Time Among the Navajo: Traditional Lifeways on the Reservation

$25.00 each

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In the late 1970s, Navajo Reservation teacher Kathy Eckles and photographer Helen Lau Running began a personal documentary of the traditional lifeways practiced by Navajos living on ancestral lands.

Available in paperback only. Time Among the Navajo: Traditional Lifeways on the Reservation, by Kathy Eckles Hooker.  Photographs by Helen Lau Running.  2002, 107 pages

“The earth being / our mother is a / beautiful / mother—giving / us life, nurturing / us daily, and / continuing to / sustain life / for us. She is / beautiful; / therefore, we / are as beautiful as she” writes Steven A Darden, Navajo political leader. And so begins this beautiful book of portraits, stories and photographs. It is divided into five sections: plants, water, wood, animals and soil; for there are few activities and practices in Navajoland that do not touch the earth.

In the late 1970s, Navajo Reservation teacher Kathy Eckles and photographer Helen Lau Running began a personal documentary of the traditional lifeways practiced by Navajos living on ancestral lands.

The project began with a student’s simple response to his teacher’s curiosity. “What did you do over the weekend?” He answered, “I chased prairie dogs, caught them and ate them.” Students were asked to make lists of their families’ daily activities. The results, to Hooker, were surprising and intriguing: grandmother made yucca shampoo; we built the corral; grass was gathered for brushes; we ate blood cakes.

Time Among the Navajo is the unfolding of the individual stories of people met along the dirt roads connecting the summer and winter camps that anchor a semi nomadic way of life. While the threat of relocation continues to impose itself upon the lives of many Navajo families on the Big Reservation, at the same time a basic and quiet pattern of life is being lived that, for many, appears as smooth and comfortably worn as the handle of a planting tool.

The authors meet Sam and Stella Worker, of Leupp, Arizona, who a year later were forced to leave their hogan and relocate to a prefabricated house ten miles from their land. Sam demonstrates the art of making moccasins; Stella is a weaver. From Ella Deal, in Hard Rocks, the authors learn a lesson in preparing soil for potato planting. Oskar Whitehair rounds up his sheep and explains the puzzle structure of the corral. At Big Mountain, Roberta Blackgoat hauls her water and prepares cornmeal patties. Mary Joe Yazzie, who works on the night shift for Peabody Coal, makes pots with clay, hand-dug near her home in Cow Springs.

In these 35 duotone photographs and their accompanying stories, Kathy Eckles and Helen Lau Running share their journey--not into stereotypical image--but through the cultural richness of the Navajo.

Culture Group: Navajo