On Navajoland

The Navajo are the largest Indian tribe in North America. Navajoland, or Diné Be Keyah, is located within the exterior boundaries of the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Nearly 175,000 Navajo are spread across a reservation of 16.2 million acres, an area larger than West Virginia (another 100,000 more Navajo live off the reservation). With the median age on the reservation spanning 18 to 24 years, life on the reservation is changing. While most elders speak Navajo, most young people only speak English. Across the Navajo Nation, the number of sheep and goats have declined, and with them the rural lifestyle that bound the Navajo to their land. While the Navajo's connection to their land remains strong, it has become more spiritual than actual as many young Navajo moved into towns seeking the wage labor that now fuels the reservation economy. In town, they find easier access to public schools, grocery stores, and social activities. Even the traditional eight-sided hogan, has given way to federally subsidized housing and mobile homes, though modern plywood and lumber hogans are still used for ceremonial and religious purposes. Despite these changes, the Navajo have not abandoned their culture but once again adapted to insure their survival.