Protecting the sacred: Navajo Nation buys land at revered peak in Colorado

Southwest Life

Protecting the sacred: Navajo Nation buys land at revered peak in Colorado

Of the two Navajo sacred mountains in Colorado, one is in the La Platas and one is in the Sangre de Cristos in the San Luis Valley. Blanca Peak or Sisnaajini is known as Black-Belted Mountain, and recently the Navajo Nation acquired 30,000 acres below the peak’s east side in the Wet Mountain Valley.
Part of the importance of the four sacred peaks to Navajos is that their medicine men or hatali travel to the peaks to acquire rare plants and minerals for their jiish or medicine bags. This photograph of Nesjaja, a Navajo medicine man, was taken by photographer Edward Sheriff Curtis in 1904. The original Curtis photogravure print was donated to the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College by the Gulliford family in 2004.
The most prominent peak in the La Plata Mountains seen from the west side is Hesperus Peak, which is one of the four sacred mountains for the Navajo. This view is from the north side of Hesperus on the U.S. Forest Service trail to Sharkstooth Pass.
Fort Lewis College alumni Brian Francis of the Black Mesa area stands in front of Rainbow Bridge, a prominent sacred site revered by the Navajo. The tribe sued in federal court to prevent waters from Lake Powell from backing up into Bridge Canyon. This was a test case for the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act, but the tribe lost.
Though there are several routes to climb Hesperus, the most direct is to walk the steep scree slope on the southwestern flank. This is the view of the 13,232 foot summit from that ridge line.
One of the four sacred Navajo mountains, the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona, are also sacred to other tribes, especially the Hopis. Several tribes including Navajos sued in federal court when the Flagstaff ski area received a permit to use recycled waste water to make snow for ski runs. The tribes thought that practice was a desecration of their sacred site, but they lost in court.
The view east from the summit of Hesperus Peak takes in most of the La Plata Mountains with a panorama from north to south.
An historic ranch in the Wet Mountain Valley on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains represents over a century of rural agricultural land use. Recently, the Navajo Nation acquired 30,000 acres on the east side of Mount Blanca, one of its four sacred mountains. Blanca is part of the Sangre de Cristo range. The name of the mountain chain translates from Spanish as the blood of Christ.

Protecting the sacred: Navajo Nation buys land at revered peak in Colorado

Of the two Navajo sacred mountains in Colorado, one is in the La Platas and one is in the Sangre de Cristos in the San Luis Valley. Blanca Peak or Sisnaajini is known as Black-Belted Mountain, and recently the Navajo Nation acquired 30,000 acres below the peak’s east side in the Wet Mountain Valley.
Part of the importance of the four sacred peaks to Navajos is that their medicine men or hatali travel to the peaks to acquire rare plants and minerals for their jiish or medicine bags. This photograph of Nesjaja, a Navajo medicine man, was taken by photographer Edward Sheriff Curtis in 1904. The original Curtis photogravure print was donated to the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College by the Gulliford family in 2004.
The most prominent peak in the La Plata Mountains seen from the west side is Hesperus Peak, which is one of the four sacred mountains for the Navajo. This view is from the north side of Hesperus on the U.S. Forest Service trail to Sharkstooth Pass.
Fort Lewis College alumni Brian Francis of the Black Mesa area stands in front of Rainbow Bridge, a prominent sacred site revered by the Navajo. The tribe sued in federal court to prevent waters from Lake Powell from backing up into Bridge Canyon. This was a test case for the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act, but the tribe lost.
Though there are several routes to climb Hesperus, the most direct is to walk the steep scree slope on the southwestern flank. This is the view of the 13,232 foot summit from that ridge line.
One of the four sacred Navajo mountains, the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona, are also sacred to other tribes, especially the Hopis. Several tribes including Navajos sued in federal court when the Flagstaff ski area received a permit to use recycled waste water to make snow for ski runs. The tribes thought that practice was a desecration of their sacred site, but they lost in court.
The view east from the summit of Hesperus Peak takes in most of the La Plata Mountains with a panorama from north to south.
An historic ranch in the Wet Mountain Valley on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains represents over a century of rural agricultural land use. Recently, the Navajo Nation acquired 30,000 acres on the east side of Mount Blanca, one of its four sacred mountains. Blanca is part of the Sangre de Cristo range. The name of the mountain chain translates from Spanish as the blood of Christ.
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