Facing the Challenges of a Unique Territory
FOR several decades Jehovah’s Witnesses have been preaching on the Navajo reservation, located in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, U.S.A. In the Navajo language, it is known as Diné Bikéyah (Navajo country). The more than 220,000 Native Americans of that nation, called Diné (the people) in their tongue, make it one of the most populous of the North American Indian tribes.
During those years various congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been formed around a nucleus of Navajo men and women interested in the Bible. Presently, there are four congregations on the reservation—at Tuba City, Kayenta, Keams Canyon, and Chinle. (See map below.) Until recently each had its own Kingdom Hall except the congregation at Chinle, which had to meet in rented schoolrooms. Now things have changed.
A Kingdom Hall for a Unique Territory
Saturday, June 7, 2003, saw the dedication of the Chinle Kingdom Hall. The dedication talk was presented by Gerrit Lösch, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In his discourse he described the great expansion that has been taking place worldwide in the number of Kingdom Halls, and yet, he explained, thousands of additional halls are still needed to serve the more than 94,600 congregations. He also took the audience of 165 through 15 reasons why they should appreciate their new Kingdom Hall and the benefits of regular attendance at Christian meetings. He concluded with a prayer of dedication, asking for Jehovah’s blessing on the use of this excellent meeting place.
This congregation was formerly a group associated with the Keams Canyon Congregation, some 70 miles [100 km] to the southwest. Now the Chinle Congregation has the assignment of preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom in a territory that is scattered over 4,400 square miles [11,000 sq km]! Many of the Navajo live in mobile homes or in hogans, which are hexagonal or octagonal dwellings. To reach isolated places, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is essential. This is very true of the scattered dwellings found in the Canyon de Chelly (pronounced d’Shay), a fascinating part of the congregation’s territory.
Canyon de Chelly—Sacred to the Navajo
The high plateaus of Arizona are known for their endless vistas, with highways that seem to disappear into infinity. The Canyon de Chelly is just a couple of miles down the highway from the Kingdom Hall. The canyon twists and turns through 26 miles [40 km] of red-stone cliffs that start at 30 feet [9 m] in height and gradually reach a height of 1,000 feet [300 m]. The area, listed as a national monument, is visited by thousands of tourists every year. This canyon, along with Canyon del Muerto, is considered sacred ground by the Navajo. Some families live here, secluded in their hogans made of logs and earth. Yet, all are reached by Jehovah’s Witnesses, who bring them Bible literature in their own language.
To enter the canyon, one must be accompanied by an authorized Navajo guide. Some visitors hike through, and others go on horseback; but most travel by four-wheel-drive vehicle. This type of vehicle is necessary because the track often crosses the Chinle Wash. The guides also know how to avoid quicksand that can occasionally swallow a horse or a pickup truck. But what makes the Canyon de Chelly so intriguing?
The history of the canyon is written on the sheer cliff walls in petroglyphs and rock paintings. Archaeologists believe that the famous cliff dwellings, inset in large open caves on the cliff face, were built between 350 C.E. and 1300 C.E. Perhaps the most famous is the White House Ruin, so called because of the white wall of one of the buildings. It was abandoned by the Anasazi (Navajo name for “ancient enemy”) about 1300 C.E. It is believed that the Navajo did not appear in this region until the 18th century.
If you happen to visit Canyon de Chelly, you will travel on Navajo Route 7. There, at a bend in the road just short of the National Monument, keep your eyes open for the sign that says “Jiihōvah Yádahalne’í bi Kingdom Hall” and “Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” You are welcome to stop by and visit.
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CANYON DE CHELLY NATIONAL MONUMENT
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Archaeologists say that perhaps a dozen Anasazi families lived together in this cliff house
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Canyon del Muerto
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Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly