Sarah Natani interview
Translating For KUED and PBS
By Phyllis Whitehorse
Tell me the stories of the long walk. Please tell me the things that happened to your ancestors?
These people who were herded to Hweeldi were herded; they did not just traveled with patience but herded with force. They all suffered when they were herded some of them died of hunger, thirst, disease and some died from those terrible situations. My late grandfather was not part of the herd. Both of my grandparents did not go there. My mother told us stories that my grandparents told her. My grandfather told stories about some of the event he could remember. My grandfather told stories about a time when he and his grandmother hid on the rims of Canyon de Chelly and all they had to eat was (liashoo). One time he came upon a group of people that gathered there who were not Navajo but had similar language. He saw a Hogan like home made out of (shahio) when he went to that home there were meat hanging and he wanted to take a piece of meat so he weighted them to see which is lighter so it will be easier to carry. So he took the piece of the meat which was attached to the ribs he picked that because it weighted lighter than the others. As he was sneaking the meat close to the red canyon the people who lived there saw him and shouted that something came in and took something out and running that way. He started running towards the rocks; I’m sure at that time people used to run real fast. He ran and hid under the rock so he laid there with the ribs he stole. He was listening to the people who were chasing him as he lay underneath the rock. One of the people who were chasing him spoke up and said, “Let’s stop chasing him. I think he is the evil spirit (chidi)”. So after they all left he crawled out and by that time of the day it was almost dark so he hurried back to his grandmother. As he was approaching to where his grandmother was at, he could hear her talking, “Where is my baby (Shieawee) where has he gone! He always comes back by this time of the evening and I’m worried he might be caught”. So he came back inside and he looked around to see who she was talking to but could not see anyone. He told his grandmother the reason why he came back late was because he took meat from the village. His grandmother just cried with happiness that he came back. His grandmother cut small pieces of meat and made it into gravy so it could last long. One day they left where they were staying at and came to a place called (tsahotso) Fort Defiance and noticed some people standing in line to receive food. I guess that was where some of the people who were herded lived. When they got there someone said, “Hey! This is our boy” it was his father that took a hold of his shoulder. This father asked where his grandmother and he told them where she was so that is where some relatives reunited.
How did you feel about your ancestors who made the long walk, the way they were treated, how did that make you feel?
I think both sides suffered when they went on the long walk. The one that went there had suffered from hunger. They had a hard time and my husband’s father used to tell about it.
Well, these people who were herded to Hweeldi really suffered and when they were herded there they died of hunger and illness, some of them died on the way. On the way, they were so hungry that they ate the grains that the horses ate. It went as far as some of the people ate the horse droppings because food was so scarce. Some children used to dig for corn that was fed to horses so the people could grind it up to make food to eat. It was an awful sight even the ones who were not herded there all of them had suffered badly from hunger and illness. Some of the people started eating (hizaalieh) and (gloshin) they gathered those to survive. Foods like chilchin (berries) and wenishidii (locust). But our voices were heard that is why we are here today. The people who were captured prayed some of them are our beloved grandparents and their prayers were answered and that is why to this day we are here. We are very appreciative that they made it back to our land and now our children don’t live like that.
Well, the people who gathered them maybe they are the white people or maybe Mexican people. They suffered from everything, some of the girls who were captured were pretty and maybe those are the reasons why so they could rape them. These are just the stories that were told to us. My grandmother was also captured so she could be a slave to the capturers she was taken to Colorado.