Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: Navajo History and Culture

The Navajo History and Culture: Native American Library, Helen Dwyer and D.L. Birchfield, Gareth Steven Publishing, 2012.
This is a good brief introduction to the Navajo People.  It starts with an introduction, and an attempt of explaining where they came from—which I don’t think anyone knows but people theorize the came over the Bering Strait. 
The Navajo Origins Story talks about the “Dene” coming through two previous worlds, which they had to leave when the balance was not right.  They are now in their third world.
In the area where the Navajo lie, are the ruins of the Anasazi.  However, it is generally accepted that they are the ancestors of the Hopi, and not the Navajo.  However the Navajo learned many things from this culture, including the weaving of blankets and farming. 
When the Navajo were under the control of the Spanish and the Mexican government, they were pretty much left alone.  They were too distant to be of much concern.  However, when the United States took over there was more effort on colonizing the area, which lead to conflict between the Navajo and the government.  There were several conflicts, and eventually Kit Carson was commanded to destroy the livelihood of the Navajo.  He did this by burning crops and warring with the Navajo.  The Navajo were forced to submit to the “Long Walk of Death.”  This was a forced march of the Navajo from their native lands to Bosque Redondo in New Mexico, 300 miles away.  However, after about four year, in 1868, the Navajo were able to negotiate a treaty allowing them to return home, where they were on the Navajo Reservation, just much smaller than their original territory. 
Over the years, this land gained wealth through the discovery of oil, as well as uranium  The discover of uranium which had deadly consequences for which they are still trying to clean up.  Other involvement of the Navajo Nation in U.S. history was the contribution of the Navajo code talkers in WWII. 
The Navajo Country is very rural, but very conducive to the raising of sheep.  Sheep are used to provide meet as well as wool.  The Navajo are great weavers and their blankets are much desired.  They are also artisans of silver and their turquoise silver jewelry is also greatly desired. 
However the largest employer in the Navajo Nation is the government, federal and The Navajo Nation.  The Navajo Nation was organized as a need to have someone who could sign off on oil leases in the 1920s. 
The native customs, language and culture are a large part of Navajo live.  Healing ceremonies still take place, and medical offices have facilities for native healers.  The songs and sand paintings can be very complicated, and it takes many years of study to become a healer.  The Navajo have a matriarchal society, the men marrying into the family of the mother-in-law. 
The influence to the Navajo nation extends beyond its own borders, with artists and scientists.  The Navajo nation have their own college and medical facilities, including a native healing school.

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