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