Wednesday, September 28, 2005


I have an interest in forced migrations and the resulting victim diasporas. In particular I find the question of why different displaced groups had different levels of cultural retention and political mobilization to be engrossing. Most of my research in this area has been on the deported peoples of the Soviet Union.

Since moving to Arizona, however, I have been trying to read up on the history of the region. In particular I have found the history of the Navajo or as they call themselves Dineh to be fascinating. In 1864, the US military deported most of the Navajo population from their homeland to Bosque Redondo. The Navajos refer to this ethnic cleansing as the "Long Walk." More than 9,000 Navajos found themselves confined to the Bosque Redondo reservation. Poor living conditions here resulted in over 2,000 Navajo deaths. In 1868, the US government allowed the survivors to return to the Dinehtah (land of the Navajos). This part of their history is quite similar to that of some of the deported Soviet nationalities such as the Chechens, Ingush, Karachais, Balkars and Kalmyks.

Despite the trauma of the "Long Walk" and their exile at Bosque Redondo, the Navajos have done a better job at retaining their language and way of life than almost any other Native American nation. I am interested in the factors that account for the differences in cultural retention between the Navajos and other native nations. Such a comparison represents an interesting parallel to my own work on deported nationalities in the USSR. I have just started reading about the complex history and culture of the Navajos, so I do not know what I will find regarding these matters.

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