Recently, the Navajo Nation reinstated a 57-hour weekend lockdown due to the spikes in COVID in several communities. This put a hold on our first official Dzil Ta’ah Adventures youth bikepacking series outing in Nazlini, which was originally slated for September 26th. Once the lockdown is lifted, which we hope will be soon, we will proceed as planned with the Dine Composite participants. With the postponement of our first trip, we felt like this was an opportunity to leverage the extra time and continue to shape our mentorship program and build more of my team’s dexterity with an outing in John’s Canyon, Utah, at the southwestern base of Cedar Mesa.
This is the first installment of what we hope to be a series chronicling our efforts to develop sustainable tourism on the Navajo nation through the establishment of meaningful bikepacking routes and accessible singletrack. In addition, we hope to build a bikepacking community starting with the youth and eventually extending to interested community members. Our first foray in this ongoing project will be a Fall bikepacking series with local Navajo youth NICA riders. This series consists of three trips; the first two being on Navajoland and the last with Four Corners Guides, out of Mancos, CO, to include packrafts.
The first in this series begins in Kayenta on Sept 26th and ends Oct 31st in Lake Powell, Utah. The planning started back in July and continues every chance I can meet up with the participants.
Here is the first of a journal I hope to keep, documenting this event.
Dzil ta’ah Adventures LLC was created to offer sustainable cultural experiences in the backcountry via bikes and bike packing with most of the commercial tour proceeds helping to build a bikepack community on the Navajo Nation. Whether it be creating routes or mentoring native youth.
Our year to launch was spring 2020. The COVID pandemic resulted in all non-essential businesses being shut down including the Navajo Parks and Recreation department. Parks and Rec are the issuing authority for permits.
The essay below was written for Bikepacking Roots’ Bears Ears Loops Landscape and Route Guidebook to provide bikepackers with one perspective about how the landscape in its entirety is sacred to Indigenous groups. The designation of Bears Ears National Monument marked the first time in history that a National Monument was created in response to the voices and advocacy of the Indigenous groups who call the landscape home. Leaders from the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe formed the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition in 2015 to represent a consortium of tribes unified in protecting and promoting the cultural, archeological, scientific, historical and natural resources of the Bears Ears region. Just 11 months later, the Trump administration reduced the Monument’s size by ~85%. And in a direct affront to the request of the Intertribal Coalition, the southern unit of the reduced Monument was named the Shásh Jaa’ Unit (using the Diné name for Bears Ears). The Coalition had insisted upon the use of the English “Bears Ears” name for the Monument rather than in any one tribe’s language in solidarity and unity.
All photos by Josh Weinberg
The Navajo people are suffering terribly from the coronavirus and Four Corners is looking to raise $2,500 to send funding specifically to our pal Jon Yazzie – our host in our this trip – and his chapter in Kayenta, so that food and water can be purchased and delivered to Navajo elders and others in need.
On the fence about this fundraiser, well, consider these data points:
-62% of Navajos live in poverty
-40% don’t have running water, with many of those unable to even afford containers to hold water. Think about that? How would you feel if you couldn’t wash your hands 10 times per day, as many of us are used to?
-Around 30% live without basic sanitation
-According to the LA Times, there are about 175K residents and only four inpatient hospitals.
-Furthermore, there’s a lack of grocery stores. Where once Navajo elders would drive to bigger cities for shopping, they are now stuck at home.
Thanks for joining me in supporting our friends!
“See that rock formation over there, and the other skinnier one in the distance?” Jon Yazzie says, “they represent the story and fate of Big Snake and Owl Maiden. Big Snake came from what is called Sugar Loaf near Mexican Hat, Utah slithering its way down, and eventually ending up coiled around Agathla Peak or (what Kit Carson called) “El Capitan.” The Owl promised to look over Big Snake until he came back to life again. Owl is frozen in sandstone looking right at big snake on Agathla Peak.” Having passed through Kayenta countless times, driving from the southwest US to Moab, or further into Colorado, these prominent volcanic plugs and sandstone towers rising iconically out of a sea of sandy fields and sandstone mesas have always caught my eye. As we rested there just a few miles into the ride, legs slung overloaded bikes attempting to absorb everything Jon was telling us about the surrounding landscape, I knew this was going to be a special weekend.
We see Navajo designs everywhere in cycling. Their geometric prints and designs adorn water bottles, kits, and other accessories, but has anyone ever stopped to ask if anyone from the Navajo Nation rides bikes? The New Yorker Investigates…