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February 11, 2008

Navajo Long Walk

Filed under: N — thebookreviews @ 10:55 pm
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Navajo Long Walk

Author: Nancy M. Armstrong

Illustrator: Paulette Livers Lambert

Page Length: 119

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Historical Fiction


REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: A book about Native Americans makes me think back to history class in middle school. At first I was not enthused about the subject, however when I read the introduction on page one I realized this was not just an adventure story or boring history lesson, but a tale about how the United States government forced 8,000 Navajo Indians from their homeland in eastern Arizona in 1864. The Navajos were made to trek over 300 hundred miles on foot and wagon to a fort in eastern New Mexico. There they were held captive for four years. The trek they made to New Mexico is known as the “Long Walk”.


This book is specifically about a boy named Kee, his sister Hasba, his mother Gentle Woman, his father Strong Man, and his grandmother Wise One. There are also several other animal characters that belong to the Native American family: a donkey named Small Burro and a dog named Gray Dog. As you can tell, all of these names are from Native American tradition and culture.


This is a coming-of-age story for the main character, Kee. His father is lost in the trek to Fort Sumner, and Kee must take on many attributes of a grown man. He is now the “man of the family”. Many changes take place in this story from the scenery of the South-west to the feelings this particular Native American family has towards the soldiers known as the “white man”. The family grows to realize that not all American soldiers are cruel. Even Kee, the character who at first resents the soldiers the most, befriends the son of the leader at Fort Sumner – Captain Harris.


Towards the end of the story, the Navajo, after a treaty with the U.S. Government, are allowed to return home to Arizona. After this point in the story, I found the ending a bit predictable. The father is described as waiting at home for his family’s return. He has spent time preparing food and shelter to welcome them home.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: This easy to read book does a great job describing the conditions in which the Navajo live in their home land as well as in their new surroundings. Weather, food, and shelter are all portrayed with vivid descriptions and examples. On page 87, one quote stood out in this respect – “meals often came from the tough stringy meat of an animal that had starved to death”. Now I liked the fact that there was a map at the very beginning of the story where I could refer to. Names that are not generally used today (ie. Eagle Feather, Long Earrings, Kee), may prove difficult for some students. It might be hard for students to keep track of the characters at the very beginning. A lesson about tradition and names could easily supplement this struggle.




REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton



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