Wupatki National Monument
The Wupatki National Monument is located 30 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona, off U.S. 89. The eruption of the Sunset Crater Volcano in the 1064 A.D. helped create the pueblo of Wupatki. One theory holds that the volcanic ash had a beneficial effect on the region, as the layers of cinder retain moisture for long periods, promoting plant growth which ultimately led to increased population in the area. Until the mid-1100s, the landscape of Wupatki remained a “frontier” between established groups, defined by archeologists as the Sinagua, Cohonina, and Kayenta. Today the Wupatki National Monument has significance to the Hopi people. The name Wupatki derives from Hopi words that translate literally into “it was cut long,” and recalls an event in the histories of Hopi clans. It is said that people prospered here. In time men began gambling and ignored their crops and prayers for rain. Concerned, their leader severed a ritual object and then went into exile. When he returned the people awoke from their decadence. For today’s Hopi people, the villages of Wupatki remain among the most important “footprints” of the ancestral clans. The Zuni and other Puebloan groups (Acoma, Laguna, and Rio Grande) share Wupatki’s history as they share a belief in a common origin that begins with their ancestors. Stories of Wupatki also exist among non-Puebloan groups (Havasupai, Yavapai, Hualapai, Southern Paiute, and Navajo) whose ancestors interacted with Puebloan ancestors.
What began as family housing grew into Wupatki Pueblo that stood three stories high in
Archeologists seem to agree that population declined rapidly in the Flagstaff area after A.D. 1200, although occupation of a few large sites continued in the southern part of the area until A.D. 1300. Over-cultivation of the land or swift population expansion may have caused this. The dramatic population decline observed in the Flagstaff region is mirrored in trends in Wupatki National Monument. Very few sites in Wupatki National Monument date after A.D. 1200.
During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, population movements in the northern Southwest caused dramatic changes in the frequency and nature of intercultural interactions. The significance of changes in the nature of cultural interaction in the northern Southwest was that they seemingly broke down centuries-old cultural boundaries and permitted the formation of the new, larger, and more dynamic cultural groupings. Architectural traits also suggest cultural interaction among the populations occupying Wupatki National Monument. The Sinagua and Cohonina lived in pithouses until after the Sunset Crater eruption, but the Anasazi had long since begun building above ground structures. The assumption has been that the Sinagua and the Cohonina adopted the use of aboveground structures from the Kayenta Anasazi, but many aboveground structures in Wupatki National Monument are attributed to actual Kayenta immigrants. In fact, all the large sites in the Monument seem to be of Kayenta Anasazi affiliation, except the Sinagua site of Wupatki Pueblo.
After centuries of sporadic use or abandonment, Wupatki National Monument was reoccupied in the late 1860s by members of a Navajo family headed by Peshlakai Etsidi. The association of the Wupatki Navajo with the important events of Navajo history are illustrated in the life of Peshlakai Etsidi. He went on the Long Walk as a young boy. The Long Walk was the most significant event in Navajo history. In the winter of 1864 the Navajo people were removed forcibly from their homeland in the Four-Corners area and re-established at Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner in eastern New Mexico, more than 300 miles away. Finally, in July 1868, the Navajo were permitted to return to their homeland where a reservation was established for them. Like other Navajo, he and his family lost all their possessions during their incarceration and when they returned home in 1868, he had to begin all over again.
Peshlakai Etsidi and his wife Baa became very well-established in the Wupatki National Monument area building up large herds of livestock and keeping a large acreage in crops. However, as with Navajo in all parts of the northern Southwest, Peshlakai Etsidi and his family were increasingly pushed onto marginal land by surrounding Anglo populations, until the barren Wupatki National Monument which had once formed only part of their large use area, became the primary grazing area for their herds. In the early twentieth century, the agricultural land owned by Peshlakai Etsidi and his family at Black Point was taken over by the railroad and the land he applied for on the Little Colorado River was destroyed during a flood. Peshlakai Etsidi was still alive during the livestock reductions of the 1930s, and this program resulted in a dramatic decline in economic position for his family. Peshlakai Etsidi lived until 1939 and provided interviews; his descendants, some still living in Wupatki National Monument, have served as informants in ethnographic interviews.
In 1936 the Navajo Craftsman Exhibition was held by the National Park Service with the co-operation of Harold S. Colton of the Museum of Northern Arizona. The monument exhibited Navajo crafts to Anglos who came from miles around and encouraged the revival of traditional Navajo craftwork. This event presaged the Navajo Show still held each year by the Museum of Northern Arizona.