WEALTH, STATUS AND CHANGE AMONG THE KAIBETO PLATEAU NAVAJO (ARIZONA).
AuthorHENDERSON, ERIC BRUCE.
KeywordsNavajo Indians -- Economic conditions.
Navajo Indians -- Social conditions.
Indians of North America -- Arizona -- Economic conditions.
Indians of North America -- Arizona -- Social conditions.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis study focuses on the wealth stratification system of the Navajo of the Kaibeto Plateau. The Kaibeto Plateau was settled by the Navajo in the mid-nineteenth century. By the 1930s they had developed an economically and socially stratified society rooted in a livestock economy and influenced by institutions of the surrounding society. In the years since livestock activities have been severely constrained by the federal government: Holdings have been radically decreased and pastoralism has ceased to be the main source of income and subsistence. These changes are described and analyzed. Wealth stratification is conceived of as a phenomenon to be explained and one which has implications for the study of social change. In the 1930s a handful of families owned most of the livestock in the region. These families were, uniformly, descendants of the wealthier and more prominent early settlers. Even after federal programs destroyed the economic advantage these wealthy families possessed, the children of the relatively wealthy have, at least until recent years, continued to prosper (relative to their poorer neighbors) in various ways. They have, on average, higher levels of educational attainment and better occupational profiles. The different responses of individuals at different levels in the social hierarchy have effected the composition of the rural population. More descendants of the wealthy have moved away and/or married individuals from distant communities. Social structures which functioned in the livestock economy to integrate families in the region have disintegrated. The chapter has emerged as an important social and political unit. Although the wealthy families seemed to have dominated chapter politics initially, recent elections indicate a declining influence. The historical facts reported here indicate the importance of social variability in the study of social change. It is argued that the Navajo were never a socially homogeneous group. Thus institutional pressures and shifting government policies have not affected all families in the same manner. Such findings have implications not only for the way in which anthropologists theorize about tribal people and social change, but also have implications for those responsible government officials who seek to formulate solutions to perceived problems on contemporary American Indian reservations.