Chinle is the largest town in the area (though not very large) and is regarded as the gateway to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. There are a couple of motels and restaurants, but little of great interest in the town itself. When we visited in 1993 the Navajo Reservation had been hit by a mystery flu-like illness which had claimed the lives of several people in the area. Despite the fact that it only seemed to affect the Navajo themselves, many tourists had been put off visiting and the town was very quiet indeed. We were welcomed with open arms at our motel and in its restaurant, as local people were very appreciative of the fact that we had chosen to visit despite the problems and to bring some much needed tourist income.
One building that we really liked in town was the little Roman Catholic Church, Our Lady of Fatima. We attended Mass here and I was fascinated by the way this mission church, built like a log cabin, had taken elements of the traditional Navajo culture and beliefs and woven them into the Christian worship – for instance, using an eagle’s feather to waft incense, and referring to God as “Father Sky”. I would have liked to have taken some photos inside as the décor also showed a strong Native influence, with skins, wood beams and stone, which really appealed to me. I planned to approach the priest for permission after the service, but decided not to when I saw he was occupied with a family who seemed to be in some distress and whom we felt might have lost a loved one to that same mystery illness. My photo therefore is taken from the website and I do hope they won’t mind me using it in order to suggest that you too might like to visit this lovely, peaceful spot.
On the main road through town, Navajo Rte 7
This is the oldest trading post still doing business. It is now under the supervision of National Park Service in order to maintain the premises and allow for visitations of tourists. The store having goods and gifts is open 8-6 in summer and 8-5 in winter months. There is also a Hubbell home for tours on the hour. John Hubbell started the trading post in 1878, and traded mostly with Navajo initially. The family sold the place to the NPS in 1965 and it has not changed a lot. The Hubbell home tour is $2 and is the small rock building in the back area of the buildings. There are crops grown for show to active life of the place and some animals on the site. It is mostly an education spot for children and purchases by tourists of Indian items. You can take a self guided tour of the grounds and walk into the barn and animal stalls
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