Saturday, June 2, 2012

May 21, 2012. The Hawthornes Travel Through New Mexico. Shiprock!

After a fine lunch (for me)
at Amigo Cafe in Kayenta, AZ.,
the Hawthornes are driving through New Mexico
and are enjoying the scenery.

I'm curious about this town in the middle of nowhere.
There are schools here.
I think it must be the town of Shiprock.
Shiprock is the largest Navajo community
in the Navajo Nation.

The scenery is constantly changing.

We're driving and driving and driving ...

...  and we see this formation looming in the distance.

I am fascinated by it,
so you will be inundated by many pictures.
This is in the Northwest corner of New Mexico.

This geological formation is Shiprock.
Within the Navajo Indian Reservation,
it is the basalt core of an old volcano,
rising more than 1700 feet above the desert.

According to my AAA Tour Book,
Shiprock appears to shimmer and float at sunset.
Mr. Hawthorne would not park and wait
for me to experience this phenomenon.

The Navajo consider Shiprock to be a sacred place.

No climbers are allowed to scale it.

Shiprock, to the Navajo, is Tse Bit a i,
with the appropriate accent marks
 which Blogger and my keyboard don't have.
It means "rock with wings."
The name comes from an ancient folk myth
that tells how the rock was once a great bird
that transported the ancestral people of the Navahos
to their lands in what is now northwestern New Mexico.
The Navahos had crossed a body of water (Bering Straight?)
and were fleeing from a warlike tribe.
Tribal shamans prayed to the great spirit for help
and suddenly the ground rose from beneath their feet
to become an enormous bird.
The bird flew south, finally settling at sundown
where Shiprock now stands.

From ancient times to the more recent past,
Tse Bit a i was a pilgrimage place of major importance,
the destination of young men engaged in the rigors
of solitary vision quests.
The legend of the rock could be seen as a metaphor
of the site's magical power
to lift the human soul above the problems of daily existence
into an awareness of the great spirit.

Anthropologists believe the Navajos arrived in the Southwest
approximately 800-1000 years ago,
crossing the Bering Strait land bridge and traveling south,
arriving in the Four Corners area.
The Navajo people call themselves Dineh,
meeting "The People."

The Navaho learned the rudiments of agriculture,
then domesticated livestock after their contact
with the Spanish,
learning shepherding and horsemanship.

The United States defeated Mexico
in the U.S. - Mexican War of 1846-1848,
the first major conflict driven by the idea
of "Manifest Destiny,"
the belief that America had a God-given right,
or destiny, to expand the country's borders
from "sea to shining sea."
 In doing so, they gained control of a vast expanse of territory
known today as the Southwest and California -
Navaho country.

The belief that the United States
had a God-given right to occupy and "civilize"
the whole continent,
had taken root among the American people
as they settled the Western lands.
President Polk, who came to office in 1845,
was a firm believer in the idea of expansion.
The fact that most of these areas already
had people living upon them was usually ignored,
with the attitude that democratic English-speaking America,
with its high ideals and Protestant Christian ethics,
would do a better job of running things
than the Native Americans
or Spanish-speaking Catholic Mexicans.
The idea of Manifest Destiny would eventually
cause a great deal of suffering for many
Mexicans, Native Americans, and U.S. citizens.

Colonel Kit Carson instituted a scorched earth policy,
burning Navajo homes and fields,
stealing and killing their livestock.
After starving the Navajos into submission,
Carson rounded them up -
about 8000 men, women, and children,
and forced marched them approximately 300 miles.
The Navajo were deported in 1864
and forced to walk at gunpoint from their
reservation in what is now Arizona
to eastern New Mexico,
to an area called Hweeldi by the Navajo.
During "The Long Walk,"
many Navajo died along the way.

In 1868, after signing a treaty with the United States,
the remaining Navajos were allowed to return
to designated lands currently occupied
in the Four Corners area.
This is one of the few instances
where the U.S. government relocated
a tribe to their traditional boundaries.

From Navaho Stories of the Long Walk Period:

"This story is about the long walk
to Fort Sumner.
There are two points of view regarding it -
the White man's and the Navajos." 

"As I have said, our ancestors were taken captive
and driven to Hweeldi for no reason at all.
They were harmless people, and, even to date,
we are the same, 
holding no harm for anybody.
Many Navajos who know our history
and the story of Hweeldi say the same." 

"You ask how they treated us?
If there was room the soldiers put the women and children
on the wagons.  
Some even let them ride behind them
on their horses.
I have never been able to understand a people
who killed you one day 
and on the next played with your children."

Shiprock is an inselberg, 
German for "island mountain,"
or an isolated rock or small mountain
that rises abruptly from a gently sloping
or virtually level surrounding plane.

Usually, volcanic processes are involved here.
Generally, volcanism gives rise to a body of rock
that is fairly resistant to erosion,
inside a body of softer rock,
such as limestone, which is more susceptible to erosion.
When the less resistant rock is eroded away to form a plain,
the more resistant rock is left behind as an isolated mountain.

According to my research
(i.e., Googling),
the Four Corners area
(That's Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah,
in case your brain was straining.),
of the American Southwest 
has about 80 old, eroded volcanic centers
of Oligocene (34 - 23 million years ago)
 to Miocene age (23 - 5 million years ago).
The most distinctive volcanic neck in this area is Shiprock.
It represents rocks that filled up
the subsurface vent complex of an ancient volcano.
Studies of the eruptive centers
in the Navajo Volcanic Field
indicate that the original volcanoes erupted violently.
This typically happens if the magmas
 are rich in dissolved gases
(water, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, etc.).
The magmas came in contact with groundwater,
the water boiled to steam while still confined underground,
and the steam pressure increased until
 it overcame the strength of the overlying rocks,
thus resulting in an explosion and the creation
of a surface crater (maar).
This is known as a hydrovolcanic eruption,
or to volcanologists,
one of three main mechanisms
by which an eruption occurs.

I'm sure you want to know more about volcanic eruptions,
so Rosie will tell you.

Volcanic eruptions happen three ways:

Magmatic eruption -  gas release under decompression. 
Such an eruption is driven by gas
 accumulating under great pressure.
Driven by hot rising magma,
it interacts with ground water
until the pressure increases to the point
where it bursts violently through
the overmantle of rock.

Phreatic eruption - ejection of entrained particles during steam eruptions.
This type of eruption occurs when magma
heats ground or surface water,
causing near-instantaneous evaporation to steam,
resulting in an explosion of steam, ash,
rock, and volcanic bombs.
(Example:  Mount St. Helens, Washington, in 1980)
Phreatic eruptions typically include steam and rock fragments.
The inclusion of lava is unusual.

Phreatomagmatic eruption - thermal contraction
 from chilling on contact with water.
This eruption is a result of the interaction
between water and magma.

Shiprock is an example of a volcanic neck,
or central feeder pipe.
It is the basalt core of an extinct volcano.

Near the main peak,
one can see small pinnacles,
which are the remains of smaller auxiliary volcanic vents.

Stay tuned.

Our next stop is the Aztec Ruins National Monument.
And Aztec is a misnomer.
It's Ancestral Puebloans.

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