“I am a product of the land. The land stalks me, it teaches me, I have accepted my fate, molded into the one who roams the land.”

Vincent Salabye, 39
Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

 
 
 
 

The trails Vincent rides are steeped in history. Not just his own, though, like many Navajo youth, he herded his grandparents’ sheep across the canyon’s hills on his very first bike. Canyon de Chelly has provided food and shelter to people for over 5000 years. The Puebloans, ancestors of the Hopi people, lived in dwellings high up in the cliffs. For the Navajo, the Canyon has been a sacred refuge for centuries.

 
 
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I ride my homeland and find a reconnection to my joy. I can channel my strength from my childhood memories, I can channel the joyful memories, I am able to channel the healing power of growth and experience.

 
 

Just 50 years ago, the fertile lands in the bottom of the canyon were ripe with peach and apple trees, but after a decade of drought few remain. The farms can no longer support even the 80 or so Navajo families who still have the right to work the land. With farmlands literally drying up, opportunities for both employment and entertainment for Native youth are few and far between. Drink and drugs are an easy distraction from boredom and frustration, but they lead to deeper problems. Suicide is the second highest cause of death for Native Americans aged 10-34.

 
 
 

Vincent believes that the canyon can now offer a different kind of sanctuary and protection. His own struggles were more internal, but for him, and others, taking to the trails on a bike has been, quite literally, a life saver. Vincent wants to help more young Native men and women reconnect with their land,  their communities, and themselves.