Lucy Harvey lived on the dessert, on a flat stretch of sand near a rocky bluff. She died 20 years ago. Yet on this bleak land - where nothing lives without a struggle - something of this woman survives, even flourishes.
Near the hogan that her husband built, sheep graze. The sheep are descended from Lucy Harvey's herds. The woman who cares for the sheep is her daughter.This morning a 3-year-old boy is wandering near her hogan, too. He kicks a bright yellow football through the unrelenting autumn sun. He kicks, scrambles after the ball, kicks again. His long hair bounces, reflects the light.
The boy is Harvey's great-great-grandson, Joshua. While he waits for lunch, Joshua plays on the ground where Lucy played as a child.
Three generations of Harvey's children - her daughter Bessie, and Bessie's daughter Elsie, and Elsie's son Manuel - have built homes near hers, in the shadow of the bluff.
Bessie's in her 80s now; Elsie is in her 50s; and Manuel's nearly 30.
Every day Manuel and his wife bring their preschool children to Bessie. The two little boys spend the afternoon with her while their parents work. Manuel wants his children to speak Navajo and to know their own culture. He wants them to learn from their great-grandmother, the way he learned from his great-grandmother, Lucy.
Lucy Harvey taught her children how to live. What to value. Now, three and four generations later, her English-speaking, sneaker-wearing descendants have forgotten some of what she said. But they remember some, as well.
Like Lucy, whose Navajo name means "Thin Lady," her children have both Anglo and Navajo names.
When they introduce themselves to Anglos, they often use the last name of Morgan. Bessie's husband worked on a ranch owned by a man named Morgan. He named his sons after the owner's sons, and adopted the last name, too.
But the family is also known by the name of Adakai. That's the name of the sign at Manuel's pottery factory and the name they etch on the bottom of the pots they make.
Although Lucy learned to make pots from her gandparents, Manuel learned from an Anglo. The man taught him how to use molds to achieve a perfect shape, time after time.
A few years ago, Manuel went out on his own, opening a small factory near the cluster of hogans and prefab houses where his relatives live.
Today, his mother sits in the modern kitchen of the home he built next to his factory. Elsie looks out over the land where six generations of her family have lived.
In the distance, faintly, she can see sheep. They are a light dust-color against the darker dusty hills. Elsie can make out the blue of her mother's skirt and the red of her shirt. Bessie is herding, as she does every morning, setting out before dawn, bringing the sheep back to the corral in the hot afternoons.
With Manuel and his wife, Yanua, as interpreters, Elsie explains that Lucy's greatest legacy to her family was her committment to the land and to raising livestock.
You can survive without a job, Lucy told them, but not without livestock. "You can always eat sheep, sell sheep. Don't ever be without sheep," Lucy said.
"And the land we grew up on," says Elsie, "my grandmother told me to always keep it and take care of it."
Elsie looks proud as Yanua explains that Lucy Harvey went before Congress in 1961. Lucy testified that she and others of her clan had lived on this land, near Hovenweep, in San Juan County, since the turn of the century.
At the time, the land she claimed as Navajo tribal land was not included in the reservation. Her testimony secured it.
"Lucy was a very political person," says Manuel's wife.
As it turns out, Lucy's daughter is political, too. Bessie just fought a public and losing battle against Chuska Oil, which has leases on the reservation. At one point, she stood in front of a bulldozer in a vain effort to keep people from digging up the sacred ground where she collects medicinal herbs.
"Bessie doesn't feel bitter about losing the herbal lands," Yanua explains. "Navajos can adapt and go on easier than other people can."
Yanua says that Bessie will continue to live a traditional and harmonious life, "And she will find another place. The gods will give her another herb garden."
For Lucy, Bessie, and Elsie, living in harmony with nature means following tradition. The way people dress, wear their hair, and care for children - all are significant.
Bessie and Elsie wear modest skirts, as Lucy did. And as Lucy did, they loop their long hair into a bun. Elsie explains, "When your hair is long it represents rain. And when you wear your hair in a bun, Mother Earth recognizes you as a native."
Manuel recently cut his hair. Yanua's is long, though not in a bun. They will keep their children's hair long, they agree. Before he died, Yanua's father asked her not to cut the little boys' hair.
They respect both their parents and their children. Traditional Navajos are never abusive or even harsh with children. Yanua says, "We believe children can summon the rain with their laughter."
"Not all Navajo women are good mothers," she adds. But Lucy was; Bessie and Elsie are. Whenever a child has a need, Yanua says, the mother sells a sheep.
As they talk, it becomes clear that Manuel and Yanua consider all relatives of a certain age to be their grandparents. Her husband's grandparents are hers. His grandfather's brothers are called Grandfather, too.
The extensive and supportive web of relationships was ripped, almost destroyed, during the Manuel's generation, when he and Yanua and all of their age were sent away to get an education.
Lucy went to a mission school for two days before she quit. Her daughter, Bessie went to school for a year. And her daughter Elsie stuck it out for a year as well. "A long time ago we were protective of our kids," says Elsie. "Children learned more important things at home. They learned Navajo ways."
But Elsie says her brother told her it would be best for Manuel to go to school. She sent her son to a Navajo boarding school in Aneth, for elementary school. The school was not far away, but he couldn't ride back and forth. The family didn't own a vehicle until 1976.
When he was in fifth grade, she sent Manuel to Salt Lake to live with an Anglo family. Other children teased him as he spoke his first words of English, he says, smiling. "I learned a lot. I don't regret it. But I was never here when my grandfather died."
He won't send his children away, Manuel says. "I don't need to. They go to public school. I can provide the same things." He provides for them by selling pottery, and though he sold his sheep, he says, he does own cattle.
It's nearly noon. Bessie is bringing the sheep home. And the family gathers for a photo, in front of Lucy's hogan.
Lucy Harvey would not have liked her picture taken. Bessie says she won't be photographed. She did once, during the controversy over herbal lands, allow herself to be talked into posing, says Yanua. People of her generation are still asking her why she let herself be exploited.
Elsie does pose. She seems uncomfortable smiling for the camera, though, and soon leaves for work. Elsie is an outreach worker for the homebound elderly.
As soon as he can, Manuel, too, slips sway from conversation and cameras. He stands looking through binoculars down a long valley. He's got to get to work, but before he goes inside to make pots, Lucy Harvey's great-grandson is checking on his herd.
Lucy affirms her ties to land in deposition to lands panel
From the depostition of Lucy Harvey, taken through an interpreter Jan. 18, 1961 (she testified in Washington, D.C., before Congress, April 18, 1961) for the Indian Claims Commission, as to Navajo residence, use and occupancy of certain lands:
My name is Lucy Harvey. (Census Number 19202) I am of the Kinichiini Clan. I am 72 years old. (Census tag shows age as 67, born 1893.) I was born at Dove Creek, at a place called "Tank on a Rock." I was 6 years old when my family moved from here to the Aneth area. We used to have a summer camp at a place called "Batch of Reeds." We lived in a forked pole hogan at this place. We have lived in our present hogan for 27 years.
The area I know best starts in the north at Henry Mountain, east to Cortez, south to the San Juan river, and west to the present Aneth Trading Post. When I was a young girl I helped my father, mother and grandmother herd a large band of sheep in this area; that is how I learned to know this country.
When my mother was a young girl, she was called Asdzaan Taahizbaa', "Young Woman following Warriors," by her clan, but later she became a medicine woman and they called her Asdzaan Haataai, "Lady Singer." My mother was born south of Sweet Water and east of Round Rock. The hogan my mother was born in is no longer there, because according to Navajo custom in those days, my grandmother had died in this hogan and her body and the hogan were burned together....
Lucy Harvey, her mark
(signed with a thumb print)