|The Diné of Monument Valley in the 1950's
of the photographs in this collection were taken in Monument Valley,
sacred Navajo land that crosses the border
of Arizona and Utah near the Four Corners
of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
The people of this land, the
Diné ( "the people" as the Navajo call themselves),
are weavers and shepherds, good horse people who grow corn and
sing healing songs.
They believe that
all the elements of nature are intelligent and hold special knowledge.
These are people who trust Spirit to bring rain and make
the corn grow.
In 1958, when these photos were taken, there were
still mule teams and buckboards on the land. The Diné
took time to enjoy the summer rain or watch the colors
time to share knowledge of the land and ceremony.
They are a proud
people who honor the the land of their ancestors. These photos
evoke memories of a time of innocence and spiritual simplicity.
For generations the Diné have farmed the fertile
land of Monument Valley and the surrounding areas. They grew
corn and beans and squash. They tended fruit trees, raised sheep
and trained their horses well. They lived in "hogans"---eight
sided structures with a door in the east---in the cold weather
and shade houses protected them from the hot desert sun in the
The women were weavers who wove rugs and blankets
from the wool of their sheep. They dyed the yarn with colors
from the plants and minerals of the earth and wove designs that
honored the spirit of life. Among the men were silversmiths who
cast silver bracelets, buckles and bow guards in the sand. They
made buttons from the white man's coins for their women to sew
costumes and strung turquoise and coral into necklaces and jawclaws.
They traded their weavings and jewelry for horses, saddles and
blankets. The trading posts traded for coffee, tobacco, sugar
And in the 1920s and '30s Hollywood started making
movies in Monument Valley. Harry Goulding and his wife Mike taught
the Diné of Monument Valley how to benefit from the movie makers.
In many ways the Diné of Monument Valley
became an important part
epic movies featuring stars like John Wayne and John Ford.
In fact more than 100 movies have been made in Monument Valley.
It was just about this time, in the 1950s and following
the second world war, that the the Diné culture began
to lose it's identity and began to assimilate the values of the
surrounded it---what is known as Western Civilization.
the Diné culture had survived making war and peace
with neighboring tribes, holding off the Spanish and withstanding
at the hands of Kit Carson and the US Calvary. But nothing
could save the Diné
from two forces that have changed the entire world---uranium
and the pick up truck!
It was the uranium mines in Utah that provided
the wages that bought the pick up trucks. And once the
man came back to the reservation with a pickup truck,
became the Navajo and life changed fast---very fast.
Young men left home and no longer wanted to be farmers and ranchers.
was store bought. Horses and mules were traded away and alcohol
abuse eroded the family structure. Family farms that yielded
acres and acres of corn, beans, and squash lay fallow. Fruit
the water in the springs dried up as the coal mines used the
pure water in the underground aquafers to send coal to California.
But the Beauty Way, the spirit path of the Dine',
still guides The People. Today the Navajo live on the largest
native american reserve in the US and count among their most
prized possessions the sacred mountains and monuments that shelter
the spirit and history of a people whose love of the land,
their Dine'tah, has been momentarily captured in these photographs.
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