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Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). A Book-Lover’s Holidays in the Open. 1916.


Across the Navajo Desert

WE dropped down from Buckskin Mountain, from the land of the pine and spruce and of cold, clear springs, into the grim desolation of the desert. We drove the pack-animals and loose horses, usually one of us taking the lead to keep the trail. The foreman of the Bar Z had lent us two horses for our trip, in true cattleman’s spirit; another Bar Z man, who with his wife lived at Lee’s Ferry, showed us every hospitality, and gave us fruit from his garden, and chickens; and two of the Bar Z riders helped Archie and Nick shoe one of our horses. It was a land of wide spaces and few people, but those few we met were so friendly and helpful that we shall not soon forget them.

At noon of the first day we had come down the mountainside, from the tall northern forest trees at the summit, through the scattered, sprawling pinyons and cedars of the side slopes, to the barren, treeless plain of sand and sage-brush and greasewood. At the foot of the mountain we stopped for a few minutes at an outlying cow-ranch. There was not a tree, not a bush more than knee-high, on the whole plain round about. The bare little ranch-house, of stone and timber, lay in the full glare of the sun; through the open door we saw the cluttered cooking-utensils and the rolls of untidy bedding. The foreman, rough and kindly, greeted us from the door; spare and lean, his eyes bloodshot and his face like roughened oak from the pitiless sun, wind, and sand of the desert. After we had dismounted, our shabby ponies moped at the hitching-post as we stood talking. In the big corral a mob of half-broken horses were gathered, and two dust-grimed, hard-faced cow-punchers, lithe as panthers, were engaged in breaking a couple of wild ones. All around, dotted with stunted sage-brush and greasewood, the desert stretched, blinding white in the sunlight; across its surface the dust clouds moved in pillars, and in the distance the heat-waves danced and wavered.

During the afternoon we shogged steadily across the plain. At one place, far off to one side, we saw a band of buffalo, and between them and us a herd of wild donkeys. Otherwise the only living things were snakes and lizards. On the other side of the plain, two or three miles from a high wall of vermilion cliffs, we stopped for the night at a little stone rest-house, built as a station by a cow outfit. Here there were big corrals, and a pool of water piped down by the cow-men from a spring many miles distant. On the sand grew the usual desert plants, and on some of the ridges a sparse growth of grass, sufficient for the night feed of the hardy horses. The little stone house and the corrals stood bare and desolate on the empty plain. Soon after we reached them a sand-storm rose and blew so violently that we took refuge inside the house. Then the wind died down; and as the sun sank toward the horizon we sauntered off through the hot, still evening. There were many sidewinder rattlesnakes. We killed several of the gray, flat-headed, venomous things; as we slept on the ground outside the house, under the open sky, we were glad to kill as many as possible, for they sometimes crawl into a sleeper’s blankets. Except this baleful life, there was little save the sand and the harsh, scanty vegetation. Across the lonely wastes the sun went down. The sharply channelled cliffs turned crimson in the dying light; all the heavens flamed ruby red, and faded to a hundred dim hues of opal, beryl and amber, pale turquoise and delicate emerald; and then night fell and darkness shrouded the desert.

Next morning the horse-wranglers, Nick and Quentin, were off before dawn to bring in the saddle and pack animals; the sun rose in burning glory, and through the breathless heat we drove the pack-train before us toward the crossing of the Colorado. Hour after hour we plodded ahead. The cliff line bent back at an angle, and we followed into the valley of the Colorado. The trail edged in toward the high cliffs as they gradually drew toward the river. At last it followed along the base of the frowning rock masses. Far off on our right lay the Colorado; on its opposite side the broad river valley was hemmed in by another line of cliffs, at whose foot we were to travel for two days after crossing the river.

The landscape had become one of incredible wildness, of tremendous and desolate majesty. No one could paint or describe it save one of the great masters of imaginative art or literature—a Turner or Browning or Poe. The sullen rock walls towered hundreds of feet aloft, with something about their grim savagery that suggested both the terrible and the grotesque. All life was absent, both from them and from the fantastic barrenness of the bowlder-strewn land at their bases. The ground was burned out or washed bare. In one place a little stream trickled forth at the bottom of a ravine, but even here no grass grew—only little clusters of a coarse weed with flaring white flowers that looked as if it throve on poisoned soil. In the still heat “we saw the silences move by and beckon.” The cliffs were channelled into myriad forms—battlements, spires, pillars, buttressed towers, flying arches; they looked like the ruined castles and temples of the monstrous devil-deities of some vanished race. All were ruins—ruins vaster than those of any structures ever reared by the hands of men—as if some magic city, built by warlocks and sorcerers, had been wrecked by the wrath of the elder gods. Evil dwelt in the silent places; from battlement to lonely battlement fiends’ voices might have raved; in the utter desolation of each empty valley the squat blind tower might have stood, and giants lolled at length to see the death of a soul at bay.

As the afternoon wore on, storm boded in the south. The day grew sombre; to the desolation of the blinding light succeeded the desolation of utter gloom. The echoes of the thunder rolled among the crags, and lightning jagged the darkness. The heavens burst, and the downpour drove in our faces; then through cloud rifts the sun’s beams shone again and we looked on “the shining race of rain whose hair a great wind scattereth.”

At Lee’s Ferry, once the home of the dark leader of the Danites, the cliffs, a medley of bold colors and striking forms, come close to the river’s brink on either side; but at this one point there is a break in the canyon walls and a ferry can be run. A stream flows into the river from the north. By it there is a house, and the miracle of water has done its work. Under irrigation, there are fields of corn and alfalfa, groves of fruit-trees, and gardens; a splash of fresh, cool green in the harsh waste.

South of the ferry we found two mule-wagons, sent for us by Mr. Hubbell, of Ganado, to whose thoughtful kindness we owed much. One was driven by a Mexican, Francisco Marquez; the other, the smaller one, by a Navajo Indian, Loko, who acted as cook; both were capital men, and we lived in much comfort while with them. A Navajo policeman accompanied us as guide, for we were now in the great Navajo reservation. A Navajo brought us a sheep for sale, and we held a feast.

For two days we drove southward through the desert country, along the foot of a range of red cliffs. In places the sand was heavy; in others the ground was hard, and the teams made good progress. There were little water-holes, usually more or less alkaline, ten or fifteen miles apart. At these the Navajos were watering their big flocks of sheep and goats, their horses and donkeys, and their few cattle. They are very interesting Indians. They live scattered out, each family by itself, or two or three families together; not in villages, like their neighbors the Hopis. They are pastoral Indians, but they are agriculturists also, as far as the desert permits. Here and there, where there was a little seepage of water, we saw their meagre fields of corn, beans, squashes, and melons. All were mounted; the men usually on horses, the women and children often on donkeys. They were clad in white man’s garb; at least the men wore shirts and trousers and the women bodices and skirts; but the shirts were often green or red or saffron or bright blue; their long hair was knotted at the back of the head, and they usually wore moccasins. The well-to-do carried much jewelry of their own make. They wore earrings and necklaces of turquoise; turquoises were set in their many silver ornaments; and they wore buttons and bangles of silver, for they are cunning silversmiths, as well as weavers of the famous Navajo blankets. Although they practise polygamy, and divorce is easy, their women are usually well treated; and we saw evidences of courtesy and consideration not too common even among civilized people. At one halt a woman on a donkey, with a little boy behind her, rode up to the wagon. We gave her and the boy food. Later when a Navajo man came up, she quietly handed him a couple of delicacies. So far there was nothing of note; but the man equally quietly and with a slight smile of evident gratitude and appreciation stretched out his hand; and for a moment they stood with clasped hands, both pleased, one with the courtesy, and the other with the way the courtesy had been received. Both were tattered beings on donkeys; but it made a pleasant picture.

These are as a whole good Indians—although some are very bad, and should be handled rigorously. Most of them work hard, and wring a reluctant living from the desert; often their houses are miles from water, and they use it sparingly. They live on a reservation in which many acres are necessary to support life; I do not believe that at present they ought to be allotted land in severalty, and their whole reservation should be kept for them, if only they can be brought forward fast enough in stock-raising and agriculture to use it; for with Indians and white men alike it is use which should determine occupancy of the soil. The Navajos have made progress of a real type, and stand far above mere savagery; and everything possible should be done to help them help themselves, to teach them English, and, above all, to teach them how to be better stock-raisers and food-growers—as well as smiths and weavers—in their desert home. The whites have treated these Indians well. They benefited by the coming of the Spaniards; they have benefited more by the coming of our own people. For the last quarter of a century the lawless individuals among them have done much more wrong (including murder) to the whites than has been done to them by lawless whites. The lawless Indians are the worst menace to the others among the Navajos and Utes; and very serious harm has been done by well-meaning Eastern philanthropists who have encouraged and protected these criminals. I have known some startling cases of this kind.

During the second day of our southward journey the Painted Desert, in gaudy desolation, lay far to our right; and we crossed tongues and patches of the queer formation, with its hard, bright colors. Red and purple, green and bluish, orange and gray and umber brown, the streaked and splashed clays and marls had been carved by wind and weather into a thousand outlandish forms. Funnel-shaped sand-storms moved across the waste. We climbed gradually upward to the top of the mesa. The yellow sand grew heavier and deeper. There were occasional short streams from springs; but they ran in deep gullies, with nothing to tell of their presence; never a tree near by and hardly a bush or a tuft of grass, unless planted and tended by man. We passed the stone walls of an abandoned trading-post. The desert had claimed its own. The ruins lay close to a low range of cliffs; the white sand, dazzling under the sun, had drifted everywhere; there was not a plant, not a green thing in sight—nothing but the parched and burning lifelessness of rock and sand. This northern Arizona desert was less attractive than the southern desert along the road to the Roosevelt Dam and near Mesa, for instance; for in the south the cactus growth is infinitely varied in size and in fantastic shape.

In the late afternoon we reached Tuba, with its Indian school and its trader’s store. Tuba was once a Mormon settlement, the Mormons having been invited thither by the people of a near-by Hopi village—which we visited—because the Hopis wished protection from hostile Indian foes. As usual, the Mormon settlers had planted and cared for many trees—cottonwoods, poplars, almond-trees, and flowering acacias—and the green shade was doubly attractive in that sandy desert. We were most hospitably received, especially by the school superintendent, and also by the trader. They showed us every courtesy. Mentioning the abandoned trading-post in the desert to the wife of the trader, she told us that it was there she had gone as a bride. The women who live in the outposts of civilization have brave souls!

We rested the horses for a day, and then started northward, toward the trading-station of John Wetherill, near Navajo Mountain and the Natural Bridge. The first day’s travel was through heavy sand and very tiring to the teams. Late in the afternoon we came to an outlying trader’s store, on a sandy hillside. In the plain below, where not a blade of grass grew, were two or three permanent pools; and toward these the flocks of the Navajos were hurrying, from every quarter, with their herdsmen. The sight was curiously suggestive of the sights I so often saw in Africa, when the Masai and Samburu herdsmen brought their flocks to water. On we went, not halting until nine in the evening.

All next day we travelled through a parched, monotonous landscape, now and then meeting Navajos with their flocks and herds, and passing by an occasional Navajo “hogan,” or hovel-like house, with its rough corral near by. Toward evening we struck into Marsh Pass, and camped at the summit. Here we were again among the mountains; and the great gorge was wonderfully picturesque—well worth a visit from any landscape-lover, were there not so many sights still more wonderful in the immediate neighborhood. The lower rock masses were orange-hued, and above them rose red battlements of cliff; where the former broke into sheer sides there were old houses of the cliff-dwellers, carved in the living rock. The half-moon hung high overhead; the scene was wild and lovely, when we strolled away from the camp-fire among the scattered cedars and pinyons through the cool, still night.

Next morning we journeyed on, and in the forenoon we reached Kayentay, where John Wetherill, the guide and Indian trader, lives. We had been travelling over a bare table-land, through surroundings utterly desolate; and with startling suddenness, as we dropped over the edge, we came on the group of houses—the store, the attractive house of Mr. and Mrs. Wetherill, and several other buildings. Our new friends were the kindest and most hospitable of hosts, and their house was a delight to every sense: clean, comfortable, with its bath and running water, its rugs and books, its desks, cupboards, couches and chairs, and the excellent taste of its Navajo ornamentation. Here we parted with our two wagons, and again took to pack-trains; we had already grown attached to Francisco and Loko, and felt sorry to say good-by to them.

On August 10, under Wetherill’s guidance, we started for the Natural Bridge, seven of us, all told, with five pack-horses. We travelled light, with no tentage, and when it rained at night we curled up in our bedding under our slickers. I was treated as “the Colonel,” and did nothing but look after my own horse and bedding, and usually not even this much; but every one else in the outfit worked! On the two days spent in actually getting into and out of the very difficult country around the Bridge itself we cut down our luggage still further, taking the necessary food in the most portable form, and, as regards bedding, trusting, in cowboy fashion, to our slickers and horse blankets. But we were comfortable, and the work was just hard enough to keep us in fine trim.

We began by retracing our steps to the head of Marsh Pass and turning westward up Laguna Canyon. This was so named because it contained pools of water when, half a century ago, Kit Carson, the type of all that was best among the old-style mountain man and plainsman, traversed it during one of his successful Indian campaigns. The story of the American advance through the Southwest is filled with feats of heroism. Yet, taking into account the means of doing the work, even greater dangers were fronted, even more severe hardships endured, and even more striking triumphs achieved by the soldiers and priests who three centuries previously, during Spain’s brief sunburst of glory, first broke through the portals of the thirst-guarded, Indian-haunted desert.

At noon we halted in a side-canyon, at the foot of a mighty cliff, where there were ruins of a big village of cliff-dwellers. The cliff was of the form so common in this type of rock formation. It was not merely sheer, but re-entrant, making a huge, arched, shallow cave, several hundred feet high, and at least a hundred—perhaps a hundred and fifty—feet deep, the overhang being enormous. The stone houses of the village, which in all essentials was like a Hopi village of to-day, were plastered against the wall in stories, each resting on a narrow ledge. Long poles permitted one to climb from ledge to ledge, and gave access, through the roofs, to the more inaccessible houses. The immense size of the cave—or overhanging, re-entrant cliff, whichever one chooses to call it—dwarfed the houses, so that they looked like toy houses.

There were many similar, although smaller, villages and little clusters of houses among the cliffs of this tangle of canyons. Once the cliff-dwellers had lived in numbers in this neighborhood, sleeping in their rock aeries, and venturing into the valleys only to cultivate their small patches of irrigated land. Generations had passed since these old cliff-dwellers had been killed or expelled. Compared with the neighboring Indians, they had already made a long stride in cultural advance when the Spaniards arrived; but they were shrinking back before the advance of the more savage tribes. Their history should teach the lesson—taught by all history in thousands of cases, and now being taught before our eyes by the experience of China, but being taught to no purpose so far as concerns those ultra peace advocates whose heads are even softer than their hearts—that the industrious race of advanced culture and peaceful ideals is lost unless it retains the power not merely for defensive but for offensive action, when itself menaced by vigorous and aggressive foes.

That night, having ridden only some twenty-five miles, we camped in Bubbling Spring Valley. It would be hard to imagine a wilder or more beautiful spot; if in the Old World, the valley would surely be celebrated in song and story; here it is one among many others, all equally unknown. We camped by the bubbling spring of pure cold water from which it derives its name. The long, winding valley was carpeted with emerald green, varied by wide bands and ribbons of lilac, where the tall ranks of bee-blossoms, haunted by humming-birds, grew thickly, often for a quarter of a mile at a stretch. The valley was walled in by towering cliffs, a few of them sloping, most of them sheer-sided or with the tops overhanging; and there were isolated rock domes and pinnacles. As everywhere round about, the rocks were of many colors, and the colors varied from hour to hour, so that the hues of sunrise differed from those of noonday, and yet again from the long lights of sunset. The cliffs seemed orange and purple; and again they seemed vermilion and umber; or in the white glare they were white and yellow and light red.

Our routine was that usual when travelling with a pack-train. By earliest dawn the men whose duties were to wrangle the horses and cook had scrambled out of their bedding; and the others soon followed suit. There is always much work with a pack-outfit, and there are almost always some animals which cause trouble when being packed. The sun was well up before we started; then we travelled until sunset, taking out a couple of hours to let the hobbled horses and mules rest and feed at noon.

On the second day out we camped not far from the foot of Navajo Mountain. We came across several Indians, both Navajos and Utes, guarding their flocks and herds; and we passed by several of their flimsy branch-built summer houses, and their mud, stone, and log winter houses; and by their roughly fenced fields of corn and melons watered by irrigation ditches. Wetherill hired two Indians, a Ute and a Navajo, to go with us, chiefly to relieve us of the labor of looking after our horses at night. They were pleasant-faced, silent men. They wore broad hats, shirts and waistcoats, trousers, and red handkerchiefs loosely knotted round their necks; except for their moccasins, a feather in each hat, and two or three silver ornaments, they were dressed like cowboys, and both picturesquely and appropriately. Their ornamented saddles were of Navajo make.

The second day’s march was long. At one point we dropped into and climbed out of a sheer-sided canyon some twelve hundred feet deep. The trail, which zigzagged up and down the rocky walls, had been made by the Navajos. After we had led our horses down into the canyon, and were lunching by a spring, we were followed by several Indians driving large flocks of goats and sheep. They came down the trail at a good rate, many of them riding instead of leading their horses. One rather comely squaw attracted our attention. She was riding a weedy, limber-legged brood-mare, followed by a foal. The mare did not look as if it would be particularly strong even on the level; yet the well-dressed squaw, holding before her both her baby and her long sticks for blanket-weaving, and with behind her another child and a small roll of things which included a black umbrella, ambled down among the broken rocks with entire unconcern, and joked cheerily with us as she passed.

The night was lovely, and the moon, nearly full, softened the dry harshness of the land, while Navajo Mountain loomed up under it. When we rose, we saw the pale dawn turn blood-red; and shortly after sunrise we started for our third and final day’s journey to the Bridge. For some ten miles the track was an ordinary rough mountain trail. Then we left all our pack-animals except two little mules, and began the hard part of our trip. From this point on the trail was that followed by Wetherill on his various trips to the Bridge, and it can perhaps fairly be called dangerous in two or three places, at least for horses. Wetherill has been with every party that has visited the Bridge from the time of its discovery by white men four years ago. On that occasion he was with two parties, their guide being the Ute who was at this time with us. Mrs. Wetherill has made an extraordinarily sympathetic study of the Navajos and to a less extent of the Utes; she knows, and feelingly understands, their traditions and ways of thought, and speaks their tongue fluently; and it was she who first got from the Indians full knowledge of the Bridge.

The hard trail began with a twenty minutes’ crossing of a big mountain dome of bare sheet rock. Over this we led our horses, up, down, and along the sloping sides, which fell away into cliffs that were scores and even hundreds of feet deep. One spot was rather ticklish. We led the horses down the rounded slope to where a crack or shelf six or eight inches broad appeared and went off level to the right for some fifty feet. For half a dozen feet before we dropped down to this shelf the slope was steep enough to make it difficult for both horses and men to keep their footing on the smooth rock; there was nothing whatever to hold on to, and a precipice lay underneath.

On we went, under the pitiless sun, through a contorted wilderness of scalped peaks and ranges, barren passes, and twisted valleys of sun-baked clay. We worked up and down steep hill slopes, and along tilted masses of sheet-rock ending in cliffs. At the foot of one of these lay the bleached skeleton of a horse. It was one which Wetherill had ridden on one of his trips to the Bridge. The horse lost his footing on the slippery slide rock, and went to his death over the cliff; Wetherill threw himself out of the saddle and just managed to escape. The last four miles were the worst of all for the horses. They led along the bottom of the Bridge canyon. It was covered with a torrent-strewn mass of smooth rocks, from pebbles to bowlders of a ton’s weight. It was a marvel that the horses got down without breaking their legs; and the poor beasts were nearly worn out.

Huge and bare the immense cliffs towered, on either hand, and in front and behind as the canyon turned right and left. They lifted straight above us for many hundreds of feet. The sunlight lingered on their tops; far below, we made our way like pygmies through the gloom of the great gorge. As we neared the Bridge the horse trail led up to one side, and along it the Indians drove the horses; we walked at the bottom of the canyon so as to see the Bridge first from below and realize its true size; for from above it is dwarfed by the immense mountain masses surrounding it.

At last we turned a corner, and the tremendous arch of the Bridge rose in front of us. It is surely one of the wonders of the world. It is a triumphal arch rather than a bridge, and spans the torrent bed in a majesty never shared by any arch ever reared by the mightiest conquerors among the nations of mankind. At this point there were deep pools in the rock bed of the canyon, with overhanging shelves under which grew beautiful ferns and hanging plants. Hot and tired, we greeted the chance for a bath, and as I floated on my back in the water the Bridge towered above me. Then we made camp. We built a blazing fire under one of the giant buttresses of the arch, and the leaping flame brought it momentarily into sudden relief. We white men talked and laughed by the fire, and the two silent Indians sat by and listened to us. The night was cloudless. The round moon rose under the arch and flooded the cliffs behind us with her radiance. After she passed behind the mountains the heavens were still brilliant with starlight, and whenever I waked I turned and gazed at the loom of the mighty arch against the clear night sky.

Next morning early we started on our toilsome return trip. The pony trail led under the arch. Along this the Ute drove our pack-mules, and as I followed him I noticed that the Navajo rode around outside. His creed bade him never pass under an arch, for the arch is the sign of the rainbow, the sign of the sun’s course over the earth, and to the Navajo it is sacred. This great natural bridge, so recently “discovered” by white men, has for ages been known to the Indians. Near it, against the rock walls of the canyon, we saw the crumbling remains of some cliff-dwellings, and almost under it there is what appears to be the ruin of a very ancient shrine.

We travelled steadily at a good gait, and we feasted on a sheep we bought from a band of Utes. Early on the afternoon of the sixth day of our absence we again rode our weary horses over the hill slope down to the store at Kayentay, and glad we were to see the comfortable ranch buildings.

Many Navajos were continually visiting the store. It seems a queer thing to say, but I really believe Kayentay would be an excellent place for a summer school of archæology and ethnology. There are many old cliff-dwellings, some of large size and peculiar interest, in the neighborhood; and the Navajos of this region themselves, not to mention the village-dwelling Hopis, are Indians who will repay the most careful study, whether of language, religion, or ordinary customs and culture. As always when I have seen Indians in their homes, in mass, I was struck by the wide cultural and intellectual difference among the different tribes, as well as among the different individuals of each tribe, and both by the great possibilities for their improvement and by the need of showing common sense even more than good intentions if this improvement is to be achieved. Some Indians can hardly be moved forward at all. Some can be moved forward both fast and far. To let them entirely alone usually means their ruin. To interfere with them foolishly, with whatever good intentions, and to try to move all of them forward in a mass, with a jump, means their ruin. A few individuals in every tribe, and most of the individuals in some tribes, can move very far forward at once; the non-reservation schools do excellently for these. Most of them need to be advanced by degrees; there must be a half-way house at which they can halt, or they may never reach their final destination and stand on a level with the white man.

The Navajos have made long strides in advance during the last fifty years, thanks to the presence of the white men in their neighborhood. Many decent men have helped them—soldiers, agents, missionaries, traders; and the help has quite as often been given unconsciously as consciously; and some of the most conscientious efforts to help them have flatly failed. The missionaries have made comparatively few converts; but many of the missionaries have added much to the influences telling for the gradual uplift of the tribe. Outside benevolent societies have done some good work at times, but have been mischievous influences when guided by ignorance and sentimentality—a notable instance on this Navajo reservation is given by Mr. Leupp in his book “The Indian and His Problem.” Agents and other government officials, when of the best type, have done most good, and when not of the right type have done most evil; and they have never done any good at all when they have been afraid of the Indians or have hesitated relentlessly to punish Indian wrong-doers, even if these wrong-doers were supported by some unwise missionaries or ill-advised Eastern benevolent societies. The traders of the right type have rendered genuine, and ill-appreciated, service, and their stores and houses are centres of civilizing influence.

Good work can be done, and has been done, at the schools. Wherever the effort is to jump the ordinary Indian too far ahead and yet send him back to the reservation, the result is usually failure. To be useful the steps for the ordinary boy or girl, in any save the most advanced tribes, must normally be gradual. Enough English should be taught to enable such a boy or girl to read, write, and cipher so as not to be cheated in ordinary commercial transactions. Outside of this the training should be industrial, and, among the Navajos, it should be the kind of industrial training which shall avail in the home cabins and in tending flocks and herds and irrigated fields. The Indian should be encouraged to build a better house; but the house must not be too different from his present dwelling, or he will, as a rule, neither build it nor live in it. The boy should be taught what will be of actual use to him among his fellows, and not what might be of use to a skilled mechanic in a big city, who can work only with first-class appliances; and the agency farmer should strive steadily to teach the young men out in the field how to better their stock and practically to increase the yield of their rough agriculture. The girl should be taught domestic science, not as it would be practised in a first-class hotel or a wealthy private home, but as she must practise it in a hut with no conveniences, and with intervals of sheep-herding. If the boy and girl are not so taught, their after lives will normally be worthless both to themselves and to others. If they are so taught, they will normally themselves rise and will be the most effective of home missionaries for their tribe.

In Horace Greeley’s “Overland Journey,” published more than half a century ago, there are words of sound wisdom on this subject. Said Greeley (I condense): “In future efforts to improve the condition of the Indians the women should be specially regarded and appealed to. A conscientious, humane, capable Christian trader, with a wife thoroughly skilled in household manufactures and handicrafts, each speaking the language of the tribe with whom they take up their residence, can do [incalculable] good. Let them keep and sell whatever articles are adapted to the Indians’ needs … and maintain an industrial school for Indian women and children, which, though primarily industrial, should impart intellectual and religious instruction also, wisely adapted in character and season to the needs of the pupils.… Such an enterprise would gradually” [the italics here are mine] “mould a generation after its own spirit.… The Indian likes bread as well as the white; he must be taught to prefer the toil of producing it to the privation of lacking it.” Mrs. Wetherill is doing, and striving to do, much more than Horace Greeley held up as an ideal. One of her hopes is to establish a “model hogan,” an Indian home, both advanced and possible for the Navajos now to live up to—a half-way house on the road to higher civilization, a house in which, for instance, the Indian girl will be taught to wash in a tub with a pail of water heated at the fire; it is utterly useless to teach her to wash in a laundry with steam and cement bathtubs and expect her to apply this knowledge on a reservation. I wish some admirer of Horace Greeley and friend of the Indian would help Mrs. Wetherill establish her half-way house.

Mrs. Wetherill was not only versed in archæological lore concerning ruins and the like, she was also versed in the yet stranger and more interesting archæology of the Indian’s own mind and soul. There have of recent years been some admirable books published on the phase of Indian life which is now, after so many tens of thousands of years, rapidly drawing to a close. There is the extraordinary, the monumental work of Mr. E. S. Curtis, whose photographs are not merely photographs, but pictures of the highest value; the capital volume by Miss Natalie Curtis; and others. If Mrs. Wetherill could be persuaded to write on the mythology of the Navajos, and also on their present-day psychology—by which somewhat magniloquent term I mean their present ways and habits of thought—she would render an invaluable service. She not only knows their language; she knows their minds; she has the keenest sympathy not only with their bodily needs, but with their mental and spiritual processes; and she is not in the least afraid of them or sentimental about them when they do wrong. They trust her so fully that they will speak to her without reserve about those intimate things of the soul which they will never even hint at if they suspect want of sympathy or fear ridicule. She has collected some absorbingly interesting reproductions of the Navajo sand drawings, picture representations of the old mythological tales; they would be almost worthless unless she wrote out the interpretation, told her by the medicine-man, for the hieroglyphics themselves would be meaningless without such translation. According to their own creed, the Navajos are very devout, and pray continually to the gods of their belief. Some of these prayers are very beautiful; others differ but little from forms of mere devil-worship, of propitiation of the powers of possible evil. Mrs. Wetherill was good enough to write out for me, in the original and in English translation, a prayer of each type—a prayer to the God of the Dawn and the Goddess of Evening Light, and a prayer to the great Spirit Bear. They run as follows:

  • “Hi-yol-cank sil-kin Natany,
  • Tee gee hozhone nas-shad,
  • Sit-sigie hozhone nas-shad
  • She-kayge hozhone nas-shad,
  • She-yage hozhone nas-shad,
  • She-kigee hozhone nas-shad,
  • She-now also hozhone nas-shad.
  • “San-naga, Toddetenie Huskie be-kay, hozhone nas-shad
  • Na-da-cleas, gekin, Natany,
  • Tes-gee hozhone nas-shad
  • She-kayge hozhone nas-shad,
  • She-kige hozhone nas-shad
  • She-yage hozhone nas-shad
  • She-now also hozhone nas-shad,
  • “Hozhone nas clee, hozhone nas clee,
  • Hozhone nas clee, hozhone nas clee.”
  • “Dawn, beautiful dawn, the Chief,
  • This day, let it be well with me as I go;
  • Let it be well before me as I go;
  • Let it be well behind me as I go;
  • Let it be well beneath me as I go;
  • Let it be well above me as I go;
  • Let all I see be well as I go.
  • “Everlasting, like unto the Pollen Boy;
  • Goddess of the Evening, the beautiful Chieftess,
  • This day, let it be well with me as I go;
  • Let it be well before me as I go;
  • Let it be well behind me as I go;
  • Let it be well beneath me as I go;
  • Let it be well above me as I go;
  • Let all I see be well as I go.
  • “Now all is well, now all is well,
  • Now all is well, now all is well.”
  • (The Navajos believe in repeating a prayer, both in anticipatory and in realized form, four times, being firm in the faith that an adjuration four times repeated will bring the results they desire; the Pollen Boy is the God of Fertilization of the Flowers.)

  • “Shush-et-so-dilth-kilth
  • Pash dilth-kilth ne-kay ba-she-che-un-de-de-talth;
  • Pash dilth-kilth ne-escla ba she chee un-de-de-talth;
  • Pash dilth-kilth ne-ea ba she chee un-de-de-talth;
  • Pash dilth-kilth ne-cha ba she chee un-de-de-talth;
  • Ba ne un-ne-ga ut-sen-el-clish; net saw now-o-tilth a
  • Sit saw now-o-tilth go-ud-dish-nilth;
  • Ba sit saw ne-egay go-ud-dish-nilth;
  • Ne change nis-salth dodo ne;
  • Ne change nis-salth do-ut-saw-daw;
  • Ne change nis-salth ta-de-tenie nus-cleango-ud-is-nilth; es-ze, es-ze, es-ze, es-ze.”
  • “Big Black Bear,
  • With your black moccasins, like unto a knife, stand between me and danger;
  • With your black leggins, like unto a knife, stand between me and danger;
  • With your black shirt, like unto a knife, stand between me and danger,
  • With your black hat, like unto a knife, stand between me and danger;
  • With your charm send the lightning around you and around me;
  • By my charm tell the evil dream to leave me;
  • Let the evil dream not come true;
  • Give me medicine to dispel the evil dream;
  • The evil has missed me, the evil has missed me, the evil has missed me, the evil has missed me.”
  • (The fourfold repetition of “the evil has missed me” is held to insure the accomplishment in the future of what the prayer asserts of the past. Instead of “hat” we could say “helmet,” as the Navajos once wore a black buckskin helmet; and the knife was of black flint. Black was the war color. This prayer was to ward off the effect of a bad dream.)

    On August 17, we left Wetherill’s with our pack-train, for a three days’ trip across the Black Mesa to Walpi, where we were to witness the snake-dance of the Hopis. The desert valley where Kayentay stands is bounded on the south by a high wall of cliffs, extending for scores of miles. Our first day’s march took us up this; we led the saddle-horses and drove the pack-animals up a very rough Navajo trail which zigzagged to the top through a partial break in the continuous rock wall. From the summit we looked back over the desert, barren, desolate, and yet with a curious fascination of its own. In the middle distance rose a line of low cliffs, deep red, well-nigh blood-red, in color. In the far distance isolated buttes lifted daringly against the horizon; prominent among them was the abrupt pinnacle known as El Capitan, a landmark for the whole region.

    On the summit we were once more among pines, and we saw again the beautiful wild flowers and birds we had left on Buckskin Mountain. There were redbells and bluebells and the showy Indian paint-brushes; delicate white flowers and beautiful purple ones; rabbit-brush tipped with pale yellow, and the brighter yellow of the Navajo gorse; and innumerable others. I saw a Louisiana tanager; the pinyon jays were everywhere; ravens, true birds of the wilderness, croaked hoarsely.

    From the cliff crest we travelled south through a wild and picturesque pass. The table-land was rugged and mountainous; but it sloped gradually to the south, and the mountains changed to rounded hills. It was a dry region, but with plenty of grama-grass, and much of it covered with an open forest of pinyon and cedar. After eight hours’ steady jogging along Indian trails, and across country where there was no trail, we camped by some muddy pools of rain-water which lay at the bottom of a deep washout. Soon afterward a Navajo family passed camp; they were travelling in a wagon drawn by a mule and a horse, and the boys of the family were driving a big herd of sheep and goats. The incident merely illustrated the real progress the Indians are making, and how far they already are from pure savagery.

    Next morning the red dawn and the flushed clouds that heralded the sunrise were very lovely. Only those who live and sleep in the open fully realize the beauty of dawn and moonlight and starlight. As we journeyed southward the land grew more arid; and the water was scarce and bad. In the afternoon we camped on a dry mud-flat, not far from a Navajo sheep-farmer, who soon visited us. Two Navajos were travelling with us; merry, pleasant fellows. One of them had a .22 Winchester rifle, with which he shot a couple of prairie-dogs—which he and his friend roasted whole for their supper, having previously shared ours.

    Next day at noon we climbed the steep, narrow rock ridge on whose summit rise the three Hopi towns at one of which, Walpi, the snake-dance was to be held. The clustered rock villages stood in bold outline, on the cliff top, against the blue sky. In all America there is no more strikingly picturesque sight.