A few years back I started reading Tony Hillerman's mystery novels set on the Navajo reservation and became fascinated with the Navajo culture. I started doing research of my own on them and came across the story of the Code Talkers assigned to the Marines in the Pacific. This is such an intriguing story I wanted to share it with others, but I'll have to do this in several posts. First, a little background.
Julius Caesar said, "I came, I saw, I conquered." His descendants and their kin, not wishing to be outdone by their famous ancestor, did likewise in the New World. They came. They saw. They took. They came, those restless Europeans, some searching for riches, others yearning for a better life than the one they left across the sea. Some fled religious persecution that ravaged the European continent. Still others came to escape the gallows. They came, for whatever reason. They saw a vast and beautiful land with room for all, it would seem, who had the tenacity and the grit to tame it. And then they took and took and took.
American for the Americans, from sea to shining sea. That was the belief in the middle of the Nineteenth Century as the United States geared up for its push to expand westward. Newspapers and politicians touted Manifest Destiny, the notion that the Americans were divinely sanctioned to cover the continent with their own brand of enlightenment. Americans were the chosen, ordained by God to extend the national boundaries from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico, and that's what they set out to do. However, there was a problem. Someone was already here, and they didn't go gently into the night.
The Navajos were one of the many native nations that lived in the southwestern section of the continent. They were primarily located in northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southern Utah. The Navajos and their linguistic cousins, the Apaches, arrived in the Southwest sometime in the mid-fourteenth century. The traditional homeland area of the Dineh, meaning "the people," which is the name Navajos use to refer to themselves, is at the Gobernador and Largo tributaries of the San Juan River seventy miles west of Santa Fe. The earliest Navajos were organized into small groups with a headman whose job was to lead the people to find food and water.
Next: The arrival of the Spanish.