The Navajos:

Autumn Migration 2003:
From Summer Pasture To Winter Corrals
My wife and I helped drive Navajo weaver Roy Kady’s flock of sheep, goats and 1 male llama down from their Summer pasture in the Carrizo Mountains, south of Teec Nos Pos, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation, in early October, 2003.  This is the quicker, downhill leg of the traditional, bi-annual migration for many Navajo ranchers - up in Spring, down in Autumn.  Four of us: a Cortez medical doctor, Roy, my wife and I brought them from Roy’s Summer sheep camp near Pastora Peak at 9412’ to Roy’s halfway sheep camp at about 7,000’.  It took us about 5 hours. Crew 2 took over from us there to deliver them to the ranch in Teec Nos Pos at ~5500’.

The Autumn migration takes one long day, from top to bottom.  Going up the trail in Spring usually takes 2 days.  The four of us joined many members of Roy’s family and other Navajo friends at the half-way sheep camp.  Some of us rode the vehicles back down while other’s walked with the herd for these last miles.

Roy’s family is fortunate to have homes and pastures in a setting that supports the traditional Winter-Summer migrations characteristic of Nomadic herders worldwide.  This connectedness to Natural rhythms supports and encourages a healthy respect for the land and Mother Earth by the Navajos and is missing in non-agrarian civilization.

Doctor Marcus (left), me (center) and Roy are beginning the downhill walk early Saturday, October 4th with the herd leading us.  It was a sparkling, cool morning at 9300’ in the Carrizo Mountains.  The weather would turn Wintry early this year up high, so Roy’s timing was perfect for getting down off the mountain.  My wife took this photo.

The view to the north shows Roy on the trail with his herd.  The Sleeping Ute Mountain (Ute Mountain Ute Reservation) is seen on the left horizon with Mesa Verde faint to the right.  Cortez Colorado and our home lie between these two landforms and north beyond them.  This line of sight to the north east traverses the Four Corners Monument which is 10 miles north of Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, below us.

My wife, Roy and the herd are making their way tenuously down a particularly steep section of the trail. Some rubble mounds of Ancient Puebloan hunting camps exist near the trail in several areas.  We also passed a few sylvan sheep camp cabins on the way down.  Much less herding is done on the mountain now than in the past.

The herd is resting for lunch break in the brush corral half way down to the half way sheep camp.  Yellow Dog, front and center, is grooming one of his favorite sheep.  A handsome ram lies next to Yellow Dog, with Dr. Marcus in the background.

This view south from about 8000’ shows the drainage of Teec Nos Pos Canyon and Creek running northeast (towards us) out of the Carrizo Mountains.

Roy is following his herd across Teec Nos Pos Creek and on up the dirt road on the other side, to their half-way sheep camp located just ahead.  The herd and we humans were energized by the water here, and knowledge of the corral lying just minutes ahead.

Roy takes a bare foot break at the sheep camp cabin.  About 10 family and friends met us here with vehicles to transfer the herd to Crew 2’s stewardship for the remainder of the migration down to the ranch corral. It was now mid-afternoon.  The herd arrived at the corral after 2 more hours of walking.

This precipitous lookout is at the half way sheep camp.  The view is north to the San Juan River Valley on the horizon.  The green drainage below me is where Teec Nos Pos Creek flows out of the mountains and through Teec Nos Pos to the San Juan River. The creek bed becomes a dry wash once it reaches town, where the green disappears.

Three cultural artifacts picked up along the trail are shown here. 



Out There    The Navajos

Copyright 2003 by Indiana Watson's Indian Weaving.  All rights reserved