Wupatki National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, and Heritage Preservation

Our first multiday trip of the summer was to Wupatki National Monument and the Grand Canyon. THE GRAND CANYON! This was not my first visit to this part of the world, but this trip ended up being so much different and so much more satisfying to the soul than I could have imagined. I had never traveled with a group this large, but I knew something special was in store since this was the first time many of the LHHTA students had ever been to the Canyon. On our way to the Grand Canyon we made our first stop at Wupatki National Monument. Within the monument are many pueblos, one of which is Lomaki Pueblo. Here we met with Ian Hough (NPS archaeologist and cultural resources program manager) and Lyle Balenquah (a Hopi preservation specialist). Ian gave us a tour and history of the archaeology of Lomaki Pueblo as we wove through doorways from room to room. From this site there is a beautiful view of the San Francisco Peaks. One of the peaks in this range is Humphreys Peak, which holds the highest elevation point in Arizona at just over 12,500 feet. It is absolutely not surprising that this stunning peak is considered a sacred area to many of the groups that have passed through or are native to these lands.


Lyle Balenquah (l) & Ian Hough (r) at Wupatki National Monument

We were so fortunate to have Lyle with us on this day since he is a descendant of those who inhabited the pueblos of Wupatki. He taught us that while these pueblos are no longer lived in, they are still living areas that are protected by Hopi and other native groups’ ancestors. They are places that are still visited by descendant in remembrance. Lyle also spoke with us about the path he took to become an archaeologist. His story was one that I connected with, and I suspect our students connected with too. The idea of becoming an archaeologist for many indigenous group does not always resonate well within those groups because of past relations between those groups and archaeologists. Lyle decided to continue his path to becoming an archaeologist despite this idea, and now he represents his community and beyond as a preservation archaeologist. I connected with the long path he took to get to this point in his career, the lack of educational encouragement as a first generation student, and the want to represent and defend the my heritage and community. Lyle was a real gem on our trip. IMG_6498

Lyle sharing his archaeology experiences with us

From Wupatki National Monument we traveled just a bit more north to Grand Canyon National Park. We pulled into one of the overlooks as our first stop in the park. Again, this was not my first time here, but this time was so much different from other trips. Our often chatty students unloaded the van and walked to the railings in silence with one, “Oh. My. God,” in the midst. Through our students I experienced this view for the first time again with their wonder, especially those who had never been here before. I could not keep myself from crying. I am so grateful for this experience and will forever remember it. IMG_6542

Alexis taking in the Canyon for the first time


Rene and Rosalie at Ooh-Aah Point

The following two days at the Grand Canyon we visited Tusayan Pueblo Ruin, camped, met with Grand Canyon interns, and hiked to Ooh-Aah Point. Meeting with the interns was great because it gave our students the opportunity to talk about possible career routes with the NPS, in addition to relating to their various histories as fellow Latinos. Many of our students had not camped before participating in LHHTA, so it was so great to see how fearless they were despite possibilities of encountering various wildlife. On our final evening of camping, they all abandoned their tents to share a tarp and sleep in their bags under the stars. So cool. For myself, this embodies a theme of this trip: wonder. L1100226

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