Navajo Literature: Other Sources

Arizona landscape

Two good general discussions of Navajo culture are Clyde Kluckhohn and Dorthea Leighton's The Navaho (1946; revised edition Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974) and Ruth Underhill's The Navajos (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967). Gary Witherspoon's Language and Art in the Navajo Universe (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1977) is a superb discussion of Navajo verbal and visual arts.

The publications of Navajo Community College Press, Navajo Nation, Tsaile, Arizona 86556 include many of the best collections of Navajo oral literature. Navajo History (1971), edited by Ethelou Yazzie, gives a composite account of the Navajo origin narrative. Coyote Stories (1968) and Grandfather Stories of the Navajos (1968) both contain traditional Navajo stories of special interest to younger readers. Ruth Roessel's Navajo Stories of the Long Walk Period (1973) gives Navajo remembrances of one of the most important events in recent Navajo history.

Most collections of Navajo song are marbled with technical anthropological discussion. Of these, the editions of Leland Wyman are most useful and comprehensible: Beautyway (New York: Pantheon, 1957), The Red Antway of the Navaho (Sante Fe: Museum of Navajo Ceremonial Art, 1965), Blessingway (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1970), and The Mountainway of the Navajo (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1975). Karl Luchert, editor of the American Tribal Religions series published by the Museum of Northern Arizona Press, has also published accounts of Navajo ceremonies of interest to those attracted to Navajo song.

See Coyoteway: a Navajo Holyway Healing Ceremonial (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1979). A very well-annotated and readable edition of the Nightway chants has been published in John Bierhorst's Four Masterworks of American Indian Literature (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1974). Those who wish to listen to sound recordings of Navajo song might get Yei-Be-Chai Chants (Canyon C-6069), songs sung by members of the prize-winning Yei-Be-Chai team of the 1968 Navajo Tribal Fair, or Navajo Sway Songs (Indian House IH-1501), forty-five Navajo sway songs from the Enemy Way ceremony. Navajo singer Andrew Natonabah sings Navajo songs and discusses their meaning with two of his children as they travel through Canyon de Chelly in "By This Song I Walk" a color videotape from the Division of Media and Instructional Services at the University of Arizona, Tucson. The videotape is in Navajo with English subtitles.

Stories of Traditional Navajo Life and Culture (Tsaile, Arizona: Navajo Community College Press, 1978), edited by Broderick Johnson, contains personal narratives from over a dozen Navajo men and women. While a student at the Institute of American Indian Art in Sante Fe, Emerson Blackhorse Mitchell collaborated with his teacher T. D. Allen to write Miracle Hill: the Story of a Navajo Boy (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967). A very full account of the life of a Navajo singer is given in Navajo Blessingway Singer: the Autobiography of Frank Mitchell 1881-1967 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1978), edited by Charlotte J. Frisbie and David McAllester.

Navajo artist R. C. Gorman published a story "Nowhere to Go" in Kenneth Rosen's collection of contemporary American Indian short fiction The Man To Send Rainclouds (New York: Viking, 1974). Three early novels of Navajo life are Laura Adams Armers' Waterless Mountain (New York: Longmans, 1931), Oliver LaFarge's Laughing Boy (1929; rpt. New York: New American Library, 1971), and Frances Gillmor's Windsinger (1930; rpt. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1976). Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday, who wrote the introduction to the new edition of Windsinger, gives a major section of his own novel House Made of Dawn (New York: Harper and Row, 1968) to a Navajo character. The title of Momaday's novel is taken from a Navajo Nightway song. Similarly, Laguna Pueblo author Leslie Marmon Silko sets significant portions of her superb novel Ceremony (New York: Viking, 1977) in Navajo country. Ten contemporary Navajo poets are included in Geary Hobson's expansive collection of contemporary native American literature The Remembered Earth, which was published in 1979 by Red Earth Press, P. 0. Box 26641, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Work by a number of Navajo students is included in T. D. Allen's Arrows Four: Prose and Poetry by Young American Indians (New York: Washington Square Press, 1974).

The Navajo Times is a weekly newspaper published at Window Rock, Arizona on the Navajo reservation. It regularly includes imaginative work.

Peter Iverson's contribution to the Newberry Library Center for the History of the American Indian Bibliographical Series The Navajos: A Critical Bibliography (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976) is an excellent resource for locating other writing by and about Navajo people.

As printed in Larry Evers, ed. The South Corner of Time. Tucson, Ariz.: The University of Arizona Press, ©1980, p. 105.