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'Up Heartbreak Hill' in Context

Navajo Nation

The Navajo Nation reservation is the largest Indian reservation in the United States, sprawling across parts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. At 27,000 square miles, it is roughly the size of West Virginia. The tribe has a population over 300,000, with 87 percent of all Navajo American Indians living on the reservation.



The reservation and the surrounding area, notably Monument Valley near Kayenta, Arizona, and Canyon de Chelly near Chinle, Arizona, are among the premier locations for landscape photography in the United States. The landscape varies from arid desert to alpine forests.

The town of Navajo featured in the film is located in McKinley County in New Mexico. According to the 2010 Census, in this county there is a Navajo population of 1,645 people with an average annual per capita income of $6,124 and a poverty rate of 65.6 percent. McKinley County has a poverty rate of 33 percent, the highest for any county in the state of New Mexico. About 30 percent of Navajo residents hold high school diplomas and 1.7 percent of the residents hold bachelor's degrees.

The language of the Navajo people, Diné bizaad, is similar to the language of tribes originating from Alaska and other northwest regions. This language in the Athabascan family is unique to North America; there are very few written texts in Diné bizaad.

Did you know…

Using the Navajo language, 29 Navajo U.S. Marines developed an unbreakable military code during World War II. Known as the "Navajo code talkers," they provided unparalleled code efforts that saved lives, especially at the Battle of Iwo Jima. According to Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima."
» The Official Website of the Navajo Code Talkers

The Fred Harvey Company was a key player in developing the tourism industry of the Southwest. In 1876, businessman Fred Harvey opened a restaurant in the Santa Fe Railroad's Topeka, Kansas depot. Quickly, Harvey began opening other restaurant/hotel combinations, known as Harvey Houses, along the railroad's route. The Harvey Company developed into the first large restaurant chain in the nation. For tourists, a Harvey House was synonymous with good food, comfortable lodging, and friendly service.
»Learning Center of the American Southwest

Caption: Asaayi Road in Navajo, NM   Credit: Photo courtesy of Anthony Thosh Collins

» Donovan, Bill. "Census: Navajo Enrollment Tops 300,000." Navajo Times, July 7, 2011
» First Voices
» Navajo Nation
» Navajo Nation. "Department of Diné Education."
» The Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development.
» Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
» United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Geographic Area of Focus: Navajo Nations."
» U.S. Department of the Interior. "Indian Affairs."
» U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Indian Health Service."
» Yurth, Cindy. "Census: Native Count Jumps by 27 Percent." Navajo Times, January 26, 2012.



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