Navajos Essay, Research Paper
The Navajo – A Native American Tribe
The Navajo tribe was one of the most famous and interesting tribes in American
history. It important that people know our native American background and who
welcomed us into the new world
It is believed that Ancestors of the Navajos traveled from the northwest Pacific
Coast and western Canada to the southwestern United States between 1300 and 1600.
Much of the territory was occupied by the Ute and Pueblo tribes who later became Navajo
enemies. The Navajos were hunters and gathers of wild plants, roots, berries, and nuts.
Their language is Athapaskan which is spoken by native people in western Canada.
The Navajos call themselves Dineh, “the people” and they call their original
homeland in the Southwest Dinetah. Dinetah was located in northwestern New Mexico
and northeastern Arizona, south of the San Juan River. The Dineh broke up into small
bands in order to find land to live on. Navajo means “planted fields in a valley” which was
given to them by the Spanish in the seventeenth century. The Navajos met other Native
American people living nearby who taught them how to farm and grow crops such as
corn, beans, and squash. The Navajos lived peacefully with most of their neighbors and
traded with the Puebloans, giving them deer meat, deerskins, and salt, in return for
The Navajo Nation contains nearly 15 million acres of beautiful land located in
New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. The land is high above sea level and rainfall
is low, with averages of 5 to 11 inches per year. The land is dry and only a few rivers run
through the Nation. Navajos depend on small streams and springs for their water
The traditional Navajos lived in small settlements consisting of a group of families
related on the mother’s side. The house, called a hogan, was built with six or eight sides,
had a rounded roof, and was made from logs, brush, and mud. Each settlement also had
land that was used for farming and grazing animals. The land was controlled for use by
the group as a whole and the eldest woman was the head of the group. She managed the
group’s affairs because of her wisdom and experience. Family relationships were
strong, especially between a mother and her children.
All people living in a settlement shared the work Women did the cooking,
cleaning, weaving of blankets and rugs, and child care. Men cleared the land for farming,
built the hogans, and hunted animals. Men, women, and children took care of their herds
of animals which consisted mainly of sheep, cattle, and horses. The sheep was used for
their meat and wool, horses were used for transportation, and cattle, rugs, and blankets
were sold for cash.
The Navajos taught their children that all living things had a right to live, to eat,
and to act for themselves. Children had individual rights that were not violated by adults.
No one had the right to control anyone else, to force someone to do something, or to
speak for another person. When a child was four to six years old, they were given a
lamb to care for, and they were no longer considered a child.
The Navajos religion contains beliefs about the origin of the world and about the
natural and supernatural beings that exist in the world. They believed that most
diseases had a spiritual cause, so ceremonies of song and prayer would be held to honor
the spirits and to protect them from evil. The singer would create a sandpainting or
sacred picture, made from charcoal, corn pollen or crushed sandstone.
Spanish soldiers started to attack Navajo settlements in the late 1500’s and
continued until the 1800’s. In 1848, fighting broke out again when the American white
man came to look for silver and gold in Santa Fe and New Mexico. In 1863, Kit Carson
followed orders to kill the Navajo warriors and to capture the women and children. His
troops also burned the fields and hogans, and killed thousands of sheep. During the winter,
the Navajos had no homes or food, and 8,000 surrendered at Fort Defiance. The Navajos
were then forced to walk 300 miles to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Many died of
hunger because the soil was poor and they couldn’t farm on the reservation. Soon
after, a smallpox epidemic killed more than 2,000 in a few months. In June 1868, the
Navajos were permitted to return to their former homeland which was turned into a
Today, the Navajo Nation is home to about 160,000 people. In 1969,
The Navajo Community College opened in Tsaile, Arizona. Some are still farmers,
but most Navajos are developing new sources of income. The Navajos have successfully
combined new ways of living with their valued traditions. They faced many hardships,
but they survived with great strength and courage.