Geographic Reference

Seattle, Washington

The largest city in the U.S. state of Washington and in the greater region of the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle area was inhabited by Native peoples for thousands of years before European settlers arrived in the late 1700s. In 1851, a town was established at the mouth of the Duwamish River, which was later named Seattle after the Native American chief Sealth, with whom the settlers had a good neighborly relationship. The town's early economy relied on timber and with the gold rush of the late 1800s the city grew substantially. The 20th century brought about the development of industry, transportation, and commerce, and today Seattle is known especially for its aircraft and high-tech industries. In recent decades it has become one of the most densely populated and affluent American cities. Seattle is known for its unique layout on hills interspersed by water (including Puget Sound, Elliot Bay, and various lakes), and for its oceanic climate, characterized by cool, cloudy, and often rainy weather.

Rio Puerco River, New Mexico

A western tributary of the Rio Grande River that passes through the central part of the state of New Mexico. The Rio Puerco River originates in the Nacimiento Mountains in the Santa Fe National Forest and flows south 230 miles to meet the Rio Grande River about 20 miles south of Belen. The areas surrounding the river were once populated by ancient Pueblo peoples, and later by Native American tribes such as the Navajo and the Apache, who were pushed away by the U.S. army when the government took over the region in the 1860s. Hispano and white settlers moved into the irrigable lands along the river but overgrazing, erosion, and flash flooding led to changes in the landscape, which drove people away. Today, most of the lands around the river are uninhabitable, the river itself is dry for much of the year and subject to flooding during the rainy seasons.

Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico

The Rio Grande is the largest river flowing through the state of New Mexico, and the valley surrounding it has provided much-needed water and sustenance to the various cultures that have occupied the region over the millennia. The greater Rio Grande Basin stretches over 1,500 miles from southern Colorado in the north to southern Texas and the Gulf of Mexico in the south. The Middle Rio Grande Valley refers specifically to the segment of the river that passes through central New Mexico: from Cochiti Pueblo in the north, through the metropolitan area of Albuquerque, to San Marcial in the south. When looking at the Albuquerque area, the high desert river valley lies 5,000 feet between the Sandia Mountains in the east, and the rising mesas just west of the city.

New York City, New York

The city was founded by Dutch colonists in 1624 and was first given the name New Amsterdam. In 1664, British colonists took over the region and renamed the city New York. Located in the northeastern U.S. state of New York, New York City is the largest American metropolis and is a leading global center of culture, education, technology, and commerce. The city is situated on a natural harbor, where the Hudson and East Rivers flow into the Atlantic Ocean, and since its early days has functioned as a main port for both people and goods. It is the most densely populated and ethnically diverse city in the country, and is comprised of five distinct boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. With large concentrations of immigrants from all over the world, New York is known for its variety of stores, restaurants, and cultural centers. Its unique cosmopolitan character and urban landscape of long avenues, skyscrapers, busy streets, and condensed traffic have provided iconic images of the U.S. that have circulated around the world through literature, film, news, and other media. Nicknamed the "big apple" and "the city that never sleeps" New York is famous for its parks, museums, historical landmarks, architecture, night life, and shopping and entertainment centers. It is the most popular tourist destination in the country, attracting millions of both domestic and foreign visitors annually.

Continental Divide, North America

Generally speaking, a continental divide is a geographic formation usually located on a continent’s high mountain peaks. Continental divides separate water drainage in two different directions, either vertically or horizontally. On one side, water flows either north or south; on the other side, water flows east or west. Water travels to the nearest ocean or sea often via long rivers. In North America, the continental divide (also known as the Great Divide) is a chain summits of the Rocky Mountains that are aligned in a fairly continuous contour from north to south along the western parts of the continent. The ranges traverse British Columbia in Canada; and Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico in the U.S. The Rocky Mountains separate drainage so that on the eastern side water will flow mostly to the Mississippi and the Rio Grande Rivers, eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, while on the west side water will move in the direction of the Pacific Ocean.


A country in East Africa that is located on the coast of the Indian Ocean just south of the equator. The territories that are now Tanzania were colonized first by Germany and then Britain. The country gained its current status as a sovereign nation in 1964, after the previously separate states of Tanganyika and Zanzibar formed a union. Although Dodoma is the official capital, Dar es Salaam is the largest city, as well as the center of the country’s commerce and transportation. The country's population of 44.9 million people is comprised of various religious, ethnic, and linguistic groups. Its economy is largely based in agriculture; with sugar, cotton, tobacco, tea, and coffee being some of the main exported cash crops. Tanzania is a land of many great lakes, including the second deepest one in the world, Lake Tanganyika. It is also home to the Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain. It is known for its diverse wildlife, which includes large herds of zebras, giraffes, Cape buffalo, and other hoofed animals. Tanzania is also home to predators such as lions and leopards, water animals such as crocodiles and hippopotamuses, and numerous species of birds and reptiles.

Chaco Wash, New Mexico

A large stream that cuts through Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico. The stream bed is dry most of the year, but is subject to flooding during the rainy seasons of spring and summer.

Bisti, New Mexico

An area within the Navajo Nation reservation in northwestern New Mexico, about 30 miles south of Farmington. The Navajo name Bisti (or Bistahi) refers to the eroded clay that characterizes this unique landscape, which is known for its hoodoos and other unusual weathered rock formations.

Borrego Pass, New Mexico

An unincorporated community of the Navajo Nation located in McKinley County, NM. The Spanish name Borrego, meaning "yearling lamb," corresponds with the Navajo name, Dibé Yázhí Habitiin, meaning "ascending lamb trail." This small town originally formed around a trading post that no longer operates there.

Coyote Canyon, New Mexico

A canyon located in McKinley County, New Mexico. Its Anglicized name is based on the Navajo one, Mą'ii Tééh Yítłizhí, meaning "Where Coyote Fell Into Deep Water," which is based on a story of the spiritual being Coyote falling into a river after taking a drink of water. Coyote Canyon is one of the many chapters of the Navajo Nation, whose government system consists of five agencies (Chinle, Crownpoint, Fort Defiance, Shiprock, and Tuba City), with several local chapters within each agency. Each chapter has an administrative meeting place known as the chapter house, where the community gathers to discuss a variety of issues concerning life on the reservation.


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