Briefly Noted: Dreaming of Sheep in Navajo Country

Dreaming of Sheep in Navajo Country, by Marsha L. Weisiger, Foreword by William Cronon, paperback (University of Washington Press, October 25, 2011), 418 pages.

From the Publisher: Dreaming of Sheep in Navajo Country offers a fresh interpretation of the history of Navajo (Diné) pastoralism. The dramatic reduction of livestock on the Navajo Reservation in the 1930s  –  when hundreds of thousands of sheep, goats, and horses were killed  –  was an ambitious attempt by the federal government to eliminate overgrazing on an arid landscape and to better the lives of the people who lived there. Instead, the policy was a disaster, resulting in the loss of livelihood for Navajos  –  especially women, the primary owners and tenders of the animals  –  without significant improvement of the grazing lands.

Awards: Winner of the Hal K. Rothman Award, the Norris and Carol Hundley Prize, the Caroline Bancroft Honor Prize, and the Gaspar Perez de Villagra Award

From the Reviewers: “While past accounts have either emphasized the view of the New Dealers or the Dine, Marsha Weisiger uses both fresh and refreshed data, adds layers of gender and ecological analyses, and brings a variety of interpretive lenses to this history. . . . Her work is the most comprehensive examination of this episode to date, and her use of interdisciplinary techniques to see an issue from a multitude of perspectives makes this book a new model for environmental history.” – Agricultural History  


FOREWORD: Sheep Are Good to Think With / William Cronon


PROLOGUE:  A View from Sheep Springs

1.  Counting Sheep
2.  Range Wars

3.  With Our Sheep We Were Created
4.  A Woman’s Place

5.  Herding Sheep
6.  Hoofed Locusts

7.  Mourning Livestock
8.  Drawing Lines on a Map
9.  Making Memories

EPILOGUE:  A View from the Defiance Plateau

See Also: Reviews in American Scientist and The American Indian Quarterly

A Journey from Sheep Ranch to Shakespeare

Piping Sewage into the Holy Land

from Women’s Earth Alliance:

Support the protection of a Northern Arizona holy mountain
Northern Arizona ski resort Arizona Snowbowl has begun the construction of a 14.8 mile pipeline that will trasnport up to 180 million gallons of treated sewage water from the City of Flagstaff to the ski area, for artificial snowmaking.Not only will the  proposed 10 million gallon wastewater pool harm the environment and public health (the treated sewage water has been proven to contain contaminants), but  it will destroy land that is holy to more than 13 Indigenous Nations.
The peaks are their place of worship, where deities reside, and where they go to collect medicine and herbs. Klee Benally, who was arrested on Saturday August 13 for disorderly conduct and trespassing, explains: “How can I be ‘trespassing’ on this site that is so sacred to me?  This is my church.  It is the Forest Service and Snowbowl who are violating human rights and religious freedom by desecrating this holy Mountain.” (Click on the link for the story “Direction Action To Save Holy Peaks Continues” in Indigenous Action Media.)

With just a few minutes, you can take meaningful action to protect the Peaks.  Call the USDA, which oversees the Forest Service, and let them know you support the preservation of this sacred mountain.

Take Action:

  1. TODAY: take 5 minutes to call Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to urge the USDA to place an administrative hold on all development  of the SF Peaks. Phone: (202) 720-3632
  2. Contact Flagstaff City Officials and urge them to respect the environment, Indigenous culture, and protect public health by finding a way out of their
    contract to sell Snowbowl wastewater.  Phone: (928) 779-7699 Email:

This is the kind of post that I expect to see in “The Onion” or some other satirical newspaper or website. Unfortunately, this is one of those times we can get a bushel of industrial strength absurdity straight out of real life.