Four early Indian Reservations were surveyed by the federal government as part of the same Public Lands Survey initiative that covered the Territories and incipient states. The Navajo Meridian was established by the federal government in 1869, at the southeast corner of the newly established Navajo Indian Reservation, in order to conduct the survey of that land. Despite this having been completed, over the following decades, few patents were issued or rights acquired of any kind related to the survey, and the program was discontinued. The Navajo Nation territory also changed shape considerably after 1869, quadrupling in size in more than a dozen separate additions over 66 years.
The Navajo Meridian Initial Point was forgotten by federal surveyors, until C. Albert White, the surveying historian, calculated its possible location, and dispatched a crew to look for it in 1992. What they found was an unusual monument, apparently built by the now-defunct Navajo Nation’s Office of Land Investigations, though no records of its construction have been found. White figured it was made sometime between 1962 and 1965, based on the design of some Pepsi Cola bottles found buried in the sand adjacent to the monument.
The small red box in northern Arizona indicates part of the Navajo Nation that was surveyed from the Navajo baseline and meridian. The Initial Point is where the “1869” is indicated on this BLM map, which omits the New Mexico side of the reservation because New Mexico officially cancelled the program in 1936. Since some land on the Arizona side had been documented using the baseline, that area remains on the map.
The monument encircles a stone that is believed to have been used as the marker for the original survey. The stone has the letters S E N R engraved on it (for South East Navajo Reservation), though there are no brass surveyor discs or other monuments at the site.