Publication Date

Spring 12-1-2013


This dissertation research is based on a community oral history project about Tse\u0301hootsooi\u0301 or Fort Defiance, Arizona, a predominantly Navajo community. Colonial historical narratives of Fort Defiance selectively focus on the non-Navajo institutions that developed within the community: hospital, boarding school, and trading posts; in response, local residents oral histories challenge settler colonial narratives and speak to the events and places that make this community significant to Navajo history. Through the theoretical lens of decolonization and critical indigenous theory, my research addresses Navajo historical representation, the production of settler colonial narratives and community residents' efforts to assert sovereignty through Navajo epistemologies of knowledge and oral histories (Denetdale 2007; Trouillot 1997). As part of this dissertation, I examine historical representations of the Fort Defiance community and resident's responses to dominant discourse about their community (Trouillot 1997). I am concerned with Navajo conceptions of place and community as well as the intersections of power and narrative that have created dominant historical narratives about Fort Defiance and Navajo peoples and responses to those narratives (Donham 1990; Trouillot 1997). My dissertation juxtaposes critiques of colonial constructions of Navajo history and community with oral narratives of Navajo residents that utilize emergent uses of narrative to affirm Navajo conceptions of community and history. Through an examination of Navajo historiography, the connections between landscape, memory and oral histories and the contributions of Dine\u0301 women to the wage labor economy of Fort Defiance, my work addresses the paucity of Navajo perspectives and oral histories within written Navajo history about Fort Defiance.'


Oral history, Navajo history, Ft. Defiance

Project Sponsors

Jacobs Research grant from the Whatcom Museum, a Phillips Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society, an Independent Graduate Student Research Grant from the Institute for American Indian Research (IfAIR) at the University of New Mexico, and an Independent Student Research Grant, (SRAC), from the University of New Mexico.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Debenport, Erin

Second Committee Member

Denetdale, Jennifer

Third Committee Member

Watkins, Joe

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