Located in northeastern Arizona, Navajo National Monument is anomalous among national park areas. The monument contains three distinct and non-contiguous sections, administered from one headquarters. The three sections of the monument, Betatakin, Keet Seel, and Inscription House, are surrounded by the Navajo reservation. Dating from the 13th century C. E., they contain the primary representation of the Kayenta Anasazi within the national park system. Yet because of their location and the distance between the three areas, Navajo National Monument is an inholding on the Navajo reservation.
This condition has created a level of interdependence unequaled elsewhere in the national park system. The monument and its neighbors depend on each other for mutual sustenance. The park provides a range of services not otherwise available as well as significant employment opportunities to the people of the Shonto region. Through a complex series of formal agreements and customs, local Navajos support the park and participate in its activities.
Like many other smaller southwestern national monuments, Navajo developed slowly. At its inception, the Park Service had few resources, most of which were used to improve national parks. Navajo National Monument had only a volunteer custodian from its establishment in 1909 until 1938. New Deal development bypassed the monument, and despite the construction of basic facilities, at the end of the 1950s Navajo remained a remote place, inaccessible to most of the traveling public.
The initiation of the MISSION 66 program in the 1950s and an extensive road construction program by the Navajo Nation ended the historic isolation of the monument. MISSION 66 planned an extensive development for Navajo, but the plans were held in abeyance until an adequate area of land on which to build a visitor center could be acquired. A complicated series of attempts to arrange a transfer of land followed, resulting in the Memorandum of Agreement of May 1962. This allowed the Park Service to add 240 acres for development of facilities.
The addition of the land transformed the monument. Beginning in 1962, a comprehensive capital development program ensued. The physical plant of the monument was constructed, and Navajo National Monument became a modern park area. Its ability to offer services increased dramatically, and with the completion of paved roads to the Visitor Center in 1965, the number of visitors increased exponentially. Navajo had the facilities, but its resources remained limited.
The result of the transformation made the interdependence of the monument and its neighbors even more important. As the funding available to the park leveled off, the monument became more and more of an outpost. Good relations with the people of the area were critical, and a string of superintendents worked to assure harmonious interaction. By the 1980s, the monument had become an important cog in its neighborhood, a fixture in the sociocultural and economic structure of the Shonto region.
While the distance between the three areas posed administrative problems, the real threat to Navajo National Monument came from the lack of resources available to the Park Service. As the 1990s began, the federal deficit and the economic climate in the U.S. limited the funding the monument received and consequently the level of service that it could offer visitors. With fragile archeological resources that required both protection and maintenance, the monument had an expensive mission. Without adequate support, the Park Service could not genuinely perform the duties assigned in the authorizing legislation.
Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006