While various books have investigated Native American reservations and homelands, this book is from Diné individuals’ experiences, observations, and examinations. Poets, writers, and scholars frame their thoughts on four key questions: What are the thoughts/perspectives on nihikéyah/Navajo homeland? What challenges does nihikéyah face in the coming generations, and what should all peoples know about nihikéyah? And how can nihikéyah build a strong and positive Navajo Nation for the rest of this century and beyond? Below read an excerpt from the book.
Over 400,000 people are enrolled Navajo Nation citizens and over 150,000 live on the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation land base is 27,413 square miles, larger than ten of the fifty states in the United States of America. While the Navajo Treaty of 1868 established an original reservation, Diné people always regard their homeland in relation to their six sacred mountains. This homeland is referred to as Níhi Kéyah. Níhi kéyah means the land the people live and walk upon called home. The Diyin Dine’é (Holy People) created níhi kéyah for the people and instructed them to live within its space. For this book, the term níhi kéyah will be used to refer to Navajo land and the homeland.
Níhi kéyah is the world to Diné people. While many Native Nations and communities have been separated from their original homeland through forced removal and live elsewhere, Diné people continue to live on their original homeland even though some of the land is not designated as part of the reservation.
Níhi kéyah is more than a commodity and property for the people, it is their foundation and hózhǫ́ǫgo iiná (beauty way of life). Níhi kéyah is a physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual existence for the people. Níhi kéyah is the core of what it means to be human and Diné. Níhi kéyah’s energy and spirit are reflected in the creation scripture, journey narratives, matrix, and way of life.
In this book, the eight contributors categorized in the cardinal directions will focus on níhi kéyah’s spirit and the challenges the homeland faces including climate change, oppression, bureaucracy, and the western legal system. The contributors’ examinations, analyses, and/or reflections display a distinct Diné or Navajo matrix. While many non-Diné or non-Navajo have written about the land, philosophy, history, and so many other topics on the Navajo Nation, each of the contributors in this book are Diné, grew up or live on the Navajo Nation, and have observed and/or experienced in their lifetime what they are writing about for the reading audience. Their written words embody níhi kéyah, the love, and concerns each has for their homeland.
We start with a general description of a part of the Navajo creation narratives to provide context to níhi kéyah. The stories come from the book Navajo History Volume I compiled by the Navajo Curriculum Center, edited by Ethelou Yazzie, and published by Rough Rock Press in 1971 and Mike Mitchell’s Origins of the Diné published in 2001 by the Navajo Studies and Curriculum Center at the Rough Rock Community School. Other versions of these narratives exist and each one, including this generalized version, are all accurate. The texts used to discuss the creation narratives have long been thought of by Navajo people and scholars as some of the most reliable sources on Diné baa hane’ (Navajo history).
Wendy Shelly Greyeyes
Rex Lee Jim
Jennifer Jackson Wheeler