At roughly the size of West Virginia, the Navajo Nation is the largest American Indian reservation. Its 27,000-square-mile land base, which stretches into three states, is home to more than 200,000 people and iconic vistas that have inspired filmmakers, artists and writers.
The land, located within four sacred mountains, also is home to more than a dozen national monuments, tribal parks and historic sites. Lakes and ponds dot the mostly arid landscape, and ancient ruins offer a peak into the Anasazi people who once lived there.
Affectionately called Navajoland, the reservation is burdened by high rates of unemployment, poverty and other social ills, yet it remains a place of contrast—hardship and opportunity; traditional and modern lifestyles; a landscape that is at once strikingly beautiful and ruggedly unforgiving.
Here are seven photographs that are iconically Navajo.
An eight-sided hogan.
The eight-sided Hogan is the traditional Navajo dwelling. Locals estimate that this Hogan, near Sanostee, New Mexico, is more than 100 years old. The Shiprock pinnacle can be seen in the background.
Four Corners Monument
Want to be in four places at the same time? The Four Corners Monument, located at the juncture of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, is the only place in the United States where four states meet. Three of those four corners are on Navajo land. The Colorado corner is on Ute Mountain Ute land.
A Navajo grandma.
On the Navajo Nation, elders are deeply respected. Many, like this grandma, dress in traditional velvet skirts and blouses, accessorizing with scarfs and heavy turquoise jewelry.
Window Rock is the capital of the Navajo Nation.
The small city of Window Rock, Arizona, serves as the capital of the Navajo Nation. Government offices are located near this landmark, appropriately called Window Rock.
An image from a powwow at Shiprock High School.
Powwows are common on the Navajo Nation, with dancers of all ages busing in from other Southwest tribes to compete for cash awards. Here, dancers perform during a powwow at Shiprock High School.
A fry bread vendor on the Navajo Nation.
You don’t have to look too hard to find traditional Navajo food. Vendors such as this one, selling Navajo fry bread and tacos near Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, are a common sight on the reservation.
Monument Valley, Utah.
Filmmaker John Ford made landscapes like this one at Monument Valley, Utah, famous. Ford worked closely with actor John Wayne, shooting Western films against this background of red rocks. Monument Valley is now one of the most-photographed places in the world.