Navajo Tribe Facts
The Navajo Nation has one of the largest and most active tribal governments in North America and it is a sovereign nation located within in the borders of the United States. The Nation is located at the four corners where Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado meet, but their lands do not extend into Colorado. They are the major stewards of the public lands located in the American Southwest and popular natural sites Antelope Canyon, Shiprock and Monument Valley are all located within the Nation’s borders.
The flag of the Navajo Nation reflects the tribal lands beneath a three-color rainbow. The mountains that border the lands are situated at each directional point of the lands on the tan colored flag. These mountains are the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, Hesperus Mountain and Blanca Peak in Colorado, and Mount Taylor in New Mexico. The Nation doesn’t have its own anthem, but they use “Dah Naat’a'í So’ bił Sinil” for all occasions. This is the Navajo translation for the “Star Spangled Banner.”
The Traditional Food of the Navajo
The Navajo tribe is also known as the Dine and they were an agricultural tribe that grew many crops and raised livestock for the tribe to eat. One of the ways the U.S. Army were able to capture the Navajo and imprison them was by killing off their livestock and trying to starve them. Many of the tribe surrendered and were forced to march 300 miles away to internment camps.
They grew maize, squash, beans and some fruits, including peaches. They also raised livestock like sheep and goats to provide the tribe with meat, milk and wool for clothing. As well as growing their own crops and livestock, the women foraged for wild berries, seeds and herbs, some of which are used for medicinal purposes. The men hunted deer, rabbits, mountain goats and prairie dogs for food as well.
There are several ways that the Navajo Nation raises money for its people and to run their sovereign government. In 1985, it was ruled by the Supreme Court that they could raise money through imposing taxes without approval from the Secretary of the Interior and several taxes were imposed after that ruling solidified their Sovereignty. In fact, in remembrance of that ruling, Navajo Sovereignty is celebrated every fourth Monday in April.
Some of the taxes that were imposed include a fuel excise tax, hotel occupancy tax, business activity tax, oil and gas severance tax, among many others. The Nation does not collect personal income tax nor do they tax corporate income or inventories. There tax rates are generally lower than those found in the U.S., especially for businesses that are within the borders of the Navajo Nation.
The sell of arts and crafts make up a large part of the tribe’s revenue as well. Their artifacts are known throughout the world. The Nation is well known for their beautifully woven baskets, intricately woven rugs, sand paintings and silver jewelry. The arts and crafts industry is so important to the tribe that a 2004 study conducted by the Navajo Division of Economic Development revealed that 60 percent of the family’s residing in the Nation had at least one family who was involved in making handmade crafts.
Other significant sources of revenue for the tribe are uranium and coal mines, oil reserves and gambling casinos. The Nation has opened casinos in New Mexico and Arizona. In 2004, the Dine Development Corporation was founded to promote Navajo businesses and to find viable business opportunities to make use of their casino revenues.
Education in the Navajo Nation
Although they tribe once resisted compulsory education, including boarding schools, a very high drop-out rate among high school students has helped shifted that priority and now education is one of the Navajo Nation’s top concerns. Along with Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, there are over 150 public and private learning institutions that teach Navajo children from kindergarten through high school.
The Nation also has its own Head Start program and they have several post-secondary education and vocational schools on the reservation. These schools include Dine College, Navajo Technical University and Navajo Medicine Man Apprentice School. Dine College was founded in 1968 and became the first tribal college in the nation. Not only is reading, writing and arithmetic taught at the schools, but the Navajo also teach students about their history and culture in order to keep their language, history and culture alive.
The Navajo Nation has a long, sometimes dark, interesting history in the U.S. and there is much more to learn about this proud tribe of Native Americans. If you travel near their lands in the southwestern part of the country, you can stop and visit gift shops, museums and other places of interest within the borders of the Navajo Nation to learn more.