Navaho Indian Farmers
The Navaho are a pastoral, semi-nomadic people whose activities centre in their flocks and small farms. Their reservation of more than fourteen thousand square miles is the desert plateau region of northern Arizona and New Mexico. Its mesas and low mountains are sparsely covered with piñon and cedar, and on the higher levels are small but beautiful forests of pine. Back and forth in all parts of this vast region the Navaho drive their flocks. At the season when the slight rainfall produces even scant pasturage on the desert plains the flocks are pastured there; but as the grass becomes seared by the summer sun and exhausted from pasturing, the flocks are taken into the mountains, where the shade of the pines lends grateful coolness. Again, as the deep snows of winter come, the sheep and goats are driven down to the wooded mesas, where there is little snow and an abundance of fuel, of which there is none on the plains. And so, year in, year out, the flocks slowly drift back and forth from plain to mesa and from mesa to mountain.
While the Navaho leads a wandering life, the zone of his movements is surprisingly limited; indeed the average Navaho's personal knowledge of his country is confined to a radius of not more than fifty miles. The family usually has three homes, the situation of which is determined by the necessities of life. Near their summer home they cultivate small crops of corn and vegetables in narrow, sandy washes, where by deep planting sufficient moisture is insured to mature the crop. In a few sections small farming is conducted by means of irrigation. In Cañon de Chelly, which may be termed the garden spot of the reservation, there are diminutive forms and splendid peach orchards irrigated with fresher water. The cañon drains an extensive region, and even a light] rain causes the stream which flows at the base of its lofty walls to become swollen. This water the natives divert to their miniature cornfields and orchards, one or two freshets assuring good crops.