Today, they are the largest Native American tribe in the United States.
When Spaniards and Mexicans arrived in the area in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Navajo fought to remain free. But the intruders changed the Navajo way of life. Sheep, introduced by the Spanish, became an important source of food, their wool was used in the weaving of colorful blankets and rugs. Horses allowed the Navajo to travel long distances. And Mexican silversmiths taught them how to make beautiful turquoise and silver jewelry.
When the U.S. acquired the region in 1848, the struggle over Navajo lands grew intense. Years of warfare and forced resettlement resulted in the death of thousands. Finally, in 1868, the government signed a peace treaty with the Navajo that returned a portion of their homeland.
Over the years, the tribe began to benefit from oil, gas, and coal that were found on its land.
Today, 150,00 Navajo live on a reservation that covers 25,000 square miles. The reservation is three times the size of Massachusetts! They maintain a strong sense of tribal identify while continuing to play an important role in the live of America’s Southwest.