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Navaho Indian Tribe History

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Navaho Indian Tribe History

Navaho ( pron. Na'-va-ho, from Tewa NavahÑŠ, the name referring to a large area of cultivated lands; applied to a former Tewa pueblo, and, by extension, to the Navaho, known to the Spaniards of the 17th century as Apaches de Navajo, who intruded on the Tewa domain or who lived in the vicinity, to distinguish them front other "Apache" bands.--Hewett in Am. Anthrop., viii,193,1906. Fray Alonso Benavides, in his Memorial of 1630, gives the earliest translation of the tribal name, in the form Nauajу, 'sementeras grandes'--'great seed-sowings', or 'great fields'. The Navaho themselves do not use this name, except when trying to speak English. All do not know it, and none of the older generation pronounce It correctly, as v is a sound unknown in their language. They call themselves Dǐnй', which means simply 'peaople'. This word, in various forms, is used as a tribal name by nearly every people of the Athapascan stock).

An important Athapascan tribe occupying a reservation of 9,503,763 acres in north east Arizona, north west New Mexico, and south east Utah. Here they are supposed to remain, but many isolated families live beyond the reservation boundaries in all directions. Their land has an average elevation of about 6,000 ft above sea level. The highest point in it is Pastora peak, in the Carrizo Mountains, 9,420 ft high. It is in arid region and not well adapted to agriculture, but it affords fair pasturage. For this reason the Navaho have devoted their attention less to agriculture than to stock raising. There were formerly few places on the reservation, away from the borders of the Rio San Juan, where the soil could be irrigated, but there were many spots, apparently desert, where water gathered close to the surface and where by deep planting crops of corn, beans, squashes, and melons were raised. Within the last few years the Government has built storage reservoirs on the reservation and increased the facilities for irrigation.

It may be that under the loosely applied name Apache there is a record of the Navaho by Oсate as early as 1598, but the first to mention them by name was Zarate-Salmeron, about 1629. They had Christian missionaries among them in the middle of the 18th century, but their teachings did not prevail against paganism. For many years previous to the occupancy of their country by the United States they kept up an almost constant predatory war with the Pueblos and the white settlers of New Mexico, in which they were usually the victors. When the United States took possession of New Mexico in 1849 these depredations were at their height. The first military expedition into their country was that of Col. Alex. W. Doniphan, of the First Missouri Volunteers, in the fall of 1846. On behalf of the United States, Doniphan made the first treaty of peace with the Navaho Nov. 22 of that year, but the peace was not lasting. In 1849, another military force, under the command of Col. John M. Washington, penetrated the Navaho land as far as Cheldy canyon, and made another treaty of peace on Sept. 9, but this treaty was also soon broken. To put a stop to their wars, Col. "Kit" Carson invaded their territory in 1863, killed so many of their sheep as to leave them without means of support, and took the greater part of the tribe prisoners to Ft Sunnier at the Bosgite Redondo on the Rio Pecocs, New Mexico. Here they were kept in captivity until 1867, when they were restored to their original country and given a new supply of sheep. Since that time they have remained at peace and greatly prospered.

There is no doubt that the Navaho have increased in number since they first became known to the United States, and are still increasing. In 1867, while they were still prisoners and could be counted accurately, 7,300 of their were held in captivity at one time; but, owing to escapes and additional surrenders, the number varied. All were not captured by Carson. Perhaps the must accurate census was taken in 1869, when the Government called there to receive a gift of 30,000 sheep and 2,000 goats. The Indians were put, in a large corral and counted as they went in; only a few herders were absent. The result showed that there were somewhat fewer than 9,000, making due allowance for absentees. According to the census of 1890, which was taken on a faulty system, the tribe numbered 17,204. The census of 1900 places the population at more than 20,000, and in 1906 they were roughly estimated by the Indian Office to number 28,500.

According to the best recorded version of their origin legend, the first or nuclear clan of the Navaho was created by the gods in Arizona or Utah about 500 years ago. People had lived on the earth before this, but most of them had been destroyed by giants or demons. When the myth says that the gods created the first pair of this clan, it is equivalent to saying that they knew not whence they came and had no antecedent tradition of themselves. It is thus with many other Navaho clans. The story gives the impression that these Indians wandered into New Mexico and Arizona in small groups, probably in single families. In the course of time other groups joined there until, in the 17th century, they felt strong enough to go to war. Some of the accessions were evidently of Athapascan origin, as is most of the tribe, but others were derived from different stocks, including Keresan, Shoshonean, Tanoan, Yuman, and Aryan; consequently, the Navaho are a very composite people. A notable accession was made to their numbers, probably in the 16th century, when the Thkhapaha-dinnay joined them. These were a people of another linguistic stock--Hodge says "doubtless Tanoan"--for they wrought a change in the Navaho language. A later very numerous accession of several clans came from the Pacific coast; these were Athapascan. Some of the various clans joined the Navaho willingly, others are the descendants of captives. Hodge has shown that this Navaho origin legend, omitting a few obviously mythic elements, can be substantiated by recorded history, but he places the beginning at less than 500 years.

The Navaho are classed us belonging to the widespread Athapascan linguistic family, and a vocabulary of their language shows that the majority of their words have counterparts in dialects of Alaska, British America, and California. The grammatical structure is like that of Athapascan tongues in general, but many words have been inherited from other sources. The grammar is intricate and the vocabulary copious, abounding especially in local names.

The appearance of the Navaho strengthens the traditional evidence of their very composite origin. It is impossible to describe a prevailing type; they vary in size from stalwart men of 6 feet or more

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