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Monument Valley to close during solar eclipse Saturday, honoring Indigenous tradition

Posted at 9:28 PM, Oct 11, 2023

MONUMENT VALLEY, Utah — Many residents of northern Utah will flock to the southern part of the state, just to catch the solar eclipse Saturday morning. Others will stay indoors, honoring centuries of tradition.

For generations and generations, Diné people have been honoring their connection to nature during solar eclipses, according to Angelo Baca, the cultural resources coordinator for Utah Diné Bikéyah.

“We actually have been doing this before America was America, and we'll keep doing it long after this moment,” he said.

Baca says they stay inside every year, not looking at the sky out of respect. For that reason, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park will be closed on Saturday, despite being in the path of the eclipse.

“The solar eclipse is an indication of how the celestial beings and bodies that are beyond us in this world give us a sense of how small we are and how humble we should be as human beings,” said Baca.

Bears Ears National Monument will be open and is expecting up to 20,000 visitors, said Semira Crank, the program director of Visit With Respect.

“We would like visitors to be cautious about where they're going, including not dispersed camping on tribal nations, just because it's illegal, and to be mindful about parking on dirt roads because those dirt roads actually lead to someone's property,” she said.

While on public lands, Cranks says visitors should remember they are treading on sacred ground.

“We don't want visitors to put their fingertips on rock imagery because the oils on our fingers can cause it to degrade over time,” she said.

Even if your head is turned to the sky Saturday, Baca asks Utahns to respect what’s beneath our feet.

“People will spend a lot of money,” he said. “They'll travel, they'll trample plants and beautiful ecological landscapes and areas that they probably shouldn't be milling around in and even risk hurting their own eyes and their own bodies and trying to look at this thing that they consider to be beauty. But the beauty has always been there.”