Upon learning about Antelope Canyon, I was eager to see how the sun and sky magically illuminated its colorful walls myself.
Little did Christopher and I know that touring Antelope would come with not only wander-and-awe… but guilt as well.
In order to see Antelope Canyon, you have to sign up for a guided tour because, rightfully so, it belongs to the Navajo Nation.
Antelope Canyon was a place of enlightenment for the Navajo. Entering the canyon meant opening one’s self to spiritually connect with nature.
So what did that make of us tourists? Were we disrespectful roamers on their land?
My heart sunk at the thought of us disrespecting what used to be a divine passageway. Yet, here we were, in the crowd of tourists being herded by the Navajo tour guides.
The tour guides would humorously entertain the guests by pointing at the rock formations and naming their dopplegangers (i.e. Nemo and Abraham Lincoln). Our guide told me to look up at a specific spot and, ah, there it was: a heart.
I couldn’t help but wonder, is this what’s become of the canyon? A tourist attraction for photographs and entertainment?
As we all headed back to the tour trucks, I was able to have a personal conversation with our tour guide about the Navajo Nation and what it is like to be a Native American today.
“If you ask any American if the U.S. is a third world country, they will all deny it. But it is. It is a third world nation in the reservations,” he said while explaining that the tribes suffer from poverty.
He pointed towards the power lines and told Christopher and I that a private company built that on their land. And as much as they want to protest against the power plant occupying their property, especially because the energy doesn’t even go to the reservations, it provides jobs to about 500 Navajo.
That cycle parallels with this tour.
We are disrupting what once was sacred in their lives for our needs because they don’t have much choice. This tour, like the power plant, provides monetary support.
I’m not sharing this story to discourage you to visit Antelope Canyon. Do it! It is incomparably beautiful.
The tour guides emphasize that us tourists are their honored guests. Therefore, as honored guests, respect entering their home.