tsegi

In Navajo, tse means “rock,” and -gi means “at” or “in”; as a word, tsegi means “canyon” or “rock canyon.” The word is a close approximation of Tséyi, the Navajo name for the place others call Canyon de Chelly. When people use the name Canyon de Chelly (chelly being a French corruption of tsegi) or Tsegi Canyon, they are speaking redundantly. But perhaps “canyon canyon” is fitting at Canyon de Chelly. Located a few miles east of Chinle, Arizona, in the heart of Navajo country, it’s one part of a Y-shaped labyrinth of canyons. In addition to Canyon de Chelly, which is twenty-seven miles long, the labyrinth includes Canyon del Muerto (in Navajo, ‘Ane’é Tséyi, or “Behind Canyon de Chelly”). This complex of redrock cliffs contains Anasazi ruins and pictographs, meandering streambeds that provide irrigation for farming and water for Navajo sheepherders, as well as Spider Rock, a rock tower central to Navajo mythology. Near the mouth of the canyons, one can attain a glimpse of all this from Tsegi Overlook.

Arthur Sze