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The Long Walk: The Forced Navajo Exile by Jennifer Denetdale

The Long Walk: the Forced Navajo Exile is an excellent title in the Landmark Events in Native American History series by Chelsea House and made me want to devour every title in the series. I found myself compelled to take this title with me everywhere to read and ponder.

Marketed for grades 9 up, I wondered why this title would not be for middle schoolers so I read it. I plan to include it in the eighth grade unit on Native Americans and to proudly display it on our new book shelves. I believe this is a series that MUST be on every high school library and public library book shelf, plus I believe it will be of strong interest to many middle schoolers. 

If you have history teachers who touch upon Native American history while dashing through early American history, you owe it to your students to provide the depth and breadth of experiences offered by this series. Your students need a balance of viewpoints from Native and non-Native historians.

In 144 pages, Jennifer Denetdale manages to incorporate research and stories to provide a wider viewpoint of this event in Diné (or Navajo) and American history. I found the treatment to be very even-handed with acknowledgements to varying viewpoints by historians. More than just a text about the forced exile and series of marches to Bosque Redondo, this book offers a fascinating glimpse of Diné life, origins, means to keep history alive, and commitment to remembering the past . I appreciate Debbie Reese pointing out this title to me, even though I didn’t read her review until today.

The series description says "Landmark Events in Native American History examines some of the most historically significant events experienced by the indigenous people of the United States, from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries." The series editor is Paul C. Rosier. What impressed me most about this series was the viewpoint from Native people. This is a very well-researched title in the series. I was most impressed with the end material. 

Teachers could easily use the Chronology, Timeline, Notes pages, Bibliography, and Further Reading sections to expand student opportunities for further research. The listing of web sites, CD recordings, and even the picture credits are very useful.

I was also excited to read the variety of titles in this series. Despite school librarians’ work in expanding teacher’s viewpoints, many teachers still focus upon only one Indian nation that they feel is "relevant" to their local history. For example, in many Tennessee schools you will find a large number of titles on The Trail of Tears and Cherokee history. Fewer schools have the broad range of native experiences found in this series:

The Apache Wars
Black Hawk and the War of 1832
Code Talkers and Warriors
King Phillip’s War
Little Bighorn
The Long Walk
Red Power
The Trail of Tears

The author of The Long Walk, Jennifer Denetdale, is a Navajo of the T³’ógi [Zia] and ‘Ashiih [Salt] clans. Originally from Tohatchi, New Mexico, she earned her Ph.D. in history from Northern Arizona University in 1999. Her research interests include Southwest Native American and Navajo history. She is the author of Reclaiming Diné History: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita. (information obtained from publisher’s website)

You can read an interview with Jennifer Denetdale on KUED from the University of Utah’s site. 

I could not write a good-enough review to give this title its justice, so I hope you will read Debbie Reese’s review. While we may differ on our views of many things, I must concur that this work is an outstanding example of Native American history.