Addison Rae, who has nearly 30 million followers on Instagram and more than 60 million on TikTok, recently visited Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona, posting bikini pictures from her trip for all to see.
The 19-year-old, who appears to be staying at the exclusive Amangiri resort in Utah, shared highlights from her trip on social media: jumping into the water captioned “good morning from Mars,” posing in a pink bandeau and skirt on a daybed, dancing among rock formations and crawling through sand.
The standout snapshots though are those featuring Rae in a blue two-piece standing in a slot canyon, narrow but deep gorges formed when water cuts through rock, particularly sandstone and limestone.
These geological marvels have become hotspots for influencers and celebrities, with Kylie Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Will Smith and more having shared images from inside one of the geological marvels.
However, what often gets overlooked is the fact that most of the desert area beloved by tourists is actually sacred Native American land. Antelope Canyon, in particular, the most popular destination in the area, has a deep Navajo history.
“It’s changed so much,” Siera Begaye, a Navajo woman who grew up in Page, Arizona, tells Yahoo Life. “Our natural homeplace has turned into a place for economic growth.”
The mother-of-one, who identifies herself as being from the Diné clan, recalls growing up just down the road from the LeChee community and attending an elementary school with majority Native children. She also remembers roaming the many canyons that surrounded her.
Want to visit Antelope Canyon from home? Take a guided tour using augmented reality. Just place the below image in front of you to begin exploring.
“I grew up going to a number of them,” she says. “I’ve even gone to different canyons where we would have to go and ask permission from the families who live in that area. A lot of times, our elders only speak Navajo. And so I’m not as fluent in Navajo, but we would always have a friend that knew and would translate and talk to them for us.”
Despite being taught to treat the land and those who live there with such respect, Begaye would see people outside of the community not doing so as she became a tour guide of Antelope Canyon and witnessed a “disconnect” when it came to the actions of tourists. She recalls a particular set of instances where it was apparent that visitors didn’t take into account the sacred traditions of the Navajo people.
“There have been times where people have come in with their relatives, cremated, and have brought their ashes down into the Canyon and put their ashes everywhere in the Canyon, as people are walking by. And for us it was a hard pause, like, ‘What is happening? What is going on?’” she explains. “We as Navajo people, we view death as a very sacred time and moment. And a lot of times, our pregnant women or babies aren’t allowed to go to funerals because it’s such a strong energy.”
Begaye goes on to say that most tour guides at the Canyon are traditional Navajo people who immediately took caution and had the area shut down.
“The spirit was placed in here, and it could affect us. It could affect our lives, our well-being, you know, we could get sick from this. So we had to call in different Navajo medicine people to pray about this,” she says. “So that was like one of the things that I feel like made me very frustrated. Dominant culture thinks that one thing is OK, but coming into a space where you’re a guest, that’s not OK.”
Despite many obstacles that the Navajo people are currently facing — including health care, police brutality and domestic violence against women — Begaye says that one of their biggest undertakings is educating others about Native culture.
“It’s really hard when people just don’t care or aren’t willing to change or aren’t really willing to look at the facts,” she says. “I feel like that’s what a lot of indigenous people want is just, you know, acknowledgment of what we’ve been through, what we’re continuing to go through.”
As a social media influencer herself with over 20,000 followers on Instagram, Begaye is cultivating an online community for young indigenous people. She’s also become an ambassador for the Indigenous 20-Something Project — a movement with the mission of bringing health and wellness to the next generation of Native people — and other organizations aimed at storytelling among Native women.
“I want to be an influence to my community,” she says. “The main thing is just wanting the best for my community.”
AR experienced produced by Jon San.
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