NAVAJO MEDICINE WOMAN
And swiftly we pass twixt earth and sky, the wind, the dust, the
leaf and I.
—Franc Johnson Newcomb, 1965
Brilliant sunlight poured in through the numerous windows of the Pesh-do-Clish trading post and danced on the merchandise stacked neatly on the shelves. The popular mercantile sat at the tip of the Blue Mesa on the Navajo Reservation near Gallup, New Mexico. The trading post offered a wide variety of products from kerosene lamps, enamel pots, fresh mutton, and washbasins, to jewelry, clothing, and taffy. Such goods were exchanged for hard currency, or rugs, wool, or pinon nuts. The store was not only a place where patrons shopped, but it served as a community center and dispensary as well.
Doctor Franc Johnson Newcomb, a thirty-year-old woman from Pennsylvania, worked behind the counter helping customers with their purchases and discussing the day's news or lack thereof. The special attention she gave her Native-American clientele extended beyond their patronage; she also served as a “healer” for the Navajo.
Among the Navajo, Franc was known as Atsay Ashon, or “the medicine woman.” Doctors in remote western territories in the