An inspiring, devastating story
The Navajo grassroots environmental group Dine CARE has worked to protect forests, water and human health on the Navajo reservation for more than a decade (HCN, 10/31/94:'People of the Earth' stress "natural laws'). When group founders Leroy Jackson and Adella Begaye first started fighting irresponsible logging on the reservation, they thought the battle would take only a month or two. But the couple, armed with little more than a fax machine and a list of contacts, eventually spent thousands of hours trying to reform the tribally owned Navajo Forest Products Industries. John Sherry, an anthropologist who lived with Jackson and Begaye during Dine CARE's birth, also witnessed its greatest tragedy: the mysterious disappearance and death of Jackson in 1993. Land, Wind, and Hard Words is Sherry's memoir of the group's difficult early years. His familiarity with Navajo culture leads to some enlightening digressions, as he explains why grassroots organizations, especially tribal groups, are constantly at a disadvantage in what he calls the "funding game," and shows how the persistent "noble savage" myth interferes with the practical, focused efforts of groups such as Dine CARE. But Sherry gives center stage to Jackson, Begaye and their allies, and while his decision to refer to himself as "the anthropologist" is an appreciable attempt at modesty, it creates a frustrating hole in such a personal tale. Still, his deep affection for his friends, and for the Navajo people in general, makes Sherry an able narrator of this inspiring, devastating story. Land, Wind, and Hard Words: A Story of Navajo Activism, by John W. Sherry. University of New Mexico Press, 2002. Hardcover: $29.95. 265 pages.