Dine and Chaco Canyon

Apropos of the fact that I just finished reading David Hurst Thomas’ book Skull Wars: Kennewick Man, Archaeology, and the Battle for Native American Identity – an interesting read, I highly recommend it – I thought I would pass on links to two articles in the Farmington Daily News.


The first concerns Navaho plans to protest the 100th anniversary of Chaco Canyon being declared a national monument:

The designation was the start of a century of tension, said Lee Norberto, who was born in the canyon and later moved 10 miles outside the fence.
“That’s our country, that’s our land,” he said. “Our ancestors and religion (are) there, and we wanted to live there for the rest of our time.”
History will unfold this weekend in the Navajo community of Chaco Canyon during a centennial commemoration. Hosted by the Diné of Chaco Canyon, the event will honor the Navajos who rebuilt their homes and lives outside the fence and give people a chance to tell their ancestors’ stories.
According to Norberto, who helped organize the commemoration, bad feelings still exist, especially among the Navajos who live in relatively isolated communities near the canyon.

The second Talks about the Navaho who remained behind and those who were removed:

Many of the Chaco residents are descendants of the Navajo people who were forcibly removed from their homes inside Chaco Canyon when the federal government took over in 1907. Nearly all of the residents gathered Saturday near the old church for a commemoration of the day — 100 years ago — when their ancestors left the canyon and started rebuilding.
“There can be nothing more troubling, nothing more traumatic, nothing more devastating than being forcibly removed from your homeland and not being allowed to return,” said Tony Atkinson, chairman of the San Juan County Commission. “Looking at this sacred and historical place, one cannot help but imagine just what suffering must have been endured.”

Both are interesting and reflect themes mention in the book by Thomas. Probably the most important theme in the book is the need for cooperation between anthropologists and the people they study. In this case it doesn’t seem like the National Park Service is interested in giving other than lip service to solutions to the problems faced by the Dine in the area. This is not to say that the National Park Service doesn’t have some legitimate concerns, they just need to be a little more perceptive about how they handle the issue.

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One Response

  1. The Indians aren’t alone. Talk to some of the descendants of the people who lived in the Tennessee River valley when the TVA was removing people from near the river when it was about to be dammed.. There is an interesting movie about this subject, Wild River.

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