The sprawling Navajo Indian Reservation, some 27,425 square miles – about the size of West Virginia – begins just 20 miles east of the Flagstaff city limits, crosses the Arizona – Utah border to the north, and reaches as far as 40 miles across the New Mexico state line to the east. It’s the largest reservation in the United States, and is the hub of the unique, rich and varied culture of the Southwest.
The Hopi Indian Reservation, with its distinctly different culture, is 2,531 square miles, and surrounded by the Navajo Reservation, approximately 90 miles northeast of Flagstaff.
There are 174,000 Navajos living on the Navajo Reservation today. Some live in extremely remote, rural areas, and others live in the more concentrated towns of Tuba City, Dilkon, Chinle, Shiprock, and Window Rock/Fort Defiance. Window Rock is the Navajo Nation capital of government.
Many Navajos have migrated away from the reservation to cities large and small, and there are approximately 300,000 Navajos in the United States today (U.S. Census). Some are concentrated in the reservation border towns of Flagstaff, Arizona; Winslow, Arizona; Holbrook, Arizona; Page, Arizona; Gallup, New Mexico; and Farmington, New Mexico.
Some Navajos still live traditional lifestyles, in rustic hogans, herd sheep, and grow their own food, with few or no modern services, like their ancestors have done for hundreds of years. Others live in homes with all modern conveniences.
Beautiful, modern schools and recreation centers have been built in towns across the reservation. Health care is improving as new facilities are built and specialized services and procedures are being delivered in local health centers, eliminating the need to travel to larger cities.
The familiar spires, mesas and other rock formations of Monument Valley Tribal Park, on the Arizona Utah border, are known as the backdrop for countless movies and advertisements. Canyon de Chelley National Monument, near Chinle, in the center of the Navajo Reservation, is the second largest canyon in the U.S. (after Grand Canyon), with its own unique cliffs and rock formations, ancient ruins, and Navajo inhabitants still living in the traditional manner.
Navajo rugs, jewelry and pottery are sought-after by tourists and collectors. Such treasures are available in shops in Flagstaff and throughout the region. Flagstaff’s Museum of Northern Arizona houses an exquisite collection dating back hundreds of years to present.