The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

March 21, 2014

Navajo woman family's last link to monument land

(Continued)

"In general, units of the National Park Service are not managed to hold private residences on public land," she said. "The situation the National Park Service tried to be sensitive to does not exist for the other families."

Smith was born at Wupatki a month before it became a national monument, and was raised there by her father, Clyde Peshlakai, who acted as the monument's custodian. Clyde Peshlakai is credited with discovering the Wupatki "blowhole," a geologic feature that either forces cold air from the ground or sucks in warm air. His burial site is a two-room stone house visible from the road that loops around the monument.

Along the rugged road that leads to Smith's home are reminders of Navajo homesteads: old sheep corrals, wooden logs pitched for a sweat lodge and a traditional Navajo dwelling where Smith's great-grandfather, Peshlakai Etsidi, is buried. Etsidi was among thousands of Navajos who endured cold, disease and starvation in the U.S. government's attempt to relocate them to Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner, N.M., in what's known as the Long Walk.

Etsidi returned to northern Arizona around 1870 after the Navajos signed a treaty with the federal government that defined a reservation for the tribe.

The reservation did not include land that would become Wupatki National Monument, where Etsidi and other Navajos resettled. Their children made a playground of its low-lying grasslands, sandstone outcroppings and scrub brush. Herding sheep, a staple of Navajo tradition and a sign of wealth, was an everyday task.

But the Park Service feared overgrazing and asked Navajos to move their sheep off the monument at times and imposed herd limits. Members of the Peshlakai family said they were forced to move beyond the Little Colorado River.

Elsie Tohannie said she was in her late teens or early 20s when a former monument superintendent told her the family wasn't eligible to live there.

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