- The word Navajo comes from the Spanish term meaning fields adjoining a ravine.
- This vast, well-organized, tribal nation lives in the southwestern states of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.
- As their language is closely associated with the Apache, both tribes are thought to have migrated from the same regions of Canada and Eastern Alaska.
- They have also had a long association with the Pueblo people.
- The Navajo were originally hunter-gatherers, but after encountering the Spanish they began herding sheep and goats as their trade.
- They became semi-nomadic, often covering long distances to sell their meat for other goods they needed.
- Before long, they had also developed a spinning and weaving culture that provided most of their clothing and bedding.
- They are a matrilineal clan society, similar to the Cherokee.
- The number four is sacred to them.
- Their traditional home is called a Hogan. It is a round igloo-like structure made from sticks and mud.
- Male Hogans are square. Female houses have eight sides. The door of each type faces east to greet the rising sun.
- The Nineteenth Century was a period of unrest as they came into conflict with the U.S. Army and the New Mexican homesteaders.
- Colonel Kit Carson was sent into Navajo land to obtain their surrender. This was eventually achieved in 1863 through a brutal scorched-earth policy that destroyed native villages and agriculture.
- The following year, 9,000 people were forced to march 300 miles to be interred in Fort Sumner.
- After much hardship and distress, they were allowed to return to a reservation set up on their former land.
- The government provided little food or protection. Those who did not succumb to hunger, cold, or disease were sometimes captured by Apache raiders and sold into slavery.
- Throughout the Nineteenth Century there were many fierce, on-going skirmishes between white settlers and the Navajo community.
- As part of the government’s assimilation program, a vast number of children were sent to off-reservation boarding schools.
- Eventually, President Roosevelt allowed the Evangelical Missionary School to open on the reservation. This was a more humane, beneficial, and successful program.
- In 1933 the government removed half the Navajo livestock, claiming there were too many animals for reservation lands to sustain.
- Throughout the early Twentieth Century, large deposits of oil and uranium were discovered on their land.
- During World War II, 400 Navajo Code Talkers played a vital role against the Japanese, relaying radio messages in their own language that the enemy could not understand.
- Today, Navajo jewelers are skilled silversmiths, often inlaying turquoise stones as part of their distinctive craft. They are also known for their weaving, pottery, and sand-art.
- According to Navajo theology, the tribe has lived in four different worlds – the Dark World, the Blue World, the Yellow World, and the Glittering World.
- They also believe in witches who harm the minds, bodies, and families of innocent victims. There are magic ceremonies to lift and cure these curses.
Navajo Nation, “History,” at http://www.navajo-nsn.gov/history.htm
Wikipedia, “Navajo” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navajo