50 Years Ago: Literature textbook draws parents’ ire

Parents of students going to Shiprock High School were up in arms over an 11th-grade literature book in use by the Central Consolidated School District.

Led by Carl Todacheenie, the councilman for Shiprock, the group of 10 parents demanded to have a meeting with school officials to present their complaints and demand that the district stop using the textbook on American literature published by the Houghlin-Mifflen Co.

This protest had been brewing for almost a month since a parent read passages from the book dealing with the American Indian. Selections were from short stories written by writers such as Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin.

In the pages they read, the stories written in the late 1700s and 1800s described Indians as “bloody heathens” and “barbarians.”

The group issued a statement saying these phrases and others of a similar vein “degrade us as Navajo Indian people, it distorts our history and it attests to the failure of our school system to educate not only American Indian students but whites and blacks as well.”

William Cathrey, the school superintendent, told the parents who attended the meeting he agreed that such statements could have an affect on Indian students attending the high school. However, he thought there was a good possibility that all American literature textbooks would have disparaging remarks about Indians and Blacks because that was a common belief by writers in the 1700s and 1800s.

He said to counter this, maybe teachers should skip over the writings that put Indians and Blacks in a bad light. But this could be viewed as an attempt by the school district to ignore historical views.

He said he would bring up the matter at the school board meeting and parents would have an opportunity to present their complaint.

More trouble for ranchers

It seems that the collapse of the wool market was not the only problem that Navajo ranchers and farmers were facing the summer of 1971.

Navajo Tribal Chairman Peter MacDonald said the tribe had submitted to the federal government a request of $1.1 million in disaster relief because of the continuing drought conditions on the reservation.

The money, he said, would be used to haul water to Navajo families for their livestock. It would also be used to provide feed. This should be enough, said MacDonald, to tide the Navajo farmers and ranchers over until mid-August when the annual monsoon season begins on the reservation.

The problem existed in all parts of the reservation, MacDonald said. Usually these kinds of requests take several weeks to go through the channels but MacDonald promised to put a rush on the request because the Navajo families needed the relief in a hurry.

Chili chef’s secret revealed

If you were a member of the Twin Lakes Chapter in the early 1970s, you would know who William Cadman was and his fame was growing in other parts of the reservation.
He was known far and wide for his chili.

He told the Navajo Times he got requests from all over asking what his secret was. It’s no secret, he said, providing the Times with the recipe for his famous chili.

Ingredients were three pounds of chili meat, two pounds of beef suet or fat (chili plate grind), 12 oz chili powder, one tablespoon black pepper, (comino seed), red pepper is optional, three cups of tomato puree, four medium onions (diced), three tablespoons of salt, and six cloves of garlic (diced).

1. Cut meat in half cubes.
2. Fry it in a pot that holds four or six quarts.
3. Put in onions and fry until they are well browned.
4. Drain excess suet or fat.
5. Add five cups of water and the other ingredients.
6. Simmer for two hours.

Code Talkers’ reunion

Tribal officials announced that there would be a reunion off Navajo Code Talkers in July. This was the first official action by the newly created Department of Veterans Affairs.
The event was being organized by Martin Link, director of the Navajo Tribal Museum.

This may have been the first official reunion ever held by the Code Talkers because this would mark the first time that steps were made to gather accounts of the Code Talkers during the war.

Link said each Code Talker who attended the event would have a chance to tell their accounts into a tape recorder. The tapes would be preserved by the tribal museum so future generations of Navajos would be able to hear first-hand the role their ancestors played in winning the war.

Several Navajo artists would also be on hand to sketch out some of these events. To help in bringing historic perspective to these tapes and sketches, Code Talkers were asked to bring with them any photographs that were taken during the war.


About The Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.

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