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No modern Indians live within the boundaries of Petrified Forest National Monument, but several important tribes and pueblos are located in surrounding areas within a day's journey from the monument. Two groups are represented—the seminomadic Navajo and Apache who appear to have come to the Southwest about the time of the discovery of America, and the Pueblo Indians, descendants of the prehistoric inhabitants of the region.

The Navajo Indians.—The Navajo Indian Reservation borders the north side of the Painted Desert section of the monument and includes most of the area north of Highway 66 between Gallup, N. Mex., and the Colorado River. The Navajos are a progressive people who, since they were conquered in 1863, have led a peaceful, seminomadic mode of life following their flocks of sheep and goats. Their spirit has never been conquered, and they remain today a proud race, practically independent and self-supporting. Their houses are hogans built of stone, logs, brush, and earth. Sheep raising is the chief industry, and some farming is practiced. Rug weaving by the women and silversmithing by the men are the chief crafts. The Navajos have many ceremonies, most of which are for the purpose of healing the sick. These ceremonies also serve as social gatherings.


The Apache Indians.—The Apaches and their Navajo relatives came to the Southwest not long before the first Spanish explorers. After obtaining horses, the Apaches became the terror of the Southwest, raiding other Indians and molesting Spanish and American settlements and travelers. Since the surrender of their last great chief, Geronimo, in 1886, they have lived quietly on their reservations in western New Mexico and east-central Arizona. The largest of these reservations is the White River Reservation in the mountain country about a hundred miles south of Petrified Forest. The principal occupations of the Apaches are stock raising, farming, and lumbering. They once wove excellent baskets, but have, in recent years, largely discontinued this craft. They worship numerous individual and personal gods, and formerly held many ceremonies. Today the Devil Dance is the most spectacular and best known.

The Zuni Indians.—Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico, about 75 miles east of the Petrified Forest, is, perhaps, the most historic Indian village in the Southwest. When first visited by the Spaniards under Coronado in 1539, the Zunis were living in seven towns, the famous Seven Cities of Cibola. The modern pueblo, established in 1695, is on the site of one of the original seven. Today the Zunis practice farming, stock raising, and make much pottery, silver jewelry, and other objects for sale. In tribal organization, customs, and religion, the Zunis are similar to the Hopis. They have many ceremonies which, like those of the other Pueblo Indians, are chiefly supplications for rain and good crops.

The Hopi Indians.—The Hopis, occupying several mesa villages in the center of the Navajo Reservation, are among the descendants of the prehistoric Pueblo Indians of northeastern Arizona. Of all the modern Indians, the Hopis are least changed by contact with the white man's civilization. The old people, especially, closely follow the traditional Hopi ways of life. Oraibi, one of their mesa villages, has been continuously occupied since about 350 years before the discovery of America. The Hopis are a peaceful and hospitable people engaging in farming, pottery making, basketry, and some silversmithing and textile weaving. Their ceremonies are frequent and are probably the most elaborate now practiced by American Indians. The Kachina Dances during the spring and summer, and the Snake Dance in August are the best known, the latter being the public performance which closes a 9-day ceremony held in the secrecy of the Kivas. It is a prayer for rain and a thanksgiving.

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Last Updated: 14-Aug-2009