Those of us who live in the vastness of the Sonoran Desert share this land with two sovereign nations: the Republic of Mexico and the Tohono O’odham Nation.
The Tohono O’odham Nation is the second largest American Indian reservation in the United States: 4,344 square miles. The largest belongs to the Navajo: a whopping 27,000 square miles, including a large chunk of Northern Arizona, and smaller pieces of New Mexico and Utah.
The Tohono O’odham never suffered the ravages of war with the United States. But the Navajo did. When Americans invaded their territory, the Navajo fought with everything they had.
Unlike the marauding Apaches, the Navajo were primarily a settled people. By the mid-19th century, they raised extensive crops, particularly corn, beans and squash. They also cultivated fruit orchards and raised sheep and goats. The Apaches only used sheep for food. While the Navajos enjoyed an occasional good lamb chop dinner, they also bred their sheep for wool from which they made exquisite blankets, and much later, rugs. Churro sheep they got from Spanish conquistadors in the mid-1500’s were highly prized for their fine wool.
The Navajo’s practice of spinning and weaving wool into blankets and clothing became common in the 18th century. By the late 19th century, when their textile skills turned more often to rugs, it developed into a highly prized form of artistic expression.Read More