Our School

1) Window Rock School, 2) Fort Defiance-Fall Day Homecoming, 1959

The Navajo name for Fort Defiance is Tsehootsooi meaning Meadow in Between the Rocks. The name accurately describes the area.

Fort Defiance was established by Colonel Edwin V. Sumner in the fall  of 1851 and served as the first military outpost to patrol Navajoland. A sod and log fort was built on the land that had the greatest value and the surrounding area were used by the U.S. Army to graze their horses.

Site of Old Fort, built by US Army

Bridge Over Blue Canyon Wash

Blue Canyon Wash St. Dominique's Church

St. Dominique's Church, Fort Defiance, Arizona
The tiny town, with a population of about 1500 in 1957,was established  in multi-colored sand, lush grassy meadows, and green marshes.

St. Dominique's Church 2009

Old Fire Station. Fort Defiance

Site of the Old US Post Office, Fort Defiance

Site of Dunn Mercantile, Fort Defiance


Site of Ashcroft's Trading Post, Fort Defiance

View of Fort Defiance looking west, 2009

Fort Defiance, 2009

Fort Defiance, 2009

Black Rock

Good Sheppard Mission, Fort Defiance

Fort Defiance was also the location of the first Navajo Medical Center for the entire Navajo Nation

Public Heath Hospital, Fort Defiance

Fort Defiance Indian Hospital (FDIH), which closed on August 1, 2002, was a 36 bed facility. The picturesque structure built in 1938 out of red sandstone, was nestled in the heart of downtown Fort Defiance. FDIH was staffed by physicians who were Board Certified or eligible in OB-GYN, Pediatrics, Internal medicine, Psychiatry and Family Medicine, Nurse Midwives, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, Dentists. A new, larger facility located near the new Window Rock High School, opened on August 1st.

Nearby Canyon Bonita provides breathtaking and magnificent ever-changing hues. Smoldering
piņon filters through the wandering arroyos and jagged rocks.

The first school in the area opened in 1870 in the abandoned adobes left by the U. S. Cavalry. Other opportunities became available to children as day and/or boarding students at St. Michael's Mission, Good Shepherd Mission, and a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) facility. Most children on the vast Navajo Reservation, particularly in more remote areas, were forced to attend boarding facilities at BIA sites far from home and remain there for months and sometimes even years. It was not until the 1950's that efforts were made to provide public schooling at the community level.

Window Rock School District #8, Circa 1957

The mission of Window Rock School District #8 was to allow children to remain at home with their families and receive a quality education. Being one of the first public schools on the Navajo Reservation, it became a reality with the first buildings constructed in l954 to accommodate first through sixth grades. The exact site of the school was a compromise by the two communities: the school would bear the name of Window Rock but the mailing address would be Fort Defiance. The Mascot chosen was the Mighty Scouts and the colors were blue and gray.


First Mighty Scout Mascot

School Colors
Blue & Gray

Mighty Scout

Fighting Scout



The Famous Window Rock at Window Rock, Arizona



By the fall of l957 enrollment reached 740 with 96 of those in grades 9-11. The school facility was able to accommodate grades 1-3, 6-11 with additional classroom space at the nearby Good Shepherd Mission. The future graduating class of l965 spent their 5th grade year being transported daily from the school to the Mission, a round-trip back for lunch, and a return ride at the close of the school day.

In 1958, twelve students completed the high school curriculum and were the first to graduate from Window Rock High School. The following year, twenty-six seniors became the Class of 1959 and are noted for the first yearbook, appropriately named Tse Ho Tso.  The l960 yearbook staff dedicated their production to Superintendent Marvin Cowan for his responsible leadership in providing curriculum programs and timely accommodations for the explosive growth in enrollment from 518 in l955 to 1250 students in l959.

Ongoing construction at Window Rock School

During those four years the additions included: football stadium, track field, two wings of classrooms, warehouse for storage, motor pool, maintenance garage, additional faculty apartments, and buildings for an elementary school at Window Rock and a Fort Defiance junior high school.



Administration Building constructed in 1960

William Martin served as High School Principal. Guiding the oversight of the school planning and budgeting were Board Members Maurice McCabe and A. C. Rudeau. Cowan, Martin, McCabe, and Rudeau shared a commonality: they each had a child in the class of l965.


Field House Home of the Mighty Scouts!

A field house was constructed in l961 and proudly bore the came " Home of the Scouts"; the community enjoyed watching the boys' and girls' teams compete with other schools and in inter-mural games. By l965 high school enrollment had reached 425 which qualified Window Rock for Arizona Class A level in competitive sports, and fans demonstrated pride in the teams with each season of play.


Snowy days at Window Rock  School

Many challenges existed for teachers and students. Buses transported students within a fifteen-mile radius. Most of the roads were not hard-surfaced, some students had to walk long distances to the bus stop, and heavy snow was a frequent occurrence. Frozen ruts made it difficult for buses to maneuver the remote, rugged areas. Despite all odds, the drivers were careful and skillful in picking up and delivering students to all locations. On one occasion the temperature reached 40 below zero. Vehicles would not start, bathroom water pips burst, and students got a brief unexpected vacation.


 Window Rock High School, completed 1961


Window Rock High School became truly comprehensive in its curriculum. The school received North Central Accreditation in l959-60 for high marks in curriculum and instruction with a focus on teacher preparation and performance, student management, monitoring student performance, use of facilities, and options in education programs. Students were offered college prep courses of study.

Flexible scheduling strengthened the student-centered approach. Library facilities were enlarged, a foreign language lab was installed, audiovisual equipment was made available and sports for both boys and girls were offered. Music, art, speech, drama, and clubs provided social growth and intellectual enhancement. An extended Trades & Industry program presented choices of vocational-technical education in woodworking, metal shop, industrial arts, and auto mechanics. Guidance and counseling helped students select options for future careers. Faculty members were recruited from various parts of the country, representing diverse teacher college preparation programs. This was a unique mixture of talent benefiting the students and strengthening the professionalism of instructors. Student achievement soared, championships won, awards increased. Enrollment grew. By l965 the graduating class numbered 101.


Window Rock High School

The campus was alive with activity. Visitors roaming the campus were a common sight. It was not unusual to see a group of educators from the East Coast, professors from universities, researchers in Native American history, parents of students, ceremonial dancers, Tribal leaders, U.S. and state congressmen, or WR alumni returning from active military service to share their experiences with faculty and students. Classroom doors were open, demonstrations were viewed, conferences were available and interviews were common. The school welcomed all visitors.

The community of Window Rock, famous for its beautiful archeological formations, provided students the opportunity to see government in action: the Navajo Tribal Council chambers, Law and Order headquarters, and BIA operations.  The Tribal Government contributed to the educational program of the young and adult community members.


Navajo Tribal Fair, 1959
 John Hale, Uncle of Gloria Showalter Hale, Class of 68
Jack Kyselka, Father of Eileen Kyselka Scales, Class of 65
Originally named the Navajo Tribal Band, is now the Navajo Nation Band.

An annual fair brought together Native Americans from around the world. The Civic Center presented cultural events. Students enjoyed appearances of Liberace, Mahalia Jackson, Guy Lombardo Orchestra, Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, Errol Garner, Ella Fitzgerald, and Spanish Flamingo Dancers. Window Rock students were ushers for the performances.

Miss Navajo Contest at the Navajo Tribal Fair in Window Rock, AZ - 1960

Navajo Tribal Council Chambers
Post World War II

Navajo Tribal Council Chambers
Window Rock, Arizona

Annie Wauneka sitting in first row of Navajo Council Chamber, Window Rock, AZ
Photo by Navajo Nation Council 1960


School personnel joined together as a team to make the school a community-based operation. Many components formed a united effort for student progress. Drivers had concern for bus students and served as a vital link to parents living in remote areas and often needing language translation to connect school and community. The custodians were a integral part.

Mr. Bill Cadman

Mrs.  Vollie Hogle
Cafeteria Superintendent

Mr. Robert Brownlee

Any hour of the school day would find these friendly women in the halls and rest rooms interacting with students while cleaning and polishing the beautiful buildings.

Custodians L to R: Mrs. Naswood, Mrs. Long, Mrs. Yazza, Mrs. Nez

After hours came the general cleaning by the maintenance crew. Groundskeepers continually attended to the external appearance of the campus.

Cafeteria Staff, Back Row L to R: Mrs. Begay, Mrs. Atcitty, Mrs. Hogle,
Front Row L to R: Mrs. Roanhorse, Mrs. Morgan, Mrs. Damon, Mrs. Yazzie, Mrs. Notah

Other daily encounters were with friendly cafeteria workers who prepared hot, nutritious meals for the hundreds of hungry students.
All school personnel became part of the overall picture with whom students could relate, trust, and interact.

The building of the campus facilities was complete in l960. The size of faculty continued to meet the demands of the student
population and curriculum offerings. Even with adequate classroom space, a perpetual problem of the district was in providing
housing for teachers who came from outside the area. One solution was the hiring of husband and wife, both being teachers.
A number of apartments were available on campus; none in the nearby communities; and as many as ten commuted from Gallup, N.M.

Had there been any doubt that public education would be accepted and successful as an alternative to boarding school education,
the record speaks for itself. Enrollment has continued to climb. Faculty find the setting and student population inspiring.
Hopefully, the future will continue leadership qualities and scholastic achievement for people in the Fort Defiance and Window Rock area.

The alumni of Window Rock High School wish future generations well!

Tse Ho Tso Princesses
Georgia A. Ashley & Lydia Hubbard

The Years That Followed

There will be stars over the place forever, though the school we loved is lost...                                                                                        paraphrased from Sarah Truesdale


Window Rock High School Destroyed

April 5, 1981

View from parking lot of the remains.
 March 1982

Fire Details

Good Sheppard Mission, Spring 1985

Blue Canyon, Spring 1985

View from top of hill behind the old hospital.2002

Fort Defiance PHS Indian Hospital, August 2002

Aerial photo, taken 2002, looking from Window Rock toward the airport