Rainbow Bridge to Monument Valley
Making the Modern Old West
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
256 Pages | 6 x 9 | 11 b&w illus., 1 map
Navajos long ago incorporated Rainbow Bridge into the complex origin story that embodies their religion and worldview. In the early 1900s, archaeologists crossed paths with Grey in the Rainbow Bridge area. Grey, credited with making the modern western novel popular, sought freedom from the contemporary world and reimagined the landscape for his own purposes. In the process, Harvey shows, Grey erased most of the Navajo inhabitants. This view of the landscape culminated in filmmaker John Ford’s use of Monument Valley as the setting for his epic mid-twentieth-century Westerns. Harvey extends the story into the late twentieth century when environmentalists sought to set aside Rainbow Bridge as a symbolic remnant of nature untainted by modernization.
Tourists continue to flock to Monument Valley and Rainbow Bridge, as they have for a century, but the landscapes are most familiar today because of their appearances in advertising. Monument Valley has been used to sell perfume, beer, and sport utility vehicles. Encompassing the history of the Navajo, archaeology, literature, film, environmentalism, and tourism, Rainbow Bridge to Monument Valley explores how these rock formations, Navajo sacred spaces still, have become embedded in the modern identity of the American West—and of the nation itself.
"Rainbow Bridge to Monument Valley provides a captivating analysis of the meaning Anglos and Indians have made from two of the West’s most iconic sites. In exploring these spaces and their place in the American and the Navajo imagination, Thomas J. Harvey makes a significant contribution to the cultural history of the American West and the nation."—David Wrobel, author of Promised Lands: Promotion, Memory, and the Creation of the American West
"Thomas J. Harvey’s work on the Utah-Arizona border region . . . will stake out new intellectual terrain for scholars seeking to explore the relationship between geography, cultural nationalism, and Occidentalism in twentieth-century America. . . . Harvey shows quite clearly how layers of meaning continue to be attached to the region and how modern mythmaking is perpetuated.”Carter Jones Meyer co-author of Selling the Indian: Commercializing and Appropriating American Indian Cultures