‘Shiprock’, digital acrylic. Ship Rock is a dramatic 7,177-foot-high (2,188-meter) rock mountain located in northwestern New Mexico about 20 miles southwest of the town of Shiprock. The formation, a volcanic plug, rises 1,600 feet above a barren desert plain south of the San Juan River.
Ship Rock is a sacred mountain to the Navajo people and figures prominently in Navajo mythology. The primary legend tells how a great bird carried the ancestral Navajos from the far north to their current homeland in the American Southwest. The ancient Navajos were fleeing from another tribe so shamans prayed for deliverance. The ground beneath the Navajos became a huge bird that transported them on its back, flying for a day and a night before landing at sunset where Shiprock now sits.
Diné, the people, climbed off the Bird, which rested from its long flight. But Cliff Monster, a giant dragon-like creature, climbed onto the Bird's back and built a nest, trapping the Bird. The people sent Monster Slayer to combat Cliff Monster in a Godzilla-like battle but in the fight, the Bird was injured. Monster Slayer then killed Cliff Monster, cutting off his head and heaving it far to the east where it became today's Cabezon Peak. The monster's coagulated blood formed the dikes, while grooves on the Bird drained the monster's blood.
The Bird, however, was fatally injured during the great battle. Monster Slayer, to keep the bird alive, turned the bird to stone as a reminder to the Diné of its sacrifice.
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