Navajo Indians, known to each other as Dine, lived in the Southwest, and today, they are settled in the largest Indian reservation in the United States, comprising 27,000 miles. This reservation stretches across Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. The community, is quite large, and anyone with a “blood quantum” of ¼ Navajo is allowed to live on the reservation and to join the community.
The Navajos are involved in the modern economy, and herd, farm, produce jewelry and engage in other types of trade to make a livelihood. Many Navajo Indians are involved with uranium mining, and some feel that it is at too high a price; the high rates of cancer among young female Navajo Indians are blamed on environmental pollution caused by the uranium mines.
It is believed that the Navajo Indians and the Apache once formed one group which split later on. The Navajo were friendly with the Pueblo Indians and often traded with them. Although the word “Navajo” is derived from a Pueblo word meaning “planters of large fields”, Indians often adopt names as derogatory expressions used about them by other tribes (for instance, “Mohawk” is Algonquin for “man-eater”).
Many Navajo Indians today who live on reservations modern conveniences, such as plumbing and telephones. In spite of the relative poverty on the reservations, many Navajo Indians make a living producing traditional crafts. Navajo art is sought after by collectors and tourists alike, and Navajo Indians are known for their colorful weaving, pottery, and sand painting. Sand painting is also commonly used by medicine men, during traditional healing or blessing ceremonies, which are designed to restore balance.
The Navajo Indians are politically active in Indian affairs, and, given their numbers, they carry significant political weight, however, many Navajo feel their political weight is over-shadowed by Mormons who live within their vicinity. Although much needs to be improved on reservations, many Navajos are politically active and lobby on behalf of Indian rights. They also take the steps in setting up resources for troubled Indian youth and rehabilitation programs for those facing addictions.
Joseph Paige © 2006