Navajo Resistance Essay, Research Paper
The Navajo s Struggle for Survival
There are many ways to define the word resistance. One way that the Standard College Dictionary defines it as: To strive against; the act of resistance; act counter to for the purpose of stopping, preventing, defeating, etc. That s how the dictionary defines it. Personally, my definition of resistance is the act of being against someone s orders, rules, or demands. The reason why we resist some of these orders, rules, or demands is because our belief, morals, and religion come into play. The way that we were brought up plays a big role in our ability of making our own decisions. If we were brought up one way, and someone tries to force us to become someone else, or to mold us into something else, we would not feel right. Due to the fact that we grew attached to many ideas, beliefs and religion. The only natural thing to do is to refuse to give in to the idea of change. It s a basic and a natural instinct. That s exactly what the Navajos carried out. The Navajos rejected the idea of being force to become civilized, even after being put into the Bosque Redondo Camp. The only thing to do now was to survive and by all means refuse to accept the idea of becoming civilized. There were several activities that the Navajos executed while they remained at the camps which showed there resistance against the ideas of General Carleton of forcing them to become civilized.
One of the activities that the Navajos resisted against was the idea of sending their children to school and get educated. To the Navajos it seemed like a good idea, but they had other things in mind. Such as: worrying how are they going to gather the next meal to feed their families? They were living in the worst conditions imaginable. No food, shelter, or extra spare of clothes. They were very venerable to the conditions they were put in. For those reasons many of them got sick and eventually past away. But they did consider the advantages of the education program. Most of them took advantage of the opportunities given. Thinking about survival, they took such training in Carpentry, leatherworking, and blacksmithing (Osburn, The Navajos at The Bosque Redondo: Cooperation, Resistance, and Initiative, 159). These programs are very useful only when the resources are available. When realizing that the resources were not available, they changed their priorities. Education was the very last thing on their list. Their primary priority was to find a way to get food and survive. As the Osburn states, Yet the Indians claimed they were not opposed to education; they were simply more absorbed with the immediate concern of daily survival and considered the benefits of education to be peripheral to more urgent matters, such as obtaining enough food to fend off starvation. Their attempt to procure money and extra ration coupons for sending their children to school demonstrates the Indians shrewd survival strategy (159). The Navajos used simple and obvious strategies just to stay alive. It s very much like if your stranded in an island, away from civilization. Your first instinct is not to worry about your make-up or your clothes. The first thing you have to worry about is how are you going to survive. Which eventually leads you to sub categories as: food, shelter, clothes, etc. It s easy to say, but it is hard to do.
The Navajos had to undergo many obstacles. When they realized that they were not getting enough coupons for food, and forging them wasn t enough, they had to take drastic measures. Many of the Navajo women had to do things that were against their religion and their morals. The very last resort had to be taken, which eventually brought shame to the Navajo tribe and families. Many of the woman thought that the only way to attain extra food was prostitution. Osburn states, Another method of obtaining extra food was prostitution, which was not a standard practice under less stressful conditions. Navajo women were generally considered to be modest and decent before and after the Bosque Redondo years While the Navajo recognized the degradation of prostitution at Fort Sumner, they also indicated that the women were compelled to set aside their moral prescription because of poverty and hunger (159). Anybody would set aside his or her morals just to stay alive. Even if it means to kill someone just to gather food. It s like Darwin s theory: Survival of the Fittest. The weak people die and the strong survive. It takes valor to do something drastic like this. That is why I respect them so much. It makes people think of just the things we are capable of achieving if we just put our morals aside for awhile, and think about survival when put in a aquared situation and are forced to take extreme measures.
Another activity that the Navajos resisted was the idea of barrack housing. Forcing them to start a new life as civilized people and living in a civilized community, the Navajos rejected the idea of living somewhere else that wasn t their homeland. As the article states, Carleton had originally planned to house the Navajo in neatly ordered barracks similar to the type of housing found in Pueblo villages. The Navajos, however, found this scheme unacceptable because their traditional housing was widely dispersed. Furthermore, they rejected the idea notion of permanent homes because of their beliefs about departed souls (160). Lots of people wouldn t mind starting off fresh and living in a house that was given to them. The reason being because he or she have had bad experiences in their past home and life. They are ready for a change. However, it wasn t like that for the Navajos. They were already customed to the surrounding in which they were living before the white people took them out of their homeland. It s like they stated, The custom of our tribe is never to enter a house where a person has died, but abandon it. Assuming that the past owners of the houses were probably killed, they rejected Carlton s plan. Not only because they believed it was bad luck to enter someone else s house, but also because they were being put in an environment that they have never been exposed to. People find themselves very venerable if they have no control of the surroundings in which they are being put into. Very much like a parakeet in a cage. For years, a parakeet depends on its owner to give him food. What if the cage s door was left open and the parakeet escapes or was left to be free. How would it live in the wild, without having the necessary skills to survive? Knowing that there is a harsh world just outside that cage, the parakeet takes his or her chances. Most of them end up finding a way to survive; yet, many of them just die of hunger because they couldn t gather food. It s exactly the way that the Navajos felt. The Navajos have already been customed to the surroundings of their homeland and were not prepared when they were being put into camps or the houses that were provided for them. They had no control over the resources that were provided, if they were any. They harvested many crops, but no luck. It wasn t enough for everyone. Very much like the parakeets, they starved and died. If they did live through starvation, many of them were exposed to disease, which eventually killed them little by little. Knowing that the Navajos were sick, they never took advantage of the clinics or medicine that was provided for them.
The last activity that the Navajos refuse to accept was the idea of getting medical attention. The refusal of Anglo medical treatment. For similar reasons the Navajos refused medical treatment and the post hospitals. The Indians explained that they shunned the hospital because all that have reported there have died (160). When the Navajos noticed that many Indians were dying, the realized that the white people had to do something with it. Perhaps they believed that they were being slaughtered and killed. Not only that, but the Navajos didn t want to be exposed the white medicine. They had their own ways of curing their sickness. Very much like people nowadays. Many of them do not believe in modern medicine and have their own way of curing themselves. For the Navajos, the only way to cure themselves and to purify their body without any modern medicine was to perform a traditional dance called Squaw Dance. They had their own views on how they believed they got sick. According to this ceremony some sicknesses are the result of the ghosts of aliens, either those whom a Navajo warrior has killed or those who died from other causes and with whom the Navajo may have had contact, sexual or otherwise. Touching the corpse or stepping on the grave of an outsider may also cause alien ghosts to torment a Navajo with sickness (160). Behind every culture, there are many reasons why they perform or do different things to get themselves better instead of using modern medicine. For example, In the Navajos world view, illness is an example of disharmony in the cosmic order that the performance of a religious ceremony can correct. During the ceremony, the Navajo invoke their Holy People to rectify the disturbance or order. If the ritual is correctly carried out, the deities are obligated to grant the mortals requests, for a principle of reciprocity governs the exchange. In this regard, Navajo oral tradition emphasizes the importance of healing ritual at the Bosque (160). Nowadays, everyone grew up with an idea on how to get rid of an illness without the use of medicine. For instance, if someone has a nosebleed how do you stop it? Many people believe that lying down is one way, others to pour water over your head and pinch your nose with a wet towel and remain standing. There s not an exact way. Probably all of them work. It s just that most of us have been custom to one of these methods, and will not use any other one. It s just the way we were brought up. Likewise, the Navajos didn t want to try nothing new. Their beliefs and morals don t allow it. The only thing left to do is to pursue your values and principles.
The Navajo s struggle for survival depended not only on resistance by their part but also the strategies that they used to attain it. Their primary objective was to survive. They accomplished this by many patterns, but one of those patterns stands out the most. The idea of resistance. They resisted formal education, barrack housing, and Anglo medical treatment. By refusing these ideas, many of them had to perform such tasks that would bring shame, not only to them but to their families too, just to survive. Many women became prostitutes, while others Navajos forged coupons, raided the camps but also fleeing from them, and performed ceremonies for spiritual cleansing. All of these activities played a big role in trying to change the way the Navajos lived their lives. Forcing someone to change, or to mold them in something they are not, will result in confrontation. That is why the experiment at Bosque Redondo failed to work. Gen. Carlton forced the Navajos to become civilized against their will, and in return was confronted and his ideas were retaliated. It was the only way that the Navajos could prevent the white people from forcing them to change their lifestyle, morals, beliefs, and tradition. So in conclusion, the Navajos actions can be considered resistance, due to the evidence provided.