In 1863, the U.S. Army decimated the Navajo Angora Goats and Navajo Churro Sheep in retribution for continued Native American Indian depredations. Because the Navajo Indians resisted the settlers who were encroaching on their homelands, the U.S. government ordered military actions led by Kit Carson and John Carlton along with 700 troops with instructions to destroy Navajo livestock. There was much bloodshed and in 1865 approximately 9,000 Navajos were forced on the Long Walk of 300 miles to an interment camp at Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. The Navajo way of life was altered from pastoral herders to sedentary prisoners. Terrible conditions here caused the death of many Navajo people.
Some Navajos escaped capture and hid with their Navajo Goats and Sheep in remote canyons of New Mexico and Arizona. English words cannot describe the value Navajo Angora Goats and Churro Sheep have had in the Navajo economy, spirituality and ways of life. Ripple effects shot through their society rendering them ever more dependent on the US Government and non-agricultural sources of income. As their agrarian way of life declined, so did the health of their land and well-being of their people. Many Elders have told us that “when the goats and sheep left the land, the water went away, the grass died and then the people left.”
In 1868, a treaty was signed, and a reservation was established within a portion of Navajo Country (Dine’tah) and the Navajo returned to their homeland. By 1930, because the Navajo were such good shepherds, their mixed flocks grew to almost 575,000. The U.S. government then felt the flocks were causing premature siltation on a new dam being built on the Colorado River named Hoover Dam. In 1934, the federal government initiated a Stock Reduction and roughly 30% of each Navajo household’s goat’s, sheep and horses were slaughtered by government agents and piled in canyon ravines or burned. Slightly over 1 million goats, sheep and horses were killed during this era. Even today, you can still find remains of all those livestock exterminated. This terrifying Stock Reduction is still vivid in Navajo memory.
By the 1950’s, Navajo children were ordered by the government to boarding schools where they were punished for speaking Navajo and taught to be “civilized”. Since schools were often far from home, the children missed ceremonies vital to Navajo culture. They no longer herded goats and sheep with their grandparents where they heard stories of their people and lived their culture.
A few Navajo families hid in the canyons and successfully maintained the original “old type” Navajo Angora Goats and Navajo Churro Sheep in these isolated areas where no other goat and sheep breeds were introduced. Angora Goats and Churro Sheep provided their families with meat and milk for food, sinew for thread and fiber for weaving that had sustained the Dine’ (Navajo) for centuries.
Diné (Navajo) weaving is a sacred art, embodying creation stories, prayers and ceremonial practices of the ancient and historical past. In weaving, the individual preserves hózhó, the concept that combines order, beauty, balance and harmony. Navajo weavings are like a language with symbols that carry meanings embedded with specific historical, cultural and familial contexts. One of the more important themes in Navajo weavings is the attribute of colors and their multiple meanings. In addition to blankets and rugs, Navajo weavers also produce other woven items including saddle cinches, dresses, sash belts, leggings and socks.
According to Navajo legend, it is said that Spider Woman instructed the Navajo women how to weave on a loom which her husband Spider Man told them how to make. The crosspoles were made of sky and earth cords to support the structure; the warp sticks of sun rays lengthwise to cross the wool; the heddles of rock crystals and sheet lightning to maintain the original condition of fibers. The batten was a sun halo to seal joints; and a white shell made the comb. There were four spindles—one a stick of zigzag lightning with a whorl of coal, the second a stick of flash lightning with a whorl of turquoise, a third a stick of sheet lightning with a whorl of abalone, the fourth a rain streamer with a whorl formed of white shell. Still today when a baby girl is born, Navajo parents rub a spider’s web on the arms and legs of the child to make sure her fingers will never tire when she weaves and that the Spider Woman’s gift will be passed on.
Foundation Navajo Heritage Angora Goats
Navajo Angora Goats
Spike’s Nataani 2017
Jaad Kaadi Dot 2014
Shima Helen 2018
Nali (Blue) Betty 2018
Bonnie (B/W Belt) 2017
Bonnie (B/W Belt) 2017
Yanabah (Black/Tan/White Lightbelly Blue) 2017
Nali (1454 Dot) 2020
Hozho (Yazzie Dot) 2020
Nizhoni (Cream Apricot Blue) (Yanabah Dot) 2020
JB Buck (Cream Apricot) (Bonnie Boy) 2020
Jaad Kaadi, Too (Solid White Blue) (Jaad Kaadi Dot) 2020
Jaad Kaadi (White Solid Blue) 2011
WB 1457 2014
Nali (1454 Dot) FEMALE DOB 2-25-20
Hozho (Yazzie Dot) FEMALE DOB 4-7-20
Nizhoni (Cream Apricot Blue) (Yanabah Dot) FEMALE 2-19-20
JB Buck (Cream Apricot) (Bonnie Boy) MALE DOB 6-19-20
Jaad Kaadi, Too (Solid White Blue) (Jaad Kaadi Dot) FEMALE DOB 2-25-20