Rainbow Bridge

Growing up I always heard lots of stories about Lake Powell. After graduating high school my uncle began his first job with the National Park Service there. A few years later, after her own graduation, my mother, accompanied by a few friends, also moved to southern Utah. For a rather blissful year and a half in the late 70’s my mom spent her days floating around Horseshoe Bend on an inner tube with monthly trips into the “big city” of Grand Junction, Colorado for groceries and cat food. So when I read Robert Michaelsen’s article The Significance of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and it mentioned Lake Powell I was rather intrigued. Could the place where so many of Mom’s wild adventures took place really be a site of religious significance?

To the Navajo people of the Southwest, Rainbow Bridge is not just a unique geological feature. Navajo stories tell of a male and a female rainbow person coming together in perfect union, and being frozen in time. This rock rainbow is particularly special because it is the only rainbow that can be viewed from both sides  (Luckert 22-3). It is the site of ritual offerings, sacred ceremonies, and other religious practices. Glen Canyon is home to several other sites of religious significance for the Navajo people, including a sacred spring, several rock beings, and the union of the feminine Colorado River and the masculine San Juan River. However, these sites have all been covered by the waters of the manmade Lake Powell, disrupting Navajo spiritual practice (Luckert 24). One major concern of the Navajo is that the rock people are being drowned by Lake Powell. Additionally, sacred offerings cannot be placed at the union of the Colorado and San Juan Rivers,  as it is covered by water, which prevents the Navajo from properly conducting ceremonies that protect them from harsh weather and disease (Luckert 25). Perhaps of more pressing concern than any of these other issues is the increasingly large presence of tourism in the Glen Canyon area. Because of the tourists, the Navajo people are not able to communicate with the spirits around Rainbow Bridge during the day, but the ceremonies cannot be conducted at night after the tourists have left because of the decrees of the spirits (Luckert 92-3). Tourists are also often quite disrespectful of Navajo beliefs. Despite the posting of various signs asking them to avoid doing so, many tourists approach and walk under Rainbow Bridge, things that are expressly forbidden in the Navajo tradition.

Lamarr Badoni, a Navajo medicine man, saw Lake Powell and the tourism it created as a significant enough problem to merit legal action. He petitioned to have access to Rainbow Bridge for non-indigenous peoples restricted and to have the reservoir operate at half capacity so that the spirits who were covered by the water could breathe again, citing the American Indian Religious Freedom Act as support for his case. In Badoni v. Higginson the courts ruled that the Navajos have no property rights because the site was declared a national monument twenty years before the Navajo reservation was expanded to include Rainbow Bridge and the site of the reservoir (Smith and Manning). Badoni was dissatisfied with this decision and took the case to the court of appeals. The appellate courts ruled that the economic interest of having a major water and power source outweighed the benefits of protecting the Navajo’s religious interests. In that same decision the justices stated that protecting the monument would make it a “government managed shrine” (Smith and Manning).

Although the courts have not responded favorably to the Navajos, the National Park Service has attempted to be more accommodating of the Navajo religious practices of the area. In 1994 President Clinton issued an executive order that expandeddialogues between the Park Service and interested Native American parties. This executive order has led to several small successes for the Navajos. For example, a trail leading to Rainbow Bridge was paved with a pine-based hardener, rather than asphalt, to allow spirits to pass to and from the underworld (Smith and Manning). Park Service employees are also working with indigenous peoples to increase their access to ceremonial plants and animals in protected areas. Beyond these accommodations, the Park Service is also working on education initiatives to help explain the sacred nature of the monument to tourists in the hopes that it will cultivate respect for native peoples and their religions (Rainbow). Their attempts to educate tourists include posting signs asking people to consider not approaching or walking under the bridge and deleting directions to trails that lead to Rainbow Bridge from informational brochures (Smith and Manning). The National Park Service asks people to respect Rainbow Bridge the same way they would a church, because as cheesy as it sounds, it is more than a bridge, it is “a bridge between cultures” (Rainbow).

- Kasey Gardner

Works Cited

Luckert, Karl W. Navajo Mountain and Rainbow Bridge Religion. Flagstaff: Museum of Northern Arizona, 1977. Print.

“Rainbow Bridge National Monument – A New Day at Rainbow Bridge (U.S. National Park Service).” U.S. National Park Service – Experience Your America. Web. 29 Jan. 2011.

Smith, Chris, and Elizabeth Manning. “The Sacred and Profane Collide in the West — High Country News.” High Country News. 26 May 1997. Web. 29 Jan. 2011.

5 Responses to Rainbow Bridge

  1. Hendon Harris says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share this news with us. I am particularly interested
    in the Navajo religious and cultural interest in Rainbow Bridge. I have suspected that
    there was an ancient religious connection between the ancient Puebloan people (the Anasazi) and their cultural successors (the Navajo and Hopi tribes) and this particular
    type of rock formation that today we call an “arch”. The most famous of these structures and perhaps the largest is Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.
    Another freestanding arch very similar to Delicate Arch is Anasazi Arch in New Mexico.
    And then there’s Rainbow Bridge so very sacred to the Navajo. I do not believe these
    rock formations are the result of random erosion. I believe that these formations were
    done at approximately the same time as the “Ellora Caves in India” were carved by
    Vedic Buddhist missionary monks. Google: “The Arch in Vedic Buddhism /Hinduism”
    But this is not the only example. How about that rock formation in Thailand that is
    so similar to “Snake Dancers Rock Walpi” so sacred for centuries to the Hopi culture?
    “Isan Home of Ancient Dvaravati Ruins” Another exquisite example is “Bent Hoodoo by Ned” in the Bisti Badlands. But also in the Bisti Badlands are scores of enormous petrified wood logs on raised sandstone platforms. There are just a few in the Petrified National Forest. Petrified wood is considered sacred in both Buddhism and to the Hopi and perhaps many others Native American cultures. So much evidence has recently been uncovered pointing to a link between the ancient cultures of the Four Corners and Vedic Buddism. Google”Were the Anasazi People Buddhist” “Mandalas Mantras Manjis Monuments” and “Dimensions of Dine (Navajo)and Buddhist Traditions” “Hopi and Tibetan Prophecies” and decide for yourself if this theory has adequate evidence to support it. If you’re still in doubt go to “Mushroom Rock National Park Kansas” and “Buddhist Parasol”.

  2. Hendon Harris says:

    Toranas are gateway arches found in all Vedic religions that originated in ancient
    India, the birthplace of Buddhism. These arches are known for three distinct
    features. The first is the top of the structure. The second are the support legs.
    The third and perhaps most important feature is the land under the arch which is
    the sacred land/foundation of the “throne”. Basically toranas were the frame for a
    sacred memorial that was traditionally placed under the arch of the totana. Is it
    possible that Rainbow Bridge is actually an ancient Buddhist torana that is still being
    used as as a sacred location by the Native Ameicas who value the site? Is that why
    the Navajo, Hopi and other Native Americas who worship there consider the ground under the arch to be sacred as well? The Four Corners region has scores of arches
    located throughout the area of which Delicate Arch and Anasazi Arch are two examples.
    Are these two freestanding arches with apparent cuts near the base of all their arch legs
    toranas as well? Google: “Were the Anasazi People Buddhist?” and “Mandalas, Mantras, Manjis and Monuments”.

  3. Hendon Harris says:

    Native American sacred ceremonial masks play a significant role in the tribal communities of the Four Corners region. We were recently reminded of this by
    the generosity of the Annenberg Foundation at a Paris auction. Because of several
    recent auction sales of sacred Hopi and Apache masks in France in spite of strong
    pleas from tribal spokespeople as well as the U.S. government the Annenberg
    Foundation made a swift decision to intervene on behalf of our First Nations people.
    Secretly bidding on behalf of “straw bidders” they used their own money ($530,000) for the purpose of buying these masks so they could be returned to their respective original tribal cultures to be used once again for their intended purpose. This act of
    respect for tribal cultures once again demonstrates that when push comes to shove
    we North Americans can work together for each others interests. (Thank you Navajo
    Code Talkers for your valor on behalf of all of us during WW II etc)
    The use of masks in sacred ceremonies is not common among the major religions of
    the world. In fact the only place that this occurs is in the religions of ancient India
    where Buddhism grew out of Hinduism in the Vedic India culture. These masks bear
    striking similarities to the masks of the Native American tribes. Since the Hindu faith
    does not evangelize and Buddhism does and sent missionary monks like Hwui Shan
    and numerous others out to locations around the world to evangelize if Vedic symbols
    and customs are confirmed in North American by elimination it would have been ancient Buddhists who brought them here. Google: “Buddhist Symbols Customs North
    America”. To compare the masks of these two cultures google: “Buddhist Masks and/
    or Native American Masks”. Obviously masks are just one of numerous connections
    that appear to link the cultures of Pre Columbian North America and Vedic Asia.

  4. Hendon Harris says:

    Alexander von Humbolt (1769-1859) was probably the most populat geographer/ explorer of all time. During his lifetime his work was followed by kings, queens and presidents. You can read his biography on the internet. Charles Darwin was a great admirer of Humbolt’s theories. Based on his research and travels Humbolt was among those totally persuaded that Asian Buddhist missionaries had traveled to pre Columbian North America and had left evidence of their time here in the customs and symbols of the Puebloan people. But there was the absence of one particular symbol here in North America that he just could not find and this perplexed him up until his death because this symbol was so significant not only in Buddhism but all other Vedic religions as well. If Buddhism actually ever made it to ancient North America by definition then some evidence of it would be here. Because he was so convinced of
    a Buddhist presence he then speculated that the Buddhists who came were from some sect of Buddhism that had dropped its use. He was looking for the fertility symbol the “Phallus”. I don’t know how he could have missed evidence of Kokopelli and his fertility symbolism because that is not uncommon throughout the Four Corners. However, he was probably looking for a phallic symbol like “The Chinese Phallic Rock Danxia” and unable to find one. I believe I have personally found three in Utah with two of them in Arches Natl Park. “Buck and Mabel’s King Kong Dong” and “Bust.com Rock Hard Penis” The third one is two toned just to make it much easier for you to recognize it for what it is. Its can be accessed at “Whaweap Hoodoos by Tanya”.
    After you google that go to the images section and it will be on the second line of images
    I believe. You’ll know what you’re looking for and won’t miss it. Not knowing how these particular rock images perfectly fit into the ancient Native America cultures most adult European Americans pass these rock towers off as a awkward coincidence while their teenage and younger children smile and giggle among themselves knowing exactly what they are seeing. Its too bad that Humbolt was not aware of the locations of these phallic monuments. Perhaps then when the world was ready for the truth this
    discovery and disclosure to the world would have prevented the west from later changing its mind and from then on denying that any Asian influences or religions were ever brought here. “Buddhist Symbols Customs North America”

  5. Hendon Harris says:

    Are the matriarchal cultures of the Puebloan people of the Four Corners directly connected to the travel journal of Buddhist missionary monk Hwui Shan by the use
    of the words The Land of Women in his journal? Google: “The Land of Women Hwui
    Shan”. One of the main reasons used by naysayers for discrediting his report in
    total is because of the Land of Women portion of his account. However, is it possible
    that in the “dirty bath water” the mix of fact and mythology that there is “the baby”
    the truth of several ancient matriarchal cultures that Hwui Shan encountered. If in
    your eagerness to throw out the dirty water you don’t recognize the baby you will be
    throwing away the baby as well. That baby is that he encountered matriarchal cultures
    1000 li (333 miles) to the east of Fu Sang. For those of us arguing that Fu Sang was
    the ancient Chinese name for the west coast of North Ametica this appears to
    geographically fit. We know that the Four Corners are more than 333 miles from the
    California coast. However what we were not told is how far east the boundaries of Fu Sang went. Would not a clue to that be 333 miles west of what would have been considered the eastern boundary of The Land of Women? When you couple this with
    all the physical and cultural evidence of ancient Buddhism that exist in the Four Corners to this day does not it bring greater credence to this possibility?

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