Navajo Ways in Government: A Study in Political Process

Navajo Ways in Government: A Study in Political Process

Navajo Ways in Government: A Study in Political Process

Navajo Ways in Government: A Study in Political Process

Excerpt

THE MIGRATION of Navajo Indians from the northern part of North America into the Southwest must be reconstructed from language distributions, archeology, myth material, and cultural comparisons. Athabascanspeaking people now inhabit an extensive area in Northwest Canada, small communities on the Northwest Pacific coast, in northern California, and in the Southwest, and certainly, at one time, were found in northern Mexico. The Southern Athabascans, or Apachean-speaking people, can be further differentiated into Eastern and Western Apacheans, and into clearly distinguishable groups of Navajo, Western Apache, Jicarilla, Mescalero, Chiricahua, Lipan, and Kiowa Apache. Each of these tribes speaks an Apachean language and each has made a cultural adjustment to differing ecological and cultural contact situations. Evidently the Athabascans entered the Southwest as undifferentiated groups from Northwest Canada and subsequently developed in different directions. From the point of view of shared traits and social structure, the Western Apache and the Navajo resemble each other more closely than they resemble other Apachean tribes.

The question of when the Athabascans arrived in the Southwest is debatable, but some evidence has been assembled from archeology and glottochronology (the latter is a method devised by Morris Swadesh for dating the diversification of a language family). Hoijer suggests a time scheme in an article published in 1956. Subsequently, Hymes, applying a slightly different method to Hoijer's data, pushed back the time scheme for the break-up of the Athabascan languages about 300 years (1957). Hoijer is presently at work on a revision of the dating based on fuller language data. His time scheme as of 1956 is as follows:

1300 to 1000 years ago--Athabascan migration to the Pacific Coast. 1000 to 600 years ago--Apachean migration to the Southwest. 500 to 400 years ago--Beginnings of the differentiation of contemporary Apachean tribes (Hoijer 1956:232).

The first tree-ring date for a Navajo hogan ruin is A.D. 1541 in the Governador area (Hall 1944:100). Further material has been collected for the Navajo Claims Case but has not yet been released. David De Harport estimates A.D. 1000 to 1200 as the time of arrival of the Athabascans. Some archeologists have suggested that the apparently defensive reaction of the ancient Pueblo peoples in abandoning open sites for cliff dwellings (A.D. 1150- 1250) was precipitated by the arrival of predatory nomads in the Southwest (Reed 1954:593; Wormington 1951:79-82).

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