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Navajo Women of Monument Valley

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

Navajo Women of Monument Valley: Preservers of the Past by Robert S. McPherson

Reviewed by L. Bennett

Ada Black and Susie Yazzi were elders in Monument Valley in 1991 when they were interviewed about their life experiences. Both women had been raised in traditional Navajo homes and each had witnessed many changes that brought wonder and worry. Their stories, told in their own words and translated into English, are augmented by memories offered by several other Monument Valley women. Woven together by author Robert McPherson, the stories offer a fascinating, often poignant look at the importance of women in Navajo culture generally and Monument Valley in particular.

Behind each memory and story are sacred teachings learned in childhood and practiced daily. The women discuss the application of traditional teachings to puberty, birthing, the division of labor between men and women, the importance of livestock, and the devastating consequences of the federal livestock reduction program. They talk about the impacts of uranium mining, reliance on traders and trading posts, transference of travel rituals from horse to auto, and the double-edged sword of educating Navajo youth in Anglo schools.

I really enjoyed this book and appreciate the different perspectives offered by the women. I also found in their concerns a common thread that binds generations together, the admonition to live life properly to assure that grandchildren will have a respectable and secure life.

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