History of the Navajo People

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History of the Navajo People

The people who were going to become the Navajo tribe settled in what would be the mountains of New Mexico in or around the 1600's. Prior to that time the area was the home of the Anasazi (The Ancient Ones.) The Anasazi had lived there for approximately 1200 years but, for unexplained reasons, they abandoned their highly developed dwellings and moved westward and southward.

A new group of people, the Athapascans, migrated from what are now Canada, Alaska, and the American Northwest southward to settle in the Southwest of America. Some of this group of Southern Athapascans settled the mountainous region of New Mexico and came to be known as the Navajos, or as they prefer to be called, Dine (the People.) Other Athapascans continued moving southward and settled in Arizona where they became known as the Apache Tribe.

In the 1600's the Spanish began to intrude on the Pueblo Indians of Arizona; the hostility thus gradually spread northward to involve the Navajos. In 1680 the Pueblos revolted against these European invaders and succeeded in temporarily stopping their suppression. At this time many Pueblos moved northward to join Navajo settlements. The Navajo then began to adopt the Pueblo agricultural, sheep raising and weaving methods that are still evident today.

The Navajo adapted well to the new farming methods but continued their warlike behavior of raiding Spanish settlements as well as those of their Hopi, Pueblo and Zuni neighbors.

A major defeat for the Navajos occurred in Canyon de Muertes in 1804 when a group of Navajos confronted a party of Spanish horsemen. The Indians were trapped on a ledge of the canyon with Spanish soldiers armed with rifles above and below them; all but one of the Navajo were killed.

In 1848, after the Mexican War, the U.S. began to send troops and settlers into the area of New Mexico. As happened with so many of the tribes throughout the U.S., the government and white settlers eventually confiscated the Navajo's land.

During the 1850's and 1860's the U.S. Army built Fort Defiance within the heart of the Navajo land. The horses, mules and cattle raised by the whites competed with the Indians' sheep for scarce grazing lands. When the Navajo complained of this, the commandant of the fort sent soldiers who slaughtered large numbers of the Indians' livestock.

In response to this complaint...

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... Navajo reservation, woven baskets gave way to ceramic and metal containers, and basket weaving fell into steep decline. Peach baskets have become virtually extinct, and pitch covered and ceremonial baskets were becoming increasingly rare.

The Navajo had beautiful silver things too. One such thing is a silver bird pendant.

Clothing for both men and women initially was deerskin for shirts and skirts. The men later wore cotton or velvet shirts with no collars, breeches below the knee, and moccasins. Women gradually wore the "squaw dress", made of plain dark blankets.

A Navaho house is called a Hogan and is made of logs, brush, and earth. Summerhouses are also utilized and made of brush with a windbreak.

They also grew corn as their main food source. They called it maize. Corn was an essential part of the Navajo nation.

For many years farming has been a large part of the Navajo way of life. It was used to supply food. It also had many ceremonies that went along with it.

In conclusion, the history of the Navajo, the culture of the Navajo, and the art and tradition of these people has been discussed. The Navajo were one of the greatest tribes of the Southwest.