'A Country Within a Country': Inside the Navajo Nation in 1948
Navajo Tourism Department P. Please be respectful when it comes to photography. Cameras are not always welcome, and you should secure permission before photographing, videotaping, sketching or audiotape recording any event. When you do take photos, keep in mind that a gratuity is always appreciated. Powwows and dances are sometimes exhibited for the benefit of tourists in public forums. Many of these events are of religious nature, and should be accorded the same deference as a church or prayer service, even if tribal members behave informally.
As LIFE described the situation to readers in , the Navajo Nation was "a country within a country" — a reminder that Native American history courses inextricably alongside everything else that falls under the umbrella of American history, a fact that is underscored for Native American Heritage Day on Friday. When photographer Leonard McCombe visited Navajo country in Arizona to create the images seen above, however, he caught a people at a very specific and important point in that long and ongoing history. The Navajo Nation, which comprised about 61, members at the time and was the fastest-growing Native American group in the nation, was at a moment of crisis. By that point in , the U. However, as LIFE noted, simply sending food wouldn't solve the problem.
Pageants of the Navajo Nation
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Some 1, years ago, their ancestors, along with those of the Colorado River tribes and the Apache, are believed to have migrated to the Southwest from western Canada and eastern Alaska. Navajo peoples are known for their artistic skills, particularly in basketry, blanket weaving, pottery, jewelry, and sand painting. The Navajo played an important role in World War Two, when at one point the Navajo language was used as a secret code. The Navajo Code Talkers were famously employed to relay radio messages in their own complex language, which the Japanese were unable to decipher.
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