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Protecting Tsé Bit’a’í: Residents say desecration of pinnacle must end

Protecting Tsé Bit’a’í: Residents say desecration of pinnacle must end

TWIN LAKES, N.M. – Visitors are still vandalizing the Shiprock Pinnacle with trash, some Northern Navajo residents say.

“It’s (Pinnacle) being abused right now by the public,” said RedDawn George from Table Mesa, New Mexico. “Natives and non-Natives go there, drive there; they take pictures, they leave their trash.”

Protecting Tsé Bit’a’í: Residents say desecration of pinnacle must end

Navajo Times | Boderra Joe
During one spring, a travel van is seen in the distance near the volcanic wall of Tsé Bit’a’í.

George comes from a generation of family members with grazing permits in Red Valley, Arizona. She is Táchii’nii, born for Beehai. Her maternal grandfather is ‘Áshįįhí, and her paternal grandfather is Hashk’aan. She currently resides in Farmington. Her late grandparents are Joe and Stella Ben.

As a concerned resident, George has been considered the vocal one out of her family because she advocates for what she believes is right and supports those who believe they aren’t being heard. For instance, when the “Jumanji: The Next Level” film crew contacted her family to secure permissions, she spoke out against filming at the pinnacle. She described the conversation with the production team as blurred and miscommunicated, which resulted in an issue for her family.

“It’s really disheartening to know that’s how little they think of the people that live there every day,” George said, regarding how Hollywood uses the pinnacle as a set location for movies and does not communicate effectively.

Filming at Tsé Bit’a’í

Although many movies were filmed in the area, such as “Transformers,” “John Carter,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Finch,” Jumanji: The Next Level, among a list of other movies.

Unsurprisingly, the visually stunning rock formation intrigues many visitors’ radars. However, it raises concerns for residents because it is their home.

George said residents should be present to inform production teams what they can and cannot do near or at the pinnacle. It would relieve some concerns because residents would know what is being filmed and why.
Given her experience with the Jumanji production crew, George says she is uneasy about future movie productions in the area. She takes notice daily that visitors come and go, even locals. She is tired of seeing the abuse and intentions that are brought to the pinnacle. For example, she mentioned Ashlynne Mike, the 11-year-old girl whose body was found near the Pinnacle in 2016.

“That was disturbing,” George said when she first heard of the news. “That was when I was like, ‘We need to stop people from coming around here. We need to stop them from doing whatever they (visitors/locals) feel like they can.”

Read the full story in the Feb. 1, 2024, edition of the Navajo Times.


About The Author

Boderra Joe

Boderra Joe is a reporter and photographer at Navajo Times. She has written for Gallup Sun and Rio Grande Sun and has covered various beats. She received second place for Sports Writing for the 2018 New Mexico Better Newspaper Awards. She is from Baahazhł’ah, New Mexico.

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