With a combination of reverence and humor, Panther-Yates takes us on a tour of the Four Corners' world-renowned - and lesser known - ancient sites. Originally published in the Santa Fe Sun-News, these columns testify to New Mexico's undeniable power and mystery. In addition to the usual Native American dances, kiva mysteries and petroglyphs, the author introduces us to the offbeat spiritualities of the Muslim-like Penitentes of Abiquiu, Chimayo's santeros and a teaching coven of witches in Taos. We visit a Sikh temple, study the Phoenician Hebrew Ten Commandments Stone in Los Lunas and explore the hippie nirvana of Santa Fe.
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Arriving late evening to the Hopi Reservation, after a drive through the Painted Desert and the badlands, Donald and Teresa Yates pitched a tent at the empty Hopi Campground. Seeing no human presence they turned in for the night. The night was spent restlessly, listening to the winds, tossing and dreaming about unfamiliar creatures. The next day, they were met by the Hopi Tribal Chief who arranged for them to visit the Hopi sacred site with a local guide. It was at this site that Donald Yates came face to face with the manifestation of his nightly vision. Perhaps his totem? From a cave emerged, the Black Fox. This creature is mythical and magical in Native culture, especially for the Cherokee. Yates ancestor was Nancy Cooper daughter of Chief Black Fox. This was an unexpected turn of events to be found of all places in the western dessert.
The desert landscape is harsh and beautiful at the same time. There are many traces of Ancient habitation peppered throughout, if you only knew where to look. There are at least 650 of these sites in the Petrified Forest National Park. Many of these places are fearlessly and secretly guarded and protected. The uninitiated won’t just find them in the tourist books with a map. Donald Yates takes us along with his exploration of this vast treasure of Ancient footsteps, painting us snapshots in time. The stories originally appeared in the Santa Fe Sun-News as articles with photos. You can view them in the companion print version of the book.
While living in New Mexico, the Yateses took advantage of the opportunities to visit the local tribal lands. The Hopi Lands which opened this narrative was one of these visits. There are many in this region of the four corners area of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. Many of these places seem to hold spirits among the abandoned landscape. The Hopi and Zuni though still reside in theirs.
On this day, Yates took us to places I whizzed past on my own short visit to Arizona. I managed to visit, the Petrified Forest, the Kivas in Canyon de Chelly on Navajo lands and Sedona area Montezuma’s Castle and Well. The pueblo remnants found in the Petrified Forest and Tuzigoot, “crooked water” a 600 yr. old Sinaguan Village with Pueblo ruins. This site was excavated by graduate students at the University of Arizona and preserved by the Roosevelt Civilian Corps in the 1930’s. The masonry room blocks were abandoned over 600 years ago. The site can be found on a hilltop overlooking the Verde River. The southwestern sites were occupied for thousands of years, at least 10,000 years dated to finds of Clovis points. Newer research suggests the area may have been inhabited 40,000 years. It was suddenly, quickly abandoned perhaps in the 1500s. When Coronado came through little but ruins met the exploration party. There is so much to see out here. Back to this day, Yates brought us the inside scoop that most of us don’t get to see. What a privilege!
The story of the Hopi Mesa triad is shared. This choice spot was chosen for their inherent position in relation to Orion just as the Ancient Egyptians built the pyramids and the Maya raised their magnificent stone platforms. The Petroglyphs in the Petrified Forest seem to be solar calendars. These figures are spiral or circular in design. At the solstices and/or equinoxes, a beam of sunlight moves across the pattern until touches the center. Dr. Yates was fortunate, though not realizing it, to view several sites at the end of the day to have hidden secrets on the rocks to be revealed. The People were very in touch with the seasons, day and night written in the cosmos. Archaeoastronomy is a theme in Ancient sites where they are found according to Scott Wolten forensic geologist, History Channel Host of America Unearthed. I would love to see these sites in one of these episodes featuring Dr. Yates and his explorations. He is generous in sharing his experience of Native American Culture of his own and the local tribes he visits wherever he lives. This was a great chance to visit a Hopi Tribe Sacred Site through him.