The Navajo Indians are an indigenous tribe of the American southwest, the second largest recognized tribe in the United States. More then three-fourths of all Navajo live in Arizona and New Mexico, including on the Navajo reservation in the Four Corners region.
During World War II, many Navajo served as code talkers. Some 400 men relayed radio messages in the Navajo language, which the Japanese were unable to understand.
Traditionally, the Navajo Indians were hunter/gatherers, growing corn, beans, and squash with techniques they had learned from the Pueblo. The ancestors of the Navajo migrated to the southwest around AD 1400, and many traditional oral histories retain stories from this early stage. In the 1640s, the Spanish began referring to these tribes as “Navajo,” but their traditional name is “Diné.”
The United States first came into contact with the Navajo in 1846, when General Kearny invaded Santa Fe during the Mexican-American War. In 1849, the Navajo signed their first treaty with the US, after which the United States began constructing military forts in Navajo territory. In 1861, Kit Carson led a campaign against the Navajo, forcing their surrender in 1863 at Canyon de Chelly. Traditionally, the Navajo Indians are known for their silversmith work and weaving. However, many Navajo Indians today live in abject poverty on the reservation, similar to the plight of many other Native Americans.