Navajo (Diné)

The Navajo Nation encompasses land in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico with a population of more than 250,000. For the Navajo this is a holy land guarded by four sacred mountains, one standing at each of the four cardinal directions.Like the Apache, the Navajo are descended from Athabascan groups that migrated from Canada and Alaska, reaching the Southwest something around 1400 A.D. By 1700 the Navajo were well established in the region, where they hunted and raised crops and livestock, becoming one of the most powerful and populous groups in the Southwest. After years of resistance, they were defeated by the American Army in the early 1860s,and in 1864over 8,000 Navajo people were forced to live at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. In 1868, they signed a treaty with the American government and were allowed to return to their homeland.The Navajo raised sheep and became highly skilled weavers, an art they had learned from Pueblo neighbors. Navajo weaving became a highly developed art form that is now collected around the world. Around 1850 Navajo artisans learned metalwork from Mexican blacksmiths and silversmiths, inaugurating the artistic tradition that is perhaps most closely associated with the Navajo today. Navajo artists truly refined the art of silversmithing, creating beautiful heavy pieces set with gemstones. Today, the exquisitely crafted silver jewelry produced by Navajo artists is an iconic image of the Southwest.