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Necessity and hope: The Navajo Nation and the Civilian Conservation Corps

CHINLE

Courtesy photo | Navajo Nation Museum Archives, Milton Snow Collection
A Navajo CCC-ID worker poses at Chaco Canyon.

When hiking here in the middle of the Navajo Nation, you stumble upon small, surprising, beautiful things in the middle of nowhere.

A grassy flat that, upon closer inspection, was created by a rough earthen dam across a little wash. The remnants of a carefully crafted stone water trough or sheep dip. A forgotten windmill. When you ask the younger people about these things, they just shrug.

Ask someone over 70, and the almost invariable response is, “Oh, that’s probably from the CCC.” Between 1933 and 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps employed 3 million jobless men (and a few women), including my grandfather, and quite possibly, yours.

Vestiges of their work — buildings, conservation projects, even murals and musical compositions — survive today in every state in the country. What many Americans don’t know is that the CCC had an “Indian Division” that employed 85,000 Native Americans, usually on their own reservations.


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About The Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at cyurth@navajotimes.com.