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Pinetop-Lakeside by Chris Paxman

Fort Defiance

Pay homage to the struggles and challenges of the Navajo people who are as monumental as the landscape. An Arizona scenic byway (Indian Route 12) allows for teasing glimpses of this eternally stirring country.

Right Now

As its name suggests, Fort Defiance has had a turbulent past. But the Navajo community has turned a hopeful eye toward the future.

Fort Defiance was established in 1851. The first military post established within the Mexican Cession in what would become the Arizona Territory, its purpose was to "control" the Navajo Indians. The Army's overtake of the land—sacred to the Diné people and critical to grazing livestock—sparked anger and resentment.

The treaty of 1868 signed at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, allowed the Navajos to return home after their brutal forced deportation called The Long Walk. Fort Defiance became Tsehootsooi in the Diné language, which means "green place among the rocks." After World War II, given its proximity to the Navajo capital of Window Rock, it emerged as a vital commercial and residential center, with traditional hogans and modern homes sharing soil.

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Just The Facts

For Visitor information

Navajo Tourism Department | Window Rock, AZ | (928) 871-6000 |

County It all started How High? Head Count
Apache 1851 6,836ft 3,624

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