Char Peery

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This dissertation explores how with the New Deal, the US government committed itself to the construction of a Navajo ethnonation or a democratic polity that could interface with the US federal government. For my research methodology I used archival research and examined the papers of linguist Robert Young, a linguist and BIA employee who throughout his decades of work with the Navajo Tribe compiled some of the most extensive documentary material on the Navajo language, as well as his published works. I examined documents including correspondence between linguists Robert W Young and J.P. Harrington, dictionaries and other linguistic materials for evidence of the US governments efforts. In looking at Young's work with the Navajo I show how he endeavored to create a standard register of Navajo for use in political and educational institutions, helped to develop democratic political institutions on the reservation and worked to model a modern ethnic Navajo who was integrated into the United State's wage labor and market economy. In this dissertation I look at some of the early ethnographic work that has been done on the Navajo tribe. I then discuss language documentation projects and some of the critiques that have been made as well as strides that have been made to improve such projects and consider what a change from an ethnolinguistic paradigm to a historical dialectic paradigm could offer. I then give a little background discussion about the New Deal to provide some historical background for my discussion of Young's linguistic work with the Navajo. I then reflect a little more on the two paradigms, exploring their intellectual roots. I then conclude by looking at the ethnonational paradigm in larger, historic nation building projects in Europe and how these ideologies have been mapped onto new nations.'


Navajo, New Deal, Language Standardization, Language Documentation

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Debenport, Erin

Second Committee Member

Axelrod, Melissa

Third Committee Member

Connell-Szasz, Margaret

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