The Navajo and the Southwest

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Fri Apr 5 22:45:06 MST 2002


Note by Hunterbear:

In Portside Tidbits of today -- April 5 -- "Dan" takes issue with a major
point in my recent Portside-posted piece, "Anthropology and Anthropologists
etc." He is very wrong indeed in his contention that the Navajo came late to
the Southwest -- i.e. 1600 -- and his accusation that the Navajos have done
a "recent rewrite of history" is obviously as pejorative as it is puzzling.
Here are the facts and, since there has been a tendency in some quarters to
minimize the historical length of Native residence in various locales, I'm
posting this beyond simply that of  conventional response on Portside:

From: Dan
Re: Anthropology and anthropologists; Chagnon and the
Yanomami

> grew up among the Navajo, adversaries of the Anasazi
> in the "old time" [mostly over water resources], who
> have nothing whatsoever in their very carefully
> maintained and intricate oral history to indicate
> that cannibalism was ever practiced by these long ago
> pueblo neighbors.

I think the timing is off. Anasazi as a culture
dispersed around 1200 AD, Navajo do not seem to have
appeared (no matter their recent rewrite of history)
until around 1600 AD.
=============================

The Athabascan-speaking Navajo -- known as Dine' or Dineh -- came down from
the Far North. [There are suggestive phrases from far away in the
language -- among them "Sleep paddles away from me like a canoe." I can
recall  a 1940s Western movie at Flagstaff which had been filmed in Canada's
Northwest Territories -- and included Natives who spoke in their own Dine'
language -- stimulating immediate, swift and excited responses from my
Navajo companions. ]  In any event, the Navajo  entered the Southwest in a
number of family bands --  sometimes known today as "the outfit" and with
clan systems fully intact to this present moment -- before and slightly
after 1,000 A.D.  "Dan" would have them arriving long after the Spanish who
the Navajo, of course, fiercely resisted -- even as, seizing Spanish horses,
they became very great horsepeople and remain so.  "Dan" does not contest my
statement that the Anasazi were in the Southwest 800 and more years ago.

A solid, easy to find reference on Navajo basics is Clyde Kluckhohn and
Dorothea Leighton, The Navajo, Harvard University Press, 1946 and then
Doubleday Anchor revised edition, 1962. And, of course, there are many more
recent works -- but  Kluckhohn and Leighton, whose rapport was always very
solid with the Navajo, are extremely authoritative.

Hunter Gray  [ Hunterbear ]
www.hunterbear.org  ( social justice )



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