceded that the canyons already harbored many exotic plant and animal species. [50] About this time Bright took delivery of 3,000 pounds of assorted grass seed for use in the watershed project. [51] No information exists as to what species were introduced at this time, but it seems quite probable that new exotics were included.

Work on the construction of masonry water control drops along the south rim of the main canyon began on May 19. [52] As this progressed, the grass seeding was also done, and the Navajos were reportedly pleased with the results. [53] In August further building of jetties was done in both del Muerto and de Chelly. By September 26 some 300 out of a planned total of 350 were completed. [54]

In the spring and summer, new record levels of visitation were again set. A great deal of time was therefore devoted to interpretive work and cleaning the campgrounds. [55] A new wayside exhibit telling the legend of Spider Rock was erected at that overlook and an exhibit was planned for the White House Overlook also. [56] Due to the increased demand for such items, new slides and postcards were exhibited in a new display, and sold rapidly. [57] In June the area got its first 4-wheel-drive vehicle, a new jeep, which greatly facilitated patrolling the canyons and accomplishing other work in sections difficult to reach. [58]

Relations with the Navajos fluctuated. In March the Bureau stationed two Navajo police officers at Chinle because of increased drinking in the area. This move was greeted with approval by Bright. In the same month Bright was elected president of the Chinle group of the National Federation of Federal Employees, most of whose members were Bureau workers. [59] About 250 turned out in April when the area staff again helped sponsor an Easter egg hunt for local schoolchildren. [60] An Enemyway held at the foot of White House Trail in August was witnessed by many visitors. [61]

Thunderbird Ranch had enjoyed another very busy season and Bright thought that they should expand the facilities. [62] Because the mild fall weather kept visitation at a high level the ranch agreed to keep its guest accommodations open beyond the regular closing date of October 15. [63] Tribal interest in the operation had not diminished. In November Bright went to Window Rock to arrange for a meeting with tribal and Bureau officials, [64] but it was not held until 3 months later. [65]

Toward the end of November Morris was transferred; the ranger position was not to be refilled and perhaps would be allowed to lapse. [66] Bright, with record visitations each year, would have to manage with long-term seasonal assistance. Because of Chinle's remoteness, however, winter visitation was very low and other matters could be handled at this time. In January 1953 Bright was able to complete a diversion wall to protect a section of the road to the White House Overlook that had frequently suffered damage in the past. [67] Various maintenance jobs could be easily tackled. [68] By April, however, nearly half of Bright's time was required for interpretive services and even more was devoted to these activities in May. [69] Two new wayside exhibits were installed at the White House Overlook and a self-guiding trail to the ruin was planned to relieve the pressure on the personnel. [70] By the end of the year work on the self-guiding booklet was well underway at Southwestern Monuments headquarters. [71] Seasonal Ranger John T. McConville reported for duty June 8 and was very much needed, for visitation more than doubled and time spent with tourists almost doubled. [72] Bright was transferred to Craters of the Moon National Monument and left September 1; McConville was acting superintendent until relieved by John A. Aubuchon on November 19. McConville was terminated on December 3. [73] It seems likely that under these circumstances much of the knowledge of the unique problems of the area gained by Guillet and passed on to Bright was lost.

However, Aubuchon remembers his relations with the Navajos as being generally cordial, as the records of his administration indicate. He joined the local Presbyterian church, his admission being approved by an all-Navajo, non-English-speaking board. He recalls numerous occasions when transportation was supplied to individual canyon residents in times of need. His memories of the place and of his stay there seem to be generally pleasant ones. [74]

Little in the way of permanent improvements was accomplished by the local staff. In addition to the diversion wall to protect the road, the only significant change was the conversion of a toolroom into public restrooms by Eugene Mott. [75] Erosion control was continued under the joint Bureau-Park Service project with the planting of another 2,500 pounds of grass seeds and of willow cuttings taken from the flourishing stands at White House and Antelope House, [76] the willows having been used at the jetties built in 1952.

Bright continued his efforts at improving community relations with the annual Easter egg hunt, but there is generally little mention of Navajo or community affairs in the monthly reports for the year. [77]

Consideration of the road and boundary problem moved with extreme slowness. Not until February 12 did P. P. Patrow, acting regional director, reply to Tillotson's memorandum of March 29, 1952, giving regional concurrence to the suggestion that special legislative authority be sought to permit road building outside the monument's boundaries. [78]

A report by Bright in July on utilities shows the interrelatedness of the Park Service, the concessioner, and local Navajos. Cozy supplied electricity from a private generator for both his own use and for the Park Service. His rates, while considered high, were lower than the cost would have been if the Service were required to generate its own power. A 5,000-gallon water reservoir constructed by the Service provided water for the Thunderbird, the Park Service, and local Navajos, both for domestic use and for watering livestock. This was not adequate for the demand, especially in view of the need to maintain a reserve for fire fighting. In 1936 the Park Service had put in a gas engine to pump the water and a meter so that Cozy could be charged for water supplied to the Thunderbird. Mechanical problems with the meter and the small capacity of the pump caused so much trouble that about 1947 or 1948 Cozy installed an electric pump. Since that time he had pumped the water at his own expense in the daytime and the Park Service took over at night. This was the only method possible to meet the demands created by the increased visitation and by the growing needs of the Navajos. [79]

Perhaps the major accomplishment of the Government, in its effect on both monument operation and the local Navajos, was work done by the Bureau of Indian Affairs some distance away. In October the paving of the road from Window Rock to Ganado was completed. [80] This cut the distance from Chinle to a paved road by 30 miles, making access to goods and services not locally available easier for all residents and facilitating tourist access to the monument.

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Last Updated: 08-Mar-2004