I was surprised after we moved to Utah to find the Anasazi term used so much to label a group of Native Americans that “inhabited southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico and northern Arizona from about A.D. 200 to A.D. 1300” (Utah History to Go).  On our visit to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado shortly before moving to Utah we were told that the term had fallen out of favor.

The term Anasazi is described by many, including Utah History to Go, as meaning “Ancient Ones”.  The term was originally used by the Navajo to describe the ancestors of the Hopi and other Puebloan tribes (actual descendants of the “Anasazi”) from the Navajo words Ana’í meaning alien, enemy foreigner, and non-Navajo and Sází translates to something or someone that is scattered.  The Hopi translate it as “Enemy Ancestors” and don’t find the term complementary.  Hisatsinom (ee-SAH-tse-nom) is the term preferred by the Hopi in referring to their ancestors which means “Ancient People”.  Other descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans who speak one of the Tewa (or Tano) languages use the term Se’da which means “Ancient Ones”.

If you are a descendant of the Ancestral Puebloans, it appears that Anasazi is a derogatory term meaning “Enemy Ancestors” but if you are not it means “Ancient non-Navajo” or “Ancient Ones”.  From the Navajo word it seems it can go either way and not be incorrect but many internet sources go with one or the other.  I ran into an old 1999 Salt Lake Tribune article written by Christopher Smith that was reprinted in the Seattle Times (this article brought up another subject I found interesting and will touch on another time).  In that article he quotes Irv Francisco, a ranger at Navajo National Monument near Kayenta Arizona, “We’ve been told we should maybe use the word `Hisatsinom,’ instead of Anasazi, and that’s a Hopi word that I, as a Navajo, don’t use.  It’s my language, not theirs, and Anasazi is our own form we use to refer to these people.”

Irv Francisco has a good point.  We call several countries, people or cultures using English words or terminology because that is the language we speak.  What is wrong with the Navajo using a Navajo word to describe the Ancestral Puebloans (as long as its not meant in a derogatory way)?  However, why should others use that same Navajo term when they are not Navajo?  The Hopi and other descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans appropriately call their ancestors by terms in their language.

If you can’t tell, my preference is to use terminology that is in my language and call the Anasazi/Hisatsinom/Se’da the Ancestral Puebloans.  I think the expanding usage of this term has shown broad acceptance and does not seem at odds with the descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans.  I think it would be nice to see more mention in history texts in Utah of this terminology and maybe even a brief excerpt on what these people were called by their descendants and even the Navajo.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  Apparently, the term Navajo was from the Spanish Apachu de Nabahu which in turn was derived from the Tewa word navahū meaning “large arroyo with cultivated fields” – so Apaches of the large arroyo with cultivated fields (the Apache and Navajo are related and are jointly referred to by some as the Apachean people and are said to be of the Athabascan people that originated in Northwestern Canada and Alaska).  The term Apache was first recorded being used by Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate in 1598.  Some sources claim the term Apachu came from the Zuni (descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans) and means “enemy”.  I found little proof of this but the possibility is interesting.

So, the Navajo apparently tolerate being called a term from the language of descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans themselves and don’t seem to insist we refer to them as Diné, the term the Navajo refer to themselves as. On top of that, my reading of various sources state that the Navajo had a good trading relationship with the Puebloans and learned crop farming techniques from them.  It would seem unlikely that the Navajo would use the term Anasazi as derogatory considered their relationship with the Puebloans.

Welcome to UtahPetroglyphs.org!

I’ve enjoyed visiting various petroglyph sites in Utah and have many more to visit.  I created this site to share those visits and to create some awareness of what is out there in Utah.

Some petroglyph locations are not well publicized mostly to protect them from those that would harm them in various ways.  Sadly, not everyone is about their preservation for others of multiple generations to enjoy.  However, that also makes it difficult for others who do not know about them to enjoy them properly.

I hope to bring attention to those locations that the public can enjoy and to share pictures and information about some that are not so public.  Don’t expect detailed directions to the locations that are more protected.