Born June 16, 1904, in Norwalk, Los Angeles County, Calif. (see death certificate),
Richard Fowler Van Valkenburgh graduated from
Compton Union High School in 1922 and worked for Standard Oil and Richfield Oil from 1923 until 1928, at which time he began working
as an archaeological assistant with the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Art and Science (now called the Natural History Museum).
In 1934 he began research in Diné (Navajo) archaeology and ethnology. He went
to work for the Bureau of Indian affairs but resigned in 1942 in protest over actions he believed were adverse to Diné welfare.
After "rediscovering" Bowers Cave in Hasley Canyon/Castaic Junction in 1951 (as he reports in the January 1952 edition of Desert magazine), he returned to Diné country and worked with the tribal council to establish land claims.
He died of a heart attack June 19, 1957, at Window Rock in Apache County, Ariz. He is buried in the Navajo Cemetery at Fort Defiance, next to the Diné leader Chee Dodge.
Van Valkenburgh's grave was unmarked until 1967 when Diné craftsmen cut a headstone and placed it in a ceremony that included a Diné honor guard.