For the first time, a sweeping history of the Diné that is foregrounded in oral tradition. Authors Klara Kelley and Harris Francis share Diné history from pre-Columbian time to the present, using ethnographic interviews in which Navajo people reveal their oral histories on key events such as Athabaskan migrations, trading and trails, Diné clans, the Long Walk of 1864, and the struggle to keep their culture alive under colonizers who brought the railroad, coal mining, trading posts, and, finally, climate change.
The early chapters, based on ceremonial origin stories, tell about Diné forebears. Next come the histories of Diné clans from late pre-Columbian to early post-Columbian times, and the coming together of the Diné as a sovereign people. Later chapters are based on histories of families, individuals, and communities, and tell how the Diné have struggled to keep their bond with the land under settler encroachment, relocation, loss of land-based self-sufficiency through the trading-post system, energy resource extraction, and climate change.
Archaeological and documentary information supplements the oral histories, providing a comprehensive investigation of Navajo history and offering new insights into their twentieth-century relationships with Hispanic and Anglo settlers.
For Diné readers, the book offers empowering histories and stories of Diné cultural sovereignty. “In short,” the authors say, “it may help you to know how you came to be where—and who—you are.”
About the Author
Klara Kelley has taught anthropology and economics at Navajo Community College (now Diné College), then worked for the Navajo Nation Archaeology and Historic Preservation Departments. In 1993 she and co-author Harris Francis began their present work as independent consultants in historic and cultural preservation in Navajoland.
Harris Francis is Diné from Teesto, Arizona, and an army veteran. After employment in various Navajo Nation government programs, including Archaeology and Historic Preservation, he and Klara Kelley linked as independent consultants. Francis’s family is rooted in land partitioned to the Hopi Tribe in 1974. Francis and Kelley’s main goal is keeping Diné culture alive and strong.
"This book proves that it is time for researchers to stop dis-missing Indigenous oral traditions as an unreliable source on any subject of study. Officials of the Navajo Nation also must understand that use of Diné oral traditions in governance, interpretation of laws, and problem-solving is consistent with 'doing sovereignty' the Diné way. A sovereign American Indian nation should own and control its history, identity, culture, language, spirituality, and political existence."—Raymond D. Austin, Native American and Indigenous Studies
“A Diné History of Navajoland brings much-needed attention to Navajo perspectives on the past and present. Drawing on oral history and ethnographic interviews, this book provides a comprehensive investigation of Navajo history and offers new insights into their twentieth-century relationships with Hispanic and Anglo settlers.”—Lindsay M. Montgomery, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona
“This book offers empowering histories and stories of Diné cultural sovereignty. This book is a must-read for readers interested in Navajo history, land, oral tradition, and cultural sovereignty.”—Lloyd L. Lee, editor of Navajo Sovereignty: Understandings and Visions of the Diné People