Wupatki National Monument is well known for its 900-year-old pueblos, but less frequently recognized are the historic structures built by the Navajo (Diné) people. There are 67 documented historic Navajo sites located within the monument. Of the approximately 200 Navajos who once lived in the area, only a few are alive and able to share their stories. This interpretive document is intended to introduce you to the stories that are tied to selected structures, artifacts, and landscapes encompassed by Wupatki National Monument.
Piecing Together the History of a Navajo Family
In 2010, archeologists completed detailed documentation of five select Navajo sites located within the monument boundaries. This was an important first step in beginning to understand the Navajo occupation within the monument. During the project we were fortunate to have Inez Paddock, a National Park Service employee, share her experiences as a young girl living and visiting her cousin Katherine in the monument.
During the next few years, Inez Paddock volunteered her time and worked with NPS Archeologist Kelly Stehman to refine the existing Navajo ethno-history in an attempt to identify those who once lived within the monument. In 2013, Inez Paddock introduced Kelly Stehman to her cousin, a former long-time resident of the monument, Katherine Peshlakai and her daughter Polly Peshlakai-Atkinson. Together, these four women have been working to document the experiences Katherine, Polly, and Inez had while living in the area now encompassed by Wupatki National Monument.
The following excepts were recorded during a place-based interview at Wupatki National Monument on December 13, 2014. Click on the links below to listen to recordings from that interview.
Polly: Yeah, I was born down where, uh, my—my half-sister lives right now—hogan that fell in last year. That's where I was born with Richard; Richard was born at the same place, too... And then down this way is where we used to live, down in the valley.
Polly: My birth certificate was made from here, from the ranger station.
Polly: I walked back over there one time to the Hogan—with one of my friends, we took a picture of us standing in front of it when it was still standing. And then, uh, we went back over there one time. Two years later I think it was, it was all, it fell in.
Polly: People used to live alongside the river to get water from the river, but then it started flooding, so my dad's mom1 was living here, and uh, he got her and helped her with her wagon and stuff and got on top of that hill right up, on, on to your, the west side right over here—
1 Polly is referring to Baa, Clyde Peshlakai's mother.
Polly: After we moved from Wupatki we used to live right here, right in that area. That's where our first home was to get reintroduced to the reservation. We lived on, at Wupatki, for so long that the people—it was harder for us to move back here (reservation) because they didn't want us here anymore. Just by, um, one of my great uncle, I think, Emmitt Lee? He's the one that kind of put his foot down to a lot of the people and said let them live here, you know. So we just kind of squeezed to stay at the border of the reservation. That's as far as they allow, other people would allow us to move.
Polly: I guess certain people lived in there off and on, and they once lived in there, too, she said.
Katherine: Big Ben [Navajo]
Inez: Big Ben from Leupp is the one that built it.
Inez: See it's kind of like temporarily where everybody moves in then leaves again, she said.
Polly: Off and on, shared hogan.
Inez: Yeah, and then she said they used to live there, too.
Polly: It's one of those—what do you call shares, share, share—uh, you know...
Inez: How's your mom?
This presentation introduced you to one of the many families that lived within the Wupatki Basin, before the area became Wupatki National Monument. Oral history is a valuable and important research method that provides firsthand knowledge about the interaction between people and their environment. The information gained from this project will be used to guide park resource management actions and planning efforts in terms of maintaining and improving the preservation, protection, interpretation, and visitor enjoyment of historic Navajo structures, artifacts, and stories. In the future, we hope to include more stories from this family, and from the many other individuals who lived within Wupatki National Monument.
Last updated: February 4, 2016