Legend of the Grand Canyon

Here we are at a place that we call “Bahas” in the language of our people. It means that from the bottom, there is a way out. The stories our people talk about in the oral history, the Coyote stories, and the winter stories have many references to this particular canyon. Of course, people know it by the name the Grand Canyon.

Spanish expeditions

This is where one of the Spanish expeditions stumbled onto this canyon. The Spanish expeditions came up from the south after they had looted Central and South America. They were told falsehoods that there were Seven Cities of Gold in this area. You have people like Cortez, Coronado, Pérez, and other Spanish expeditions that came up into this part of the continent.

One such expedition came up along the Colorado River from the south. I’m not sure, but I think it was Pérez, if not Coronado. They stopped near Flagstaff and had scouts come out to this area. When they came north, they encountered a dead end because of the canyon here. So they went back and reported they couldn’t go this way. They then went further east.

Péreze killed 300 Zuni people

Pérez traveled east and came across the Zuni pueblos around the 1500s. He stayed there for just one or two days and killed over 300 Zuni people—women, children, and men. There’s a story that goes with that, but that’s another topic.

There is a lot of history associated with this place, as I mentioned, with all the different stories—the winter stories, Coyote stories, and oral history. One story is that before the Diné, or the five-fingered beings, were placed on the surface of Mother Earth, the two boys had to get rid of all the evil things on the earth before they could bring the Diné, or the children of the Holy People, here.

The gray rock hoarded all the water

In getting rid of these evil monsters, the last battle with one of the evil monsters took place here. The monster they refer to was the walking around rock or the wandering rock. The story is that he lived way up north in a big lake. There was a gray rock that stuck out from the middle of the lake where he lived. He hoarded all the water in that area, preventing it from flowing elsewhere.

Monster Slayer said, “I’m going to have to get rid of him.” The first thing the monster did was throw a rock at Monster Slayer, but Monster Slayer had armor given to him by his father. They fought, and as they battled, they came down into this part of the area, which at that time was vegetated and flat.

The fight was intense, with Monster Slayer chasing the wandering rock monster all over, tearing down things and making a big hole in their fight. Eventually, Monster Slayer subdued the monster. The monster begged Monster Slayer, saying, “Let me live. Please don’t kill me.” Monster Slayer said, “If you can be of some use to the Diné, I’ll let you live.”

The monster, who was old and gray and had control of hoarding all the water, agreed to create paths for the water to flow where the Diné would live. He let the water loose from the big lake in the north and promised to bring water down from the mountains, making it accessible to the Diné in the ground and rocks. Monster Slayer agreed to let him live.

As a result, the river from the mountains far to the north flows down into this Grand Canyon, which is the Colorado River. The reason it flows through here is because Monster Slayer allowed the monster to live and deliver the water in this way. There are many springs and places where water comes out of the ground, all due to this agreement.

When I was growing up, I heard stories that Monster Slayer let the monster live, but the monster had to change from being an evil person to a useful individual.


When you come from the bottom to the top, this place is called “Bahas,” which means beauty. However, some people see it as “Bahoz,” meaning it is still somehow evil.

As I was told the story, it signifies that people can have beautiful or evil personalities but have the opportunity to change from being evil to good individuals, useful to society. The words “hozho” (beauty) and “hocho” (evil or ugly) reflect this duality. Even though it may seem unorganized, the Diné say it is organized as it should be.

No two people see the Grand Canyon the same way, just as no two people are alike. The teachings and stories about the Grand Canyon are vast. There are stories about a cave filled with artifacts, but no evidence has been shown. Some say there are things from Egypt, but I have not seen anything, and nobody seems to know about it.

The Diné have never heard about such a cave, but there are places where people lived in the canyon. When the Diné first came into the area, they found people living here. Even today, further down the river at the west end of the Grand Canyon, there are still Native American tribes living in the area, some right down in the canyon itself.


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