||The Navajo NationExploring the Navajo Nation is as exciting as exploring a foreign country.Do you know why the Indians got to America first? asks our Navajo tour guide. Because they had reservations. Thus begun a half day spent touring the Navajo lands of Monument Valley.The Navajo call themselves Dineh, which translates to The People. They call their land Dinehtah and they call the White Americans the Bilagaana.The People now number 250,000 and live on a 25,000-square-mile reservation. The Monument Valley area is home for 200 of The People. In this valley there is no running water or electricity.
We did not know this land was so beautiful until the white people came and started taking pictures says the guide for Goulding’s Monument Valley tour. The open truck equipped with comfortable chairs and a Navajo as the guide, turned out to be a perfect introduction to The People and their land.
There before us were the familiar monoliths that stretched across the horizon, familiar to everyone as backdrops to movies and commercials. John Ford first came to the valley in the 1920s to make the movie Stagecoach. Later Back to the Future III and Chevy Chase’s Summer Vacation were filmed here.
Weaving: The highlight for the day was an elderly Navajo lady who demonstrated the craft of weaving a rug. Using primitive tools, she spun the wool and wove the thread into intricate patterns. Each pattern is original to the weaver. In 1848, when America got some of its first reports on the Navajo, it was said The art and skill which they possess in manufacturing woolen fabrics (the texture of which is so dense and fine as to be impervious to water) and apparently with such limited means, is really a matter of astonishment.
“Code Talkers”: Our guide told us of the famous Navajo “code talkers”. During World War II a platoon of Navajos would talk to each other in their own language creating a “code” that the Japanese could not break. The Japanese offered a lot of money to any Navajo who would join their side and teach them the language. The code was never broken.
Ceremonies and Superstitions: The guide told us of their ceremonies. The People loved to come together. They celebrated the birth of a child, the child’s first laugh, a girl’s entry into womanhood and many more occasions.
He relayed their superstitions such as: If a coyote crosses your path it is bad luck, if your shoes are untied someone is messing with your woman (he says that’s why they wear boots), if someone dies in a hogan the hogan should not be used again, and don’t look at the moon or in the future your children will need to wear glasses.
The Long Walk: In August of 1845, American John O. Sullivan wrote: It is our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions. Americans, known to the Navajo as The New Men took possession of New Mexico on August 22, 1846, without firing a shot. America’s Manifest Destiny policy proved devastating to The People. Wars, treaties, attacks, all occurred during the next years, part of which were known as the Fearing Time for The People. The People were surrounded on all sides by their enemies. They never knew when they might return home from getting food and find their family killed or taken as slaves.
In 1863 Kit Carson, known as The Rope Thrower, led an American attack against the The People. Some were convinced this attack was not in retaliation for Navajo raids but rather because some felt fields of gold and other precious metals lay under the Navajo homeland. At the time the United States was engaged in a war over black slavery, Commander James H. Carleton and Christopher Kit Carson were crushing the Navajo Nation. Ute Indians, working for the Americans, were told they could take any Navajos they captured as slaves. The People were a defeated people: poor, hungry and demoralized.
The Long Walk began on Feb. 27, 1864. Men, women and children, 8,000 in all, were marched over 3,000 miles across New Mexico. It is said that coyotes began following the long line of Navajos waiting to make a meal of the next body to fall. Horses weakened and stumbled, and were immediately eaten by the hungry Indians. The old people did not have the strength to make the journey; many collapsed and were left behind on the road. Their families were forced to march on. In the Long Walk over 197 were left behind on the trail dead or dying.
“The People” were kept in bondage for four years without sufficient food, water and shelter. These were dark times for The People.
The People have overcome these trials and today are teaching their youth of their proud heritage.
The tour ended back at Gouldings around noon. This proud and happy nation had a lot they could teach me.