Window Rock: A Symbol of the Navajo People
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To the unknowing tourist, Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park located in Window Rock, Arizona is simply a geologic landmark, but, for the Navajo people, the Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park is a symbol of their recognition as a sovereign nation of indigenous, native people located on their ancestral homeland.
Prior to 1936, Window Rock was simply a tourist attraction located on the Navajo Nation reservation. Their land is now located in parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. The Navajo people, or Diné, fought settlers to keep the land their ancestors hunted and gathered on, herded animals, and called home. The Navajo Nation reservation was established by treaty on June 1, 1968 after the Navajo people had to endure the Long Walk. The Long Walk started in January 1864 and was a failed attempt to relocate the Navajo people from their homelands to Fort Defiance in southern New Mexico. Many Navajo people died during the journey, including children. Upon their return in 1868, their Navajo Nation reservation was created. There were many additional land expansions from 1878 to 1930. The reservation is now the largest American Indian reservation in the United States at 27,425 square miles. In addition, according to the 2000 census, the Navajo Nation census has 173,987 enrolled tribal members. Their population growth is a testament to how resilient the Navajo people are.
Their fighting took place on battle fields and continues into modern court rooms. Concepts like water rights, land rights, and casino revenue are constant struggles for the Navajo people to compromise on with the states they are located on. The Navajo people, like all Native Americans, were promised sovereignty. They continue to act as a sovereign entity within the United States and strive to govern themselves with the well being of the people kept soundly in mind. Although poverty and poor education are still seen throughout the reservation, the people continue to thrive and attempt to make their lives and the lives of their children better. Hogans, traditional Navajo houses, have been replaced by modern housing with indoor plumbing and the horse and carriages have long since been swapped by cars and trucks. The old customs are still observed in the mornings, evenings, and on the weekends in the form of prayers and spiritual ceremonies.
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The Navajo people are anything but extinct and outdated. They are adapting to a life in a modern world that once threatened to take their land away from them. Instead, the Navajo people have held strong to their traditional beliefs and they are still trying to find a place in the world where the stereotyped “poor, drunk Indian” and poverty no longer exists. The Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park is a testament to their ability to achieve their dreams. Their ancestors dreamt of keeping their homeland for future generations. Today’s generation dreams of keeping their homeland while striving to eliminate poverty.
© 2012 morningstar18