Navajo

(redirected from Navajo Indians)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.

Navajo

or

Navaho,

language belonging to the AthabascanAthabascan
, Athapascan,
or Athapaskan
, group of related Native American languages forming a branch of the Nadene linguistic family or stock. In the preconquest period, Athabascan was a large and extensive group of tongues.
..... Click the link for more information.
 branch of the Nadene linguistic family, or stock, of North America (including Mexico). See Native American languagesNative American languages,
languages of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere and their descendants. A number of the Native American languages that were spoken at the time of the European arrival in the New World in the late 15th cent.
..... Click the link for more information.
.

Navajo

or

Navaho

(both: nä`vəhō), Native North Americans whose language belongs to the AthabascanAthabascan
, Athapascan,
or Athapaskan
, group of related Native American languages forming a branch of the Nadene linguistic family or stock. In the preconquest period, Athabascan was a large and extensive group of tongues.
..... Click the link for more information.
 branch of the Nadene linguistic stock (see Native American languagesNative American languages,
languages of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere and their descendants. A number of the Native American languages that were spoken at the time of the European arrival in the New World in the late 15th cent.
..... Click the link for more information.
). A migration from the North to the Southwest area is thought to have occurred in the past because of an affiliation with N Athabascan speakers; the Navajo settled among the Pueblo and also assimilated with the Shoshone and the Yuma both physically and culturally while remaining a distinct social group.

Way of Life

The Navajo were formerly a nomadic tribe. In winter they lived in earth-covered lodges and in summer in brush shelters called hogans. They farmed (corn and beans), hunted (deer, elk, and antelope), and gathered wild vegetable products. After sheep were introduced (early 17th cent.) by the Spanish, sheep raising superseded hunting and farming. Thus the Navajo became a pastoral people. They have adopted many arts from their neighbors—from the Mexicans metalworking, from the Pueblo weaving. They live in extended kinship groups, and traditional inheritance is through the mother's line; women have an important position in the society. The traditional Navajo religion is elaborate and complex, with many deities, songs, chants, and prayers and numerous ceremonies, such as the enemy way ceremony (commonly called the squaw dance) and the night chant. The vast belief system includes a creation story that states that Esdzanadkhi (a form of Mother Earth) created humanity. The Navajo have also subscribed to the peyotepeyote
, spineless cactus (Lophophora williamsii), ingested by indigenous people in Mexico and the United States to produce visions. The plant is native to the SW United States, particularly S Texas, and Mexico, where it grows in dry soil.
..... Click the link for more information.
 cult.

In the 1930s the overgrazed and eroded grasslands of the Navajo Reservation caused the federal government to reduce the tribe's sheep, cattle, and horses by as much as 50%. The government, having left the Navajo without a means of support, began a program of irrigation projects, thus enabling them to turn to agriculture for a livelihood. Farming, however, can support only a fraction of the people, and as a result many have had to obtain their income off the reservation. The discovery of coal, oil, gas, and other minerals has helped to increase the tribal income.

History

The Navajo are a composite group with over 50 separate clans. In the 17th cent. they occupied the region between the San Juan and Little Colorado rivers in NE Arizona, but they ranged far outside that territory. The Navajo were a predatory tribe who (often in alliance with their relatives, the ApacheApache
, Native North Americans of the Southwest composed of six culturally related groups. They speak a language that has various dialects and belongs to the Athabascan branch of the Nadene linguistic stock (see Native American languages), and their ancestors entered the area
..... Click the link for more information.
) constantly raided the PuebloPueblo,
name given by the Spanish to the sedentary Native Americans who lived in stone or adobe communal houses in what is now the SW United States. The term pueblo is also used for the villages occupied by the Pueblo.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and later the Spanish and Mexican settlements of New Mexico.

When the Americans occupied (c.1846) New Mexico, the Navajo pillaged them. Punitive expeditions against the Navajo were only temporarily successful until Kit CarsonCarson, Kit
(Christopher Houston Carson), 1809–68, American frontiersman and guide, b. Madison co., Ky. In 1811 he moved with his family to the Missouri frontier. After his father's death, he was apprenticed to a saddler in Old Franklin, an outfitting point on the Santa Fe
..... Click the link for more information.
, by destroying the Navajo's sheep, subdued them in 1863–64. A majority of them were imprisoned for four years at Fort Sumner in New Mexico. In 1868 they were released from prison and given a reservation of 3.5 million acres (1,41,000 hectares) in NE Arizona, NW New Mexico, and SE Utah and a new supply of sheep. The Navajo then numbered some 9,000.

Since that date they have been steadily increasing in number. By 1990 the country's 225,000 Navajo constituted the second largest Native American group in the United States. Their reservation has grown to 16 million acres (6,475,000 hectares), today sustaining such enterprises as lumbering, mining, and farming. Navajo-owned enterprises are growing, including the largest Native American newspaper in the United States and Diné College, the first Native American–operated college (est. 1968 as Navajo Community College). The Navajo reservation surrounds the HopiHopi
, group of the Pueblo, formerly called Moki, or Moqui. They speak the Hopi language, which belongs to the Uto-Aztecan branch of the Aztec-Tanoan linguistic stock, at all their pueblos except Hano, where the language belongs to the Tanoan branch of the Aztec-Tanoan
..... Click the link for more information.
 reservation in Arizona. This has resulted in numerous land disputes, and in the 1960s and 70s, Navajo expansion on lands set aside for joint use provoked court action and a partition of the disputed land. A 1992 federal court decision assigned most of the remaining disputed land to the Navajo. Some Navajo were permitted to remain on Hopi land under 75-year leases.

Bibliography

See R. M. Underhill, The Navahos (1956); C. Kluckholn and D. Leighton, The Navaho (rev. ed. 1962); L. R. Bailey, The Long Walk: A History of the Navaho Wars, 1846–1868 (1964); L. Gilpin, The Enduring Navaho (1968); J. U. Terrell, The Navajos (1970); J. Downs, The Navajo (1972); F. McNitt, Navajo Wars (1972).

References in periodicals archive ?
With the Japanese deciphering every code the Americans throw at them, military chiefs hit upon the novel idea of using the language of Navajo Indians to exchange information.
In Saipan in 1945, the US Marines use Navajo Indians as radio operators because their complex language provides an unbreakable code.
TRUTH is often stranger than fiction and this explosive drama about some Navajo Indians recruited as Marines in the Pacific during World War Two is a potential humdinger.
The windtalkers were Navajo Indians, trained as Marines in WWII, who used their native language as code.
The life-size bronze, which honors the 1890s era of the Navajo Indians, is displayed in the Arizona Fine Art EXPO's Sculpture Garden and has now become their trademark sculpture.
NAVAJO Indians in the United States and pupils in Wales are learning through e-mail exchanges that their cultures have much in common, despite being half a world away.
Eastman worked with the Navajo Indians in 1994 to assist in controlling the coyote problem.
As they launch an assault on Saipan in 1945, the US Marines use Navajo Indians as radio operators because their complex language provides the basis of an unbreakable code.
How about ``Windtalkers,'' a World War II drama about Navajo Indians that focused on the crises of white Marines instead.
Slater and Cage will play tough US soldiers during the Second World War who are assigned to bodyguard Navajo Indians, who deal with codes in their native tongue to confuse Japanese codebreakers.
A dramatic hantavirus epidemic among Navajo Indians in the early 1990s resulted in many fatalities.
NAVAJO Indians in the United States and schoolchildren in Wales are learning through email exchanges that their cultures have much in common, despite being half a world away.

Full browser ?