Navajo (people), Native American tribe of the Athapaskan language family and
of the Southwest culture area. The tribe lives on reservations in northeastern
Arizona and contiguous parts of New Mexico and Utah. They are closely related
to the Apache and originally emigrated from areas to the north. It is thought
that they settled in the southwest during the 16th century. By the 17th century
the Navajo had become a pastoral people, with an economy based largely on
herding and hunting.

The Navajo came into conflict with the Spanish colonists and the Mexicans in
the 18th and early 19th centuries. Their contact with the Spanish was limited
but important; the Spanish introduced horses, sheep, and goats, which became
a vital part of the Navajo economy.

In 1846 the Navajo made their first treaty with the U.S. government, but
disagreements with American troops led to hostilities by 1849. The tribe engaged
in chronic warfare with the Americans until 1863. In that year U.S. forces under
Kit Carson waged an extended campaign against the Navajo, eventually
capturing some 8000 of them. These Native Americans were sent on foot to a
reservation at Fort Sumner in New Mexico. This forcible deportation is known in
Navajo history as the "Long Walk." On the reservation, the tribe suffered severe
hardships from disease and crop failures, and they were attacked by other
Native Americans. A new treaty was signed in 1868, and the surviving Navajo
were allowed to go back to a reservation set aside in their former territory and
were provided with sheep and cattle. In return, the tribe agreed to live in peace
with the American settlers. In 1884 the reservation was extended to
accommodate their increasing herds.

During the late 19th century the tribe prospered, the population doubled, and
additional land was added. Since this was generally poor farming land, few
attempts were made by outsiders to encroach on the reservation. Greatly
increased livestock holdings presented serious problems of soil erosion and
overgrazing. Eventually a livestock-reduction plan was forced on the tribe by the
U.S. government. During World War II many Navajo left the reservation to serve
in the armed forces or work in cities in war-related jobs.

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Language Word Samples

'aoo' = yes
dooda = no (in refusal), not
t'áá shoodí = please

Language Phrase Samples

shínaaí = my older brother
siláhí = there is nothing
t'áadoo 'ánít'íní = do not do that(a warning given to a person who
is annoying one)


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