History of the Navajo Tribe

Navajo Nation
The Navajo Tribe: A Historical Perspective and Interconnected Narrative

The Navajo Tribe, also known as the Diné, is the second largest Native American tribe in the United States. Historically, the Navajo people have inhabited the areas of the Four Corners region, which encompasses parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. The tribe’s complex history reflects the influence of various neighboring tribes, the impact of European colonization, and the resilience of the Navajo people in the face of adversity. In this article, we will explore the history of the Navajo Tribe, with a focus on their interactions with other tribes and the idea of unity and connection.

Origins and Early History:

Linguistic evidence suggests that the Navajo people are part of the Athabaskan language family, closely related to the Apache and other tribes from Alaska and Canada. The Navajo likely migrated from the far north, entering the Southwest around the 15th century. Early Navajo history is characterized by a semi-nomadic lifestyle, with the tribe adopting agricultural practices from the Pueblo peoples.

Timeline of Navajo History

1400sNavajo arrive in the Southwest
1500sSpanish colonization begins in the region
1600sNavajo adopt elements of Pueblo culture
1700sNavajo expand territory and engage in trade and conflict with other tribes
1800sThe Long Walk and forced relocation to Bosque Redondo
1868Treaty of Bosque Redondo and return to ancestral lands
1900sEstablishment of the Navajo Nation and continued struggles for autonomy
2000sOngoing efforts to preserve culture, language, and traditions

Interactions with Neighboring Tribes:

The Navajo Tribe shares historical ties with the Pueblo peoples, from whom they adopted agricultural practices, art, and aspects of their religion. Conflict with the Ute and Comanche tribes over territory and resources was common throughout the history of the Navajo Tribe. The Navajo and Apache tribes, while linguistically and culturally related, engaged in both alliance and conflict.

Unity and Connection:

The Navajo Tribe has been deeply influenced by its interactions with neighboring tribes, as evidenced by the adoption of Pueblo agricultural practices and the shared history with the Apache. The Navajo’s resilience and adaptability allowed them to survive and thrive despite colonization and forced relocation, a characteristic shared by many other Native American tribes. The establishment of the Navajo Nation in the 20th century reflects a broader movement towards the recognition of Native American sovereignty and cultural preservation.

The Long Walk and Forced Relocation:

In 1864, the United States government forcibly removed over 8,000 Navajo from their ancestral lands in what is now known as the Long Walk. The Navajo were held in a desolate reservation at Bosque Redondo, where they faced starvation, disease, and death. The Treaty of Bosque Redondo in 1868 allowed the Navajo to return to a portion of their ancestral lands, marking the beginning of the Navajo Nation.

Key Events in Navajo Interaction with United States Government

1846-1848Mexican-American War results in U.S. acquisition of Navajo lands
1864The Long Walk and forced relocation to Bosque Redondo
1868Treaty of Bosque Redondo and return to ancestral lands
1887Dawes Act and the allotment of Navajo lands
1934Indian Reorganization Act and the strengthening of Navajo self-governance
1968Indian Civil Rights Act and the affirmation of Native American civil liberties
1975Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, further empowering Navajo self-governance

The Navajo Nation and Struggles for Autonomy:

The establishment of the Navajo Nation in the 20th century reflects the Navajo’s desire for self-determination and cultural preservation. The Navajo Nation has grappled with issues of land rights, economic development, and the preservation of traditional practices. The Navajo Nation has also engaged in cooperative efforts with other tribes to advocate for indigenous rights and resources.

Cultural Preservation and Revitalization:

The Navajo language, which is part of the Athabaskan language family, is one of the most widely spoken Native American languages. Navajo culture and traditions, such as the creation of textiles, silversmithing, and sandpainting, have endured and adapted over time. The Navajo people are committed to preserving their language, culture, and traditions in the face of ongoing challenges, including the loss of fluent speakers and the influence of Western culture.


The history of the Navajo Tribe is a story of resilience, adaptability, and interconnectedness. As the second largest Native American tribe in the United States, the Navajo people have faced numerous challenges, from colonization and forced relocation to struggles for autonomy and cultural preservation. Throughout their history, the Navajo Tribe has been influenced by their interactions with neighboring tribes, as well as their shared experiences with other Native American peoples. By understanding the interconnected narratives of the Navajo and other tribes, we can foster a greater appreciation for the rich tapestry of Native American histories, cultures, and experiences.


  • Iverson, P. (2002). Diné: A History of the Navajos. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
  • Roessel, R. A. (1995). Navajo Studies at Navajo Community College. Tsaile, AZ: Navajo Community College Press.
  • Weisiger, M. (2009). Dreaming of Sheep in Navajo Country. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Wilkins, D. E., & Lomawaima, K. T. (2001). Uneven Ground: American Indian Sovereignty and Federal Law. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
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