Native American Navajo
The Native American Navajo are known as the people of the Earth. Their ancestors migrated over the Bering Straits into Alaska and Canada. The Navajo reached Colorado and divided into two different nations, the Apache and the Navajo. The Navajo branch continued south and settled in the areas of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. You can still see traces of their rock art on canyon walls in Colorado.
The Native American Navajo were hunters and gatherers. The Navajo grew corn and were primarily farmers until the Spanish arrived in the mid 15th century. The Spanish brought horses, goats and sheep with them and became the victims of Navajo raids. Once the Native American Navajo had the livestock they switched from being primarily farmers and hunters and growers to raising livestock.
Of the two tribes, Apache and Navajo, the Native American Navajo were a more peaceful tribe. However, raiding and killing ones enemies were a common tradition amongst the tribes in this area of the United States. The Spanish did not take being raided lightly. They retaliated and performed raids of their own which is said to have resulted in nearly six thousand American Indians being held captive as slaves and being forced to work on Spanish ranches. Of these massive numbers of slaves, it is believed that 75% of them were Native American Navajo.
Life did not improve for the Native American Navajo when Spain ceded their lands to the Americans. In 1863 orders were handed down to rid the earth of the Navajo. Many Navajo were slaughtered and thousands of others were captured. Those that were captured or surrendered were made to walk over 300 miles to Fort Sumter. After four years of such treatment and untold numbers of deaths occurring, the United States permitted the Native American Navajo to return to their land, except for the area of Colorado. As the tribe recuperated they returned to raising herds of sheep, goat and horses. They also grew crops such as melons, squash, beans and corn. They also took up weaving and silversmithing.
The Native American Navajo greatly served the United States as Navajo Code Talkers during World War II. It was due in part to the Navajo that American Indians were recognized as American citizens. Today the Navajo live on 25,000 square miles of reservation land. It covers parts of Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. This is the largest Indian reservation in America and is home to approximately 135,000 Native American Navajo. It should be noted that this reservation is also the poorest reservation in America. It greatly lacks economic and natural resources. Water is virtually non existent on this dry land. Court battles continue to this day over water rights with the Navajo’s historic enemies the Zuni and the Hopi.
One way the Navajo are working to build up their economic situation is through tourism. The Navajo Tourism Master Plan is an attempt to attract many of the Arizona tourists to the Navajo Nation.
Joseph Paige © 2006