Arizona: Ancient Canyon de Chelly

Canyon View

White House Ruins

Side of Red Clay Pot showing Hogan

Side of Red Clay Pot showing Kokopelli

Description of Red Clay Pot by Navajo Artist Darlene Sam (click to enlarge)

Book “When Clay Sings”

Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the nation and is still home to about 40 Navajo families.  The ancient “White House” ruins in the canyon were built around 1070 AD and abandoned in the 1300s.   Info about the park is at:

We purchased a red clay pot there by an elderly Navajo artist named Darlene Sam.  The images on the pot tell her family’s history in the canyon.  You can see her home on one side of the pot, and on the other side are symbols for water, Kokopelli (flute player – symbol of fertility and joy), and a circle of life.  The colors on the pot represent white for the canyon’s walls, green for the trees, black for the small plants, and blue for the sky. A description of the pot says the following:

“Our Navajo Culture makes us who we are and creates the identities that give us meaning and purpose in our lives. Our grandparents teach us about hope. They also give us the strength to have faith when we are faced with troubles that make our lives difficult. Our culture shows us how to love and care through respect for others, our surroundings and ourselves.”  –  Nice words to live by.

An award-winning children’s book “When Clay Sings” by Byrd Baylor is a favorite of ours.  The beautifully illustrated book says that in the Southwest: “Every piece of clay is a piece of someone’s life.  It has its own small voice and sings in its own way.  Even now the wind sometimes finds one of those songs still in the clay and lifts it out and carries it down the canyon and across the hills.  It is a small sound and always far away, but they say sometimes they hear it.”

About Pam
Richard and Pam lived in the San Francisco Bay Area 14 years (1987-1999 and 2008-2011). They lived in Florida 13 years previously, until returning in July 2011 to present. They hope their photography will encourage you to get out and discover nature's beauty in your own backyard, parks, and wild places. Click on any pictures on this blog to see them full size with additional details.

15 Responses to Arizona: Ancient Canyon de Chelly

  1. Zoomology says:

    How fascinating! The scenery and the beautiful clay pot you purchased are wonderful. It’s amazing to think that people have been living there continuously for so long.


  2. Thank you for the sharing the meaning of the images on the beautiful clay pot. When we were traveling through the west I stopped to look at the pottery and brought home a few small ones. I love the workmanship that goes into these pieces.

    • Pam says:

      I like the pottery too. A lot of time and care can go into making one pot. I looked closely and some of my favorite little images on it were the scorpion and the Grandma weaving a rug. Neat!

  3. Ingrid says:

    We have yet to visit Canyon de Chelly. Such beautiful country. Love the pottery and thanks for sharing the info on the design… amazing talent!

    • Pam says:

      Thanks! The canyon is in a very isolated location. We stopped there on our way from Monument Valley to the Petrified Forest. We are already planning a return to Arizona sometime!

      • Ingrid says:

        So much diversity and interesting sights to see in AZ, isn’t there? I know, it has been a pleasant surprise for us discovering some of the hidden gems.

  4. SoyBend says:

    I love the clay pot and the quote from the book. There are many stories being told there.

  5. That pot is gorgeous!!!

  6. Such a lovely photo essay of your visit to Canyon DeChelly. One of my favorite places.
    Thank you.

  7. azratarannum says:

    Gorgeous pics!👍

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