The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991 Page: 357
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several thousand Navajos in country north and west of the reservation,
and there began at once further movement of bands and individual
families into the drainage of the San Juan River-the northern Navajo
frontier of McPherson's book.
This succinct monograph analyzes what must be a unique result of
federal Indian policy: the successful resistance of one Native American
people to encroachment on their land, followed by immense expansion
of that land into a white frontier. Who but the Navajo not only acquired
the geographic area they wanted by an unbroken treaty but also in-
creased the area time and again after fending off the claims of home-
steaders, miners, and cattlemen? "This was accomplished," writes
McPherson, "not through war and as a concerted effort, but by an ag-
gressive defensive policy built on individual action that varied with
changing circumstances" (p. 2).
McPherson's little book blends judiciously digested anthropology with
solid historical narrative and disarmingly simple explanation. Discount-
ing the brief introductory and summary chapters, he describes a star-
tling phenomenon of Southwest white-Indian relations in only seventy-
four pages. After "Setting the Stage" (chapter i) McPherson untangles
the complexity of Navajo-Ute-Paiute relations and brings the bustling
Mormon settlers onto the San Juan. The more exciting conflict with
Colorado-Missouri subsistence farmers and open-range stockraisers is
told with restraint, followed by an examination of trade on the San
Juan frontier. Then the politics of changing the reservation boundary
unfolds with a hint of the coming twentieth-century dispute over water.
When we reach his concluding chapter we are ready to believe that in-
dividualistic, dispersed groups of Navajos really did evolve an effective
means of preserving their pastoral lifeway. If not a "policy" in the
white political sense, their actions were concerted enough to achieve
McPherson has used official records of Navajo-government relations
and a broad array of personal papers and journals to reconstruct the
story of Navajo expansion down to 90oo. Especially impressive is his
use of a vast anthropological literature, much of it contradictory and
ahistorical. Only one dimension of the narrative is neglected: the mili-
tary presence on the San Juan. All references to "the cavalry" are sec-
ond or thirdhand. No military record groups in the National Archives
were used for what could have shown enlightened commentary on
other parties-Indian, Mormon, cattleman, and miner. That is a small
omission, however, and his book should find a place in every library of
Northern Arizona Unzversity
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991, periodical, 1991; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/m1/401/: accessed October 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.