History ETDs


Sonia Dickey

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This dissertation spotlights indigenous encounters with Glen Canyon Dam and places Native peoples, especially the Diné, at the center of the dam story. In doing so, it exposes the façade masquerading a less pleasant and creditable reality surrounding the dam than historians have conventionally offered. Considering traditional knowledge; relationships to homeland; pivotal moments in Navajo history, such as the Long Walk and the Bosque Redondo and the stock reduction of the 1930s and 1940s; as well as mid-century Navajo Tribal Council concerns, this study uncovers a multifaceted story of water and energy development in the Southwest. In this version, the Navajo Tribal Council becomes a major player. Through its efforts to secure irrigation projects, beneficial land deals, valuable waterfront property, and advantageous mineral leases, the council actively participated in the environmental degradation of Dinétah (the original Navajo homeland). Its deeds reflected the exploits of the federal bureaucracies and politicians attempting to orchestrate the entire scheme. The actions of Native leaders and their push for much needed revenue on the Navajo Reservation during the postwar era resulted in a form of internal colonialism through resource development that mirrored the efforts of external interests to turn habitat into money, all at the expense of the tribal councils constituents. The People, those Diné who resisted both internal and external forces urging them to abandon their ancestral ties to a particular place, whether McCracken Mesa in San Juan County, Utah, Manson Mesa near Page, Arizona, Rainbow Bridge in San Juan County, Utah, or Black Mesa, Arizona, possessed a profound connection to their motherland, an unbreakable bond that embraced both the physical and metaphysical worlds around them. Equipped with generations of lore, both practical and mythic, the People related lifeways and experiential methods appropriate to their respective homeland. 'Sacrilege in Dinétah: Native Encounters with Glen Canyon Dam' aims to highlight the People's struggle for self-determination, tribal sovereignty, and religious freedom while they combated a representative government run amuck. Themes of relocation and resistance emerge, both exemplifying the People's profound connection to the desert world enveloping them.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Cahill, Cathleen

Second Committee Member

Truett, Samuel

Third Committee Member

Pearson, Byron



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