Wednesday, May 23, 2012


The Navajo Museum at Red Rock Park is an absolute must to visit if you are in the area. There is no charge for this excellent museum. I took pictures of over 30 murals; they have great western art, wonderful pottery, old photographs. and a well done history of the Navajo.

One fascinating aspect of their culture is the sand paintings.  The one above was made to help heal someone “agitated” by a rattlesnake. The sand painting is made on the ground and the afflicted person lies on the sand while he is prayed over. When he stands up, grains of sand stick to him and the remaining sand is removed to a sacred place.

Making a sand painting is a tedious business, and the “paintings” are beautiful and precise.  Many framed and glued examples of sand paintings are here for you to see.  Fascinating.

I loved this photograph of the gnarled old grandmother’s hand with her sweet grandbaby’s innocent face. I took photos of photos from this museum and the Gallup Cultural Museum in downtown and I’m unsure what pictures came from which museum.

This ceremonial dance, the bent over form, the walking sticks can also be seen depicted in the murals.  This dance can be seen by the public when  Native Americans have a ceremonial day. Many of these dances are private and are not available to the public.

Excellent needle work.

Beautiful pottery with distinctive designs. With the crudest of tools, they made designs of great intricacy.  Young Navajo study the old designs to try and keep the patterns alive.

I took 34 photos of outdoor and indoor murals at this museum if you’d like to see them click the link:
Our next stop was the Code Talkers museum situated in a Christian School. This was more an honorarium for the 30 Code Talkers that had attended this school from Gallup.
And, the story is a fascinating one.  Speaking Navajo for communicating during battles turned out to be successful and essential. The Japanese could not break the code and it helped  turn the tide of many battles because communications were quick and decisive. A communication that would have taken more than an hour to get through without detection, could be radioed openly in Navajo in a few minutes.
Just how essential they were is stated by Major Howard Connor.

This tiny museum brushed briefly on their training. They needed to use vocabulary that was not in the Navajo language. It was rigorous training and memorization to coordinate a code talker on the battlefield. The code talker had to speak fluent English to apply.

While the little museum supplied pictures for us, the Gallup Cultural Center had an amazing  film on the Code Talkers. On the battlefield they were so important, they were surrounded by guards so they would be protected from friendly and enemy fire. Some soldiers could not tell a Navajo from a Japanese. During transportation, they were given berths on the train, they got special quarters and the best food. They were given respect. Something some of them experienced for the first time. It changed the path of the Navajo Nation. Code talkers returned to their land with a newly awakened purpose. They knew they had to become political, businessmen, teachers and assimilate into the culture to make headway in America and still be able to keep their native practices.

I thought this cartoon was worth seeing.

The beautiful old Rex Hotel in downtown Gallup is listed on the historic register. The building is in great shape and holds the Historical Society Museum. Local people donate their precious belongings for their own museum, school yearbooks, grandma’s washing machine, old tools and so on.  We like to go even though we see a lot of the same things over and again. We like to look for that jewel you may never find anywhere else.

What’s so charming about local museums is that everyone in town knows who Martha Zollinger’s mom is. They are, as this one was, overstuffed, personal and quaint; run by volunteers.

And, I found this jewel of an old stamp machine with envious prices for stamps.

And clip-on-your-shoes, sidewalk skates. I got my first pair when we moved to a city with sidewalks. They kept falling off and caused me  many skinned knees.

Gallup’s Cultural Center is in a beautiful old train station. A sweet cafe  reminiscent  of the cafe in pictures of   the station in its heyday.  It has a bit of everything. A masters and dreamers gallery. Historic pictures of all walks of life in the Gallup Community from Route 66, to coal mining, to Native American life.  But, the code talkers film is a do-not-miss.

Three paintings from the Gallery of Dreams, budding young artists.

A painting from the children’s gallery.

And work from the Masters Gallery.

I got my art fix. Then we went on to visit the famous El Rancho Hotel. Famous because of the many movies made here.  The stars put up at the best hotel in town. The El Rancho.

The building is still in use as a hotel. It is beautiful from the outside.

I’ve seen rustic wood buildings before. This one is fancier wood plank rustic.  Interesting doors.

The lobby was heated by a fireplace, no longer used.  People’s fascination of the place is more about the movie star pictures lining the upstairs balcony that over looks the lobby.

Lucy  and Desi.

Errol Flynn

Kirk Douglas

Paulette Goddard.

The pictures are a really fun cruise. I didn’t grow up with movies and I’m not gaga about movie stars, but they evoked old familiar movies I liked and faces we don’t see anymore.  In fact, the doors to the rooms in the hotel have a movie stars name above them.

We visited several jewelry stores because I wanted to find something from the Zuni tribe.   Their craft is declining as the old Zuni jewelry makers die and the younger people aren’t as interested in their art.  And, believe it or not, I took this photo of a photo in a jewelry store.  The little girl’s jewelry is Navajo.
It was a great museum, jewelry, history, art crawl and a full day. Later, I’ll blog some of the Navajo rugs and other pictures from this very full day.

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