Wenima - The Red Cloud Door
Ten centuries ago, Hopi Native Americans settled along the Little Colorado in what would later be known as Wenima Valley. It was a beautiful paradise. A series of crescent-shaped basalt bluffs protected the lush, green valley, filled with tall, rippling grasses spotted with the familiar bright yellow smile of a Maiden Sunflower. Hiking the naturally engineered stair-stepped terraces to the east, the view of snow capped mountains emerge, framing the indelible presence of Escudilla-The Sleeping Buffalo, resting like a gentle guardian over an even larger crescent prairie, that would later be named, “Redondo Valley,” or the Round Valley.
Petroglyph of the Water Clan.
But in this time the little dale, spotted with stone-hewn plaza style kivas and the culture of spiritual migration midst a lifestyle of organic simplicity was known as Wenima, which means, “Coming Home.” The native Hopis lingered on the banks of the peaceful river for over ten years and then it was time to move. Wenima, the valley of “Coming Home,” would be recorded in their oral history as “The Red Cloud Door,” marking its juxtaposition to the south of Hotevilla, their sacred destination.
In 1540, the Spanish explorer Francisco de Coronado crossed the Little Colorado River near St. John’s—about 15 miles north of Wenima Valley. He was seeking the riches of the fabled “Seven Cities of Cibola,” inhabited by the Moquis and their mysterious culture. Later it was decided that Zuni, not Moqui--which is now known as “Hopi”--was the true Cibola. Coronado also searched for a race of giants that he hoped to meet, but instead found the beauty of the Painted Desert and majestic grandeur of the Grand Canyon. In the next fifty years two more Spanish explorers would visit the lands of the Zuni and Hopi, Francisco Chamuscado in 1581 followed by Juan de Onate, the governor of New Mexico, who took possession of the country.

Descendants of the Conquistadors settled throughout the area alongside explorers, traders, trappers and military survey parties who mapped and named the physiography near Wenima Valley. El Valle Redondo, Spanish for Round Valley; Sierra Blanca, known today as the White Mountains; La Loma de San Pedro, St. Peter’s Mountain—Flat-top; and Escudilla, The Sleeping Buffalo.

An 1895 Atlas depicts the Round Valley.
In 1829 a renowned spiritual and intellectual leader was born in the Chiricahua Apache tribe. Goyathlay--one who yawns--was the grandson of a Nedni Apache chief, but his father had forfeited his right of lineage when he married his Bedonkohe Apache mother. In 1858, Goyathlay—who was considered a holy man--returned from Mexico to find his wife, mother and three young children slaughtered by Spanish troops. That event changed his life forever, and he later became known as the fearless and resourceful warrior, Geronimo.
By 1876, after an unsuccessful attempt to capture Geronimo, the newspapers of the day had dramatically imaged him as the most feared of all Apaches and his name was associated with terror throughout the Southwest. In fact, the media had the frightening Geronimo doing everything, everywhere concurrently. Subsequently, many myths emerged. One of these possible accounts involves Wenima Valley. Evidently Geronimo and his warriors surrounded the fledgling pioneer community of Springerville, poised for attack. It is said that Gustaf Becker--Springerville Pioneer and diplomat extraordinaire--fortuitously negotiated with the army of warriors. The attack was called off and the band, all on horseback, literally disappeared into the Wenima Valley. It has been suggested that they entered into an underground cave system and followed a trail near an underground river that eventually took them back to the Chiricahua Mountains near the Mexican border—over 150 miles!
Provenance, (con't)