The name "de Chelly" (pronounced "de shay") is
a Spanish corruption of the Navajo word "Tsegi", which means "rock canyon".
The name of the principle tributary of Canyon de Chelly, Canyon del Muerto, means
"Canyon of the Dead". The name comes from an 1882 Smithsonian expedition led
by James Stevenson, which found many Anasazi burial sites in this canyon. The Rio de Chelly
originates near the Arizona-New Mexico border, and runs a sinuous course westward. Rio de
Chelly is enclosed by vertical canyon walls up to 1000-feet high until it comes to the mouth
of Canyon de Chelly. The Anasazi and Navajo ancestors must have thought this beautiful canyon,
with good blocky stone for construction, large protective niches and caves, and a flowing
source of water made a perfect spot to settle.