The Code Talker memorial at Window Rock Tribal Park is not far from Gallup. (Photo: Woody Hibbard / Flickr)
Gallup came out on top as America's most patriotic small town in Rand McNally's “Best of the Road” contest, which announced winners last week. It had strong competition, but the judges were impressed by the New Mexico town’s focus on both military and community service.
Some of the area’s veterans are Navajos who served as “code talkers” in World War II, helping thwart the Axis with their unusual language. The Code Talker memorial at Window Rock Tribal Park is just over the Arizona border, about a half-hour drive from Gallup.
With many of the region’s many national parks either closed or with reduced services, the Navajo and other Southwest tribes are once again helping American citizens, albeit in a less dangerous fashion. They are welcoming more visitors to their tribal parks and recreation sites, which are not affected by the federal government shutdown.
Gallup lies on old Route 66, between the vast swath of Navajo land in northern Arizona and the Pueblo and other tribal lands of New Mexico. These tribal lands contain everything from red rock formations to ancient structures to modern towns that still retain traditional ways of life.
Among the natural and cultural sites are New Mexico’s 19 Pueblos, each with its own culture and traditions. Acoma Pueblo, a settlement on top of a steep-walled mesa, dates back at least 800 years. Zuni Pueblo, south of Gallup, is known for its colorful beadwork and celebratory dances. (Keep in mind, when planning your visit, that pueblo etiquette includes not taking photos without permission and staying out of private areas unless invited.)