Cultural Code Words of the Navajo People -- Key Terms that Reveal the History, Heart, Traditional Customs and Wisdom of the Navajos, by Boyé Lafayette De Mente

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Arizona's Navajo Indians were poets, artists, environmentalists and healers,not the primitive savages so often depicted, and many of their social customs were superior to those still found today among "civilized" whites.

Cultural Code Words of the Navajo People

Navajo Indians now make up the largest group of Native Americans in the United States, and their Reservation -- mostly in Arizona but also spilling over into New Mexico and Utah -- is larger than some of the Eastern states.

The name “Navajo” is not as well known as “Comanche” or “Apache” because groups from those tribes continued their resistance against invading Americans into the 1880s and have been the subject of many movies, while the Navajo-American wars ended in the 1860s.

Renowned as warriors, and known as “Lords of the Land,” during the Spanish period in Arizona, the Navajos were relatively late-comers to the American Southwest, and they were few in number.

But the Navajos thrived in their new homeland and as their numbers grew, the influence of their culture and language spread throughout the Southwest.

The arrival of Americans on the scene in the mid-1850s was nearly the undoing of the Navajos. The Anglos wanted their lands, and in the 1860s the U.S. Congress approved an all-out war against the Navajos.

In Cultural Code Words of the Navajo People author Boyé Lafayette De Mente, details how this war nearly wiped the Navajos out, and how it took them more than a hundred years to recover, and once again become a formidable people.

De Mente also reveals that rather than being primitive and savage, the Navajos were an intellectually and socially sophisticated people, with many customs that were more rational, more just, and more humane than many present-day practices.

He points out that the extraordinary accomplishments of the Navajos as poets, artists, environmentalists and healers were either unknown or ignored by the Anglo Americans of the 19th century.

De Mente notes that one of the few Americans who came to know the Navajos during the 20th century was John Collier, Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the 1930s.

Collier wrote: “As one’s knowledge of Navajo life increases, one learns that the Navajos have created out of their human material a house of wonder. Their intangible culture matches the splendor of their land. In terms of life -- not goods -- it is we who are poor, not the Navajos!”

De Mente’s use of key Navajo words as windows into the world of the Navajos is a unique approach that makes the insights come alive.

"Cultural Code Words of the Navajo People" is available to consumers (in both digital and paperback editions) from Amazon.com, other online booksellers, and bookstore chains such as Borders and Barnes and Noble. It is available to the trade from Ingram Book Company and Baker & Taylor.

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Boye De Mente

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