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Chinle -
Stores from the Navajo Reservation
My brothers keeper.

By O.Frank


When I was ten we moved to Chinle, Arizona on the Navajo reservation. My father had gotten a Job with the U.S. Government. His job was to oversee the living quarters of a boarding school for Navajo school children. The Navajo parents were given a monthly check to send their children to Chinle to live and go to school.

In the early fifties Chinle was nothing but a government town. It consisted of two large barracks, several school buildings, a power plant, and about thirty houses for the staff and their families. The nearest town was Gallup, New Mexico, which was 90 miles to the east. About one or two miles to the north, at the mouth of Canyon De Chelly, there were two trading posts where the Navajo’s would trade sheepskins and rugs for food. These trading posts were our only source of food and other commerce.

Probably the most horrifying experience I had growing up happened in Chinle concerned dogs. There were lots of stray dogs running around the area. Every once in awhile these dogs would form packs. As far as I know no one was ever hurt but most of the white people were afraid of these packs. (The Navajos did not seem to be afraid.) So a group of white men got together to do something about the packs.

One Sunday morning they formed a hunting party and started walking around the neighborhood shooting wildly at every dog they saw. This was clear stupidity and was just an excuse to go around shooting dogs. While no humans were hurt, several houses wound up with shot out windows and bullets going through walls into their living room. To make matters even worse, a number of pet dogs inside fences were killed, including ours.

I remember coming home from church and seeing our pet dog lying in the yard inside our fence, blown apart by a shotgun. The entire front of our house, which was painted white, was covered with blood and globs of fat. I clearly remember the shock and disbelief that this had really happened. For a ten year old to lose a pet was bad enough, but to see it brutally murdered was truly horrifying.

My Navajo friends had taught me that animals were our brothers, that we, as humans, held no special place in nature. We were all equal. So I learned an unforgettable lesson that day, that my own white culture believed they were above nature and would murder their brother.

My Dad was very angry, and wrote letters to the government and the National Humane Society. The government then got thousands of letters from members of the humane society. It got so bad for the government that they sent the FBI out to Chinle to see what was going on. In the end, the supervisor of Chinle was severely reprimanded and dog killing was stopped. Another lesson learned, one person can make a difference and many in the white culture did care!

I believe that we have reached the peak of our arrogance, the feeling that nature is here to serve us and be used by us, and over the next millennium we will come to understand our place in nature.

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copyright 2005 O.Frank