Many Ruins Canyon, Arizona

Encyclopedia Article


Also known as Chinle Wash, Many Ruins Canyon is the repository for the various tributaries of Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona. The red sandstone walls intermittently break into the ledged cliff-dwellings that give the canyon its name. These early sites were abandoned around 1400 CE as part of the mysterious mass disappearance of the peoples who had inhabited the extensive network of cliff dwellings found throughout the Southwest. The Navajo began to settle in and around the canyon during the eighteenth century, pushed westward by Spanish settlement along the Rio Grande and rising antagonisms with the Comanche and Ute tribes to the north and east. Decades of violent struggle for control of the area culminated as Kit Carson brutally implemented the United States’ Navajo removal policy in 1864, when Carson and his troops forced thousands of Navajo to march in the "Long Walk" from Canyon de Chelly to incarceration on a "reservation" at Bosque Redondo. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Navajo died due to starvation, exposure, and illness along the way and during their forced internment. In 1868, Canyon de Chelly, Many Ruins Canyon, and other portions of Navajo Country were returned to the Navajo.

Photo Credit: 

"View into Chinle Wash (Many Ruins Canyon), Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, May 19, 1988" by Nikater is licensed under Public Domain.

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