A Cultural Outing to the Navajo Nation

Hi there, my name is Matthew Bestard and I am one of the students in the 2017 Crow Canyon Archaeological Field School. The event planned for today Monday, May 29 was one that the students had been looking forward to since we heard about it last week. We were going to go on a trip to the Navajo Nation. This was a special field trip because we would be talking with Navajo archaeologist Will Tsosie about the work he has done and about Navajo perspectives on archaeology, history, time and cultural landscapes.

The day began  more-or-less normally as everyone got out of bed and headed to the Crow Canyon lodge for breakfast. Afterwards we all met out on the porch where we were told about our trip and also that we would be having as a guest Susie, a Navajo woman who works at Crow Canyon.

After loading into the vans with our gear for the day we headed for Diné College to meet Mr. Tsosie. Along the way we noticed the climactic changes between the high desert of Cortez Colorado and the low desert of the Navajo Nation. There was a definite increase in aridity and a decrease in the amount of trees.

We arrived at Diné College and met with Mr. Tsosie where he first talked to us about his job at the historic preservation office and afterwards, he then formally introduced himself first in Navajo, then in English. This was the first time I had heard Navajo spoken in long sentences. After the introduction the group learned about Mr. Tsosie’s childhood, his work as an archaeologist, and about Navajo history and values.

The group later stopped at Shiprock where Mr. Tsosie explained to the group the concept of TCP’s or Traditional Cultural Properties which are pieces of land that are important to Navajo culture and history. Mr. Tsosie then told us a story of the creation of the Navajo people and the importance of Shiprock.

For lunch we were invited to Mr. Tsosie’s family home where we were served a wonderful meal with various kinds of soups, sweet tamales and enchiladas among other things. During lunch Mr. Tsosie passed around a picture of him and his wife when they were in high school.

Towards the end of our trip we went down to the San Juan river where we learned about the history of the area including mining work that was done that had polluted the river. After searching through the area for any surface artifacts we were treated to another set of stories where Mr. Tsosie told us about his childhood and the different things that Navajo people celebrate in their lifetime.

We finished up the day by taking Mr. Tsosie back to Diné College, returning to Crow Canyon for dinner and having a class that introduced collections management which used hilarious examples from Indiana Jones to explain aspects of the job.








  • Matthew Bestard



Author: Crow Canyon College Field School

Mission The mission of the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center is to advance and share knowledge of the human experience through archaeological research, education programs, and partnerships with American Indians.

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