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for people who care about the West

Navajo ranching in the Chuska Mountains

Keeping a tradition alive in western New Mexico.


Up a winding mountain road in western New Mexico, following clear streams and green meadows, 56-year-old Irene Bennalley helps keep Navajo agricultural traditions alive. Once a prevalent way of life, ranching is now fairly rare in the Navajo Nation. Bennalley grew up in Two Gray Hills, New Mexico and inherited a family ranch from her father, where she still rears hundreds of animals, including Navajo Churro sheep, goats, cattle and horses. Her children, who are now grown and live in cities, have little intention of taking over the property in the Chuska Mountains. As Bennalley gets older, the ranch and her way of life face an uncertain future. Los Angeles-based photographer Diego James Robles visited Bennalley at her ranch over a few years to create the images shown here.