The Navajo depopulation of Dinétah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The ancestral heartland of the Navajo people (Diné) is Dinétah, an area of northwestern New Mexico centered around the Largo and Gobernador drainages. The date of the Navajo entry into the area remains the subject of debate, but there is abundant evidence of an intensive and extensive Navajo occupation of the area in the 1500s-1700s. There is also ample evidence that the area was depopulated, if not abandoned, by the 1770s. Traditionally, the Navajo "abandonment" of Dinetah as a habitation region in the mid-1700s has been considered a seminal event in Navajo cultural development. Drought and Ute raiding have been invoked as causes for a Navajo migration toward the south and west. In this paper, I suggest that the emigration was a long-term social process that involved many push and pull factors. It began much earlier than previously thought, and the area continued to be used intermittently for many years after it was supposedly abandoned. This reevaluation of the abandonment has important implications for the protohistoric and early historic period archaeology and history of large areas of northern New Mexico and Arizona.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-527
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Anthropological Research
Volume64
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008

Fingerprint

Mexico
cultural development
emigration
social process
drought
evidence
archaeology
Depopulation
occupation
migration
cause
event
history
Abandonment
History
Early Historic Period
Cultural Development
Long-term Social Processes
Archaeology
Largo

Keywords

  • Dendroarchaeology
  • Dinétah
  • Early Navajo
  • Migration
  • Paleoclimate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology

Cite this

The Navajo depopulation of Dinétah. / Towner, Ronald H.

In: Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol. 64, No. 4, 12.2008, p. 511-527.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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