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Northern Navajo Frontier 1860 1900

Robert S. McPherson

Publication Year: 2001

McPherson argues that, instead of being a downtrodden group of prisoners, defeated militarily in the 1860s and dependent on the U.S. government for protection and guidance in the 1870s and 80s, the Navajo nation was vigorously involved in defending and expanding the borders of their homelands. This was accomplished not through war nor as a concerted effort, but by an aggressive defensive policy built on individual action that varied with changing circumstances. Many Navajos never made the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo. Instead they eluded capture in northern and western hinterlands and thereby pushed out their frontier. This book focuses on the events and activities in one part of the Navajo borderlands-the northern frontier-where between 1860 and 1900 the Navajos were able to secure a large portion of land that is still part of the reservation. This expansion was achieved during a period when most Native Americans were losing their lands.

Published by: Utah State University Press

Table of Contents

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pp. iv

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Preface [Includes Maps]

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pp. vi-viii

The need for a hisrory of rhe northern Navajo frontier has existed for a long time. Although writings about the Navajo are extensive, little detailed information has been published about the northern part of the reservation largely because it is considered peripheral ro many of the tribe's major events. Early recorded histories of...

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1. Setting the Stage

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pp. 1-3

The Navajo tribe is one of the most frequently researched groups of Indians in North America. Anthropologists, archaeologists, sociologists, and historians have taken turns explaining their views of Navajo history and culture. A recurrent theme throughour is that the U.S. government defeated the Navajos so soundly during the early 1860s that after their return from incarceration at...

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2. Navajos, Utes and the Paiute Connection 1860–80

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pp. 5-19

"My grandson, do something for yourself," the old woman warned as she left the captive Navajo tied up in the Ute tepee. Twelve days had passed since his capture near the San Juan River and his prospects of survival were diminishing, as malnutrition and mistreatment took their toll. His captors were now...

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3. Monster Slayer Meets the Mormons on the Northern Navajo Frontier, 1870–1900

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pp. 21-37

A Navajo made his way by the cold light of dawn to the top of a hill. Aftet resting for a moment, he began to utter a prayer, using words and phrases taught him by Mormon missionaries. Before long, two spiritual beings appeared, one of whom was a large, red-bearded man. The Navajo later reported that he...

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4. Navajos, Mormons, and Henry L. Mitchell: Cauldron of Conflict on the San Juan

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pp. 39-50

The San Juan River winds its way through the deserts and canyon lands of southeastern Utah, presenting a challenge to those who want to use its water. Yet in the spring of 1879, for the Mormon exploring party searching for a place to settle, this river provided the only large and continuous source of...

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5. Indians, Anglos, and Ungulates: Resource Competion on the San Juan [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 51-62

Grass, warer, and trees spelled survival in the Four Corners area during the 1880s. Navajo, Ute, and Paiute groups depended on these resources because of their use in grazing herds of sheep, goats, horses, and wildlife and in providing food, medicine, and shelter. Each Native American group adapted its...

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6. Boats, Booze, and Barter: Trade on the Norther Navajo Frontier, 1870–1910

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pp. 63-78

The trading post as a part of Native American economics has been a longstanding institution, dating back to the early 1600s. Both troublesome and helpful, traders required continuous regulation by the government because of their frequent interaction with Indians. This was particularly true by the 1870s,...

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7. Boundaries, Bonanzas, and Bickering: Consolidation of the Northern Navajo Frontier, 1870–1905

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pp. 79-92

Nati'nesthani, He Who Teaches Himself, floated down the San Juan River in a cottonwood log hollowed out for him by the gods. His journey was prompted by problems at home and a search for new opportunities; his only companion was a pet turkey, ceremonially prepared to help the young man. Adventure...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 93-95

The northern Navajo frontier saw many changes during the period between 1860 and 1900. The type and quality of these changes depended on a variety of elements, including the different types of Euro-Americans the Indians had to face. Mormons, gentile settlers, cattlemen, traders, miners, and agents were...


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pp. 97-117


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pp. 119-125


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pp. 127-133

E-ISBN-13: 9780874216714
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874214246

Publication Year: 2001