Stores from the Navajo Reservation
My brothers keeper.
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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