Bitter Water

Diné Oral Histories of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute

Paperback ($19.95), Ebook ($19.95) Buy
Many know that the removal and relocation of Indigenous peoples from traditional lands is a part of the United States’ colonial past, but few know that—in an expansive corner of northeastern Arizona—the saga continues. The 1974 Settlement Act officially divided a reservation established almost a century earlier between the Diné (Navajo) and the Hopi, and legally granted the contested land to the Hopi. To date, the U.S. government has relocated between 12,000 and 14,000 Diné from Hopi Partitioned Lands, and the Diné—both there and elsewhere—continue to live with the legacy of this relocation.

Bitter Water presents the narratives of four Diné women who have resisted removal but who have watched as their communities and lifeways have changed dramatically. The book, based on 25 hours of filmed personal testimony, features the women’s candid discussions of their efforts to carry on a traditional way of life in a contemporary world that includes relocation and partitioned lands; encroaching Western values and culture; and devastating mineral extraction and development in the Black Mesa region of Arizona. Though their accounts are framed by insightful writings by both Benally and Diné historian Jennifer Nez Denetdale, Benally lets the stories of the four women elders speak for themselves.

Scholars, media, and other outsiders have all told their versions of this story, but this is the first book that centers on the stories of women who have lived it—in their own words in Navajo as well as the English translation. The result is a living history of a contested cultural landscape and the unique worldview of women determined to maintain their traditions and lifeways, which are so intimately connected to the land. This book is more than a collection of stories, poetry, and prose. It is a chronicle of resistance as spoken from the hearts of those who have lived it.
“This glimpse into a different culture and time challenges the reader to learn more about and better understand the Navajo perspective. The text, written in both Navajo and English, provides insight into the thinking of this beleaguered group.”—Western Historical Quarterly

“This book is important because it presents a Navajo ethos and reality that few non-Navjo people know about. It is this kind of dimensional work that will help scholars and other readers gain a deeper insight into Navajo life.”—Donald L. Fixico, author of The Invasion of Indian Country in the Twentieth Century: American Capitalism and Tribal Natural Resources

“There is an urgent need for a resource like this that provides first-hand accounts of the cultural impact of removal and resistance.”—Jeffrey P. Shepherd, author of We Are an Indian Nation: A History of the Hualapai People 
“This book gives these very prominent women a chance to tell their story, and through these women’s tales, it gives the Navajo people a voice as well.”—Navajo-Hopi Observer
Bitter Water
127 Pages 7 x 10 x 0.4
Published: May 2011Paperback ISBN: 9780816528981
Published: May 2011Ebook ISBN: 9780816506620

For Authors

The University of Arizona Press publishes the work of leading scholars from around the globe. Learn more about submitting a proposal, preparing your final manuscript, and publication.



The University of Arizona Press is proud to share our books with readers, booksellers, media, librarians, scholars, and instructors. Join our email Newsletter. Request reprint licenses, information on subsidiary rights and translations, accessibility files, review copies, and desk and exam copies.


Support the Press

Support a premier publisher of academic, regional, and literary works. We are committed to sharing past, present, and future works that reflect the special strengths of the University of Arizona and support its land-grant mission.