Glimpses Of The Navajo

Photographs by Brent Stirton

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Navajo: The Rebirth of a Nation
This series, a mix of portraits and reportage by Brent Stirton, offers a brief glimpse at the Navajo nation today, 150 years after the infamous “Long Walk,” which saw a proud but defeated nation at its lowest ebb. Like many Native American tribes, the Navajo face a wide range of societal ills and many remain mistrustful of external influence. They are struggling to reconcile modernity with tradition, but many of the new wave of young, educated Navajo are actively working for the recovery and defense of the customs and core values of their tribe. Their hope is that one day the world will regard Navajo life not as a quaint folkloric attraction for tourists, but as a complex, fascinating, and unique culture worth fighting for.

The greatest challenge the tribe faces today is the safeguarding of its traditions. Navajo traditionally bred sheep and horses, a way of existence that been passed down within families for generations. Widespread poverty means most Navajo can't live traditionally – owning and raising horses and livestock is much costlier now than it was 150 years ago as is the land to do it on. Border disputes and multiple unsafe Uranium mining projects have further diminished their lands. This leaves many unskilled Navajo in employment limbo, with the usual societal consequences.  

The Navajo also struggle with internal division. On the one side are the traditionalists, representing thousands of years of tribal medicine, pastoralist practices and horsemanship as well as deeply held Navajo religious beliefs. On the other side are the modernists, representing Christianity and a move to the future discarding all the value of the past. 

Corruption in the Tribal Council has not helped in this conflict as the Navajo inch their way forward in the new millennium.

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