Language

Continuing with ancestral language, the Navajos still speak the language they’ve known for hundreds of years. The language of the Navajo is derived from a dialect of the language group known as Athabaskan. Linguistic evidence has shown a connection between the two tribes and ancient petroglyphs found throughout the southwest are still recognized and understood by today’s Navajo. The Navajo language is considered one of the most complex and difficult to learn. While close to the Apache language, it has no relation to other Native American languages. The first known writing of the Navajo language surfaced in 1849 in the Journal of a Military Reconnaissance by Lt. James H. Simpson. A word list was published in this text.

As missionaries developed and created different spellings and forms of grammar, and as varying religious texts and dictionaries emerged, it was realized that a standard alphabet would need to be implemented. John Collier, head of Indian Affairs, along with Willard Beatty, head of Indian Education, hired four men to create the Navajo alphabet along with Navajo publications and language documents. The push for literacy and the newly created alphabet was not held in high regard by the tribal members