Navajo Indians: Livestock Reduction, Tribal Council, Vote, Education, and Relocation

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Michael Altschuler Professor: Walter Williams TA.: Luis Rodriguez Discussion: Wednesday 11 A.M. Due Date: 11/20/09

Navajo Indians Research Paper


Figure 1: Navajo Indians in 1939 "Navajos - Overview, History, Modern era, The First Navajos in America, Settlement, Acculturation and assimilation." Countries and Their Cultures. Nov. 2009. . 1


Navajo Livestock Reduction in the 1930s
During the 1930s, John Collier, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, imposed a livestock reduction on the Navajo people. The Navajo were forced to get rid of many of their sheep, goat, and other animals to meet the expectations of the United States government. Some Navajo were able to sell their sheep to other people, but many Navajo livestock were shot by the U.S. government police. The U.S. government did not pay for any of the livestock that was killed, and this hurt the Navajo economy badly. For an economy that relied mainly on livestock for income, these changes drastically affected the Navajo people and their way of life. In response to the problems the Navajo livestock reduction left on the Navajo, Collier added land to the reservation, which is the reason why the Navajo reservation is the largest Indian reservation today. However, the addition of land to their territory was not enough to cause the Navajos hatred towards Collier to change. The Navajo, like many other Indians throughout United States history, were taken advantage of in this situation. The United States stated that because of the overgrazing of the land, the Navajo needed to reduce the amount of livestock they owned. Many Navajo did not believe that this could be a good enough reason for them to have to get rid of the things that compiled most of their income and was a big part of their life. However, if the Navajo did not comply, the U.S. sent policeman, known as range riders, to the reservation to help reduce the livestock of families who were not complying with the law. Many Navajo explained their problems with the livestock reduction through quotes.



Figure 2: Navajo Women With Sheep

Navajo Livestock Reduction in the 1930s
A Navajo women, during the time of the livestock reduction, remembered how the livestock reduction ruined her happy life. The women explained how her life was happy when she and her husband had their sheep, but when the U.S. government enforced a livestock reduction, her husband and her became devastated. Many Navajo relied on sheep for their main source of income, and with the reduction, many families were hurt badly. In this case, the women’s husband became so heartbroken and angry at the United States that he fell ill, and eventually passed away. “When I had a husband and a lot of sheep, I was happy. Then when it came my sheep’s turn to be acted upon, they were all driven away from me. My husband said: You people are indeed heartless and you have now killed me. You have cut "Corbis: photography, rights, motion." Stock photography, Editorial Photos, Iconic Images, Motion: Corbis. Nov. 2009. . 2


off my arms. You have cut off my legs. You have taken off my head. There is nothing left for me… My husband fell ill… and at the beginning of spring he died. These two events, the loss of my sheep and the loss of my husband, made me feel terribly unhappy.”3

Navajo Livestock Reduction in the 1930s
A Navajo man, Buck Austin, talked about how he grew up with sheep everywhere, and how his family took care of sheep for a living. He explained how the sheep were a way of life for the Navajo people. When he grew up, the sheep were always there with him, however, all that changed with the enforcement of the livestock reduction. He explained how the sheep that his family raised with all their hard work were taken from them. The livestock reduction caused the life of the Navajos to change because most of their prized possessions were taken from them. “I grew up in the midst of sheep herds. The first things of which I...
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