Navajo Nation—the Locals' Way

Robbie Rubly-Burggraff moved to Navajo Nation 18 months ago, but she still hadn't explored its northwest—so she enlisted the help of a Navajo friend.

Shonto Trading PostOff Hwy. 98, Shonto, 928/672-2320

We awake to fresh coffee and doughnuts outside the hogan, and Richard drives us out of the valley. On the way, we pass The View Hotel, the park's luxury hotel with windows overlooking the Mittens. Nothing against the hogan's sand floor, but Shirley and I agree it would be nice to try a luxury experience the next time we visit.

We want to make one last shopping trip in Kayenta at the Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise, which we have heard is a great place to buy jewelry made of real silver, turquoise, and coral. When we enter, the clerk greets us and says that all the handmade items in the store are 40 percent off. The prices are already low enough—if we tried to buy this kind of jewelry in Tucson or Santa Fe, N.M., we'd pay twice as much. I finally decide on a pair of silver-and-turquoise bear-paw earrings for $18.

On our drive home, Shirley and I discuss the dissonance we've both been noticing over the past few days between the unparalleled natural beauty of Navajo Nation and the extreme poverty of its people. I've come away with a deep respect for the way the Diné have maintained their culture, language, and identity despite the hardships they've endured over the past 150 years—and continue to face today.



  • Navajo Arts and Crafts EnterpriseJunction of Hwy. 160 and Rte. 163, Kayenta, 928/871-4090,

Finding the way

If you fly into Phoenix, the closest major city to Navajo Nation, the drive to Tuba City takes four hours. All the main roads in the Nation are well-marked and paved. Other things to note: Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time, but Navajo Nation does. And cell phone reception is spotty throughout the Nation.

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