Shiprock Pinnacle
Rock With Wings

A visit to Shiprock, NM, just 30 miles west of Farmington on Hwy 64, can be combined with a trip to Mesa Verde.

[Shiprock Pinnacle]

The town of Shiprock, population 15,000, is the largest on the Navajo Nation and has been described as a trip to a foreign country. Founded in 1903 by Indian agent William T. Shelton, the original Bureau of Indian Affairs and the old office is still there.

[Shiprock Pinnacle  before] The Navajo word for Shiprock is Tse'Bit'Ai, and means "rock with wings." This sacred mountain was formed by a volcanic vent 27 million years ago. At that time the surrounding land was 2000 feet higher, equaling the altitude of Mesa Verde. [Shiprock Pinnacle  after]
When the column of lava cooled, the softer earth eroded and left a 1700 foot stone pillar atop a 5500 plain. Altitude is 7170 feet. The wings are three lava walls 150 feet high and three feet wide. Shiprock is the world's finest example of an exposed volcanic throat and can be seen for 100 miles.

The story:
According to Navajo legend Bird Monster carried Monster Slayer to a high ledge below the peak. The Sun, father of Monster Slayer, gave him arrows of sheet lightning, with which he killed the two adult Bird Monsters. He spun the two infant Bird Monsters around his head to create an eagle and an owl, to help the generations of "the five-fingered people." Monster Slayer was then carried to the ground by Bat Woman or Spider Woman. Shiprock is said to be the home of Coyote. See the Legend of Spider Rock

A Special Event: The 75th Annual Northern Navajo fair October 1-4 features the Yeii bi'cheii. This sacred healing ritual of nine nights marks the beginning of winter.

The masked Yeii - Navajo gods and goddesses - dance around the outside of a hogan while inside a patient is being attended to by a medicine man.

No photography or video or sound recording is allowed and note-taking is frowned on. If someone is discovered using a camera the film is taken by the Navajo Police. Then the proceedings stop while the medicine man performs a different ceremony to set things right before the ritual can continue.

This year the fair will also feature an Indian Market with more than 600 vendors, displays by weavers, potters, silversmiths, and sand painters.

Come see the Indian Village and enjoy the Navajo in their traditional clothing. The powwow will be attended by over 800 dancers, and the parade will honor the weavers, Code Talkers and Miss Navajo Nation.

This is the big one.

The annual Shiprock Balloon Festival is the last weekend in February and is a fund-raiser for local charities. Balloon rides are available and it is a glorious thing.
Farmington Information: 1-800-448-1240

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© Copyright 1998 by L. Michael Smith. Fair use granted.