Ak'é Nýdzin, or Navajo Oshley, was born sometime between 1879
and 1893. His oral memoir is set on the northern frontier of Navajo
land, principally the San Juan River basin in southeastern Utah,
and tells the story of his early life near Dennehetso and his
travels, before there were roads or many towns, from Monument
Valley north along Comb Ridge to Blue Mountain. During the late
19th and early 20th centuries, Anglos and Navajos expanded their
use and settlement of lands north of the San Juan. Grazing lands
and the Anglo wage economy drew many Navajos across the river.
Oshley, a sheepherder, was among the first to settle there. He
cared for the herds of his extended family, while also taking
supplemental jobs with the growing livestock industry in the
His narrative is woven with vivid and detailed portraits of
Navajo culture: clan relationships, marriages and children,
domestic life, the importance of livestock, complex relations with
the natural world, ceremonies, trading, and hand trembling.
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