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Bringing to a Navaho community a very competent medical and psychiatric experience as well as sympathy and understanding, the Leightons moved into the center of the Navahos’ world and have successfully translated their knowledge of this culture into an animated account. Their research consisted of living with the Navahos, travelling with them, visiting their schools and hospitals, and talking with the people who teach them and care for their sick and administer their affairs. The results not only form an objective study valid locally and specifically, but widen our knowledge of the interactions of human cultures.
As physicians in the Indian Service, the Leightons were naturally interested in the question of health and devoted primary attention to ways of eliminating illness and adjusting Indian and white man’s ideas on the subject. But their broader intention was to try to understand the Navahos’ way of looking at life and to compare their point of view with that of people in average American communities. That they have been exceptionally successful is indicated by John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, in his Introduction: “Even to one who did not know the Navaho through deep personal experience, the records and the conclusions of the Leightons would have an awakening and a persuading virtue such as Tolstoy’s human narratives have. Those who do know the Navahos find their horizon of Navaho life pushed backward in the most exciting and challenging way.”
Before taking up particular phases of Navaho life, the authors describe in considerable detail the historical background of this tribe and their physical surroundings. An unusual feature is a discussion of the language to be used in dealing with the Navahos. This introduction to Navaho life will be not only an invaluable guide book for the worker in the field, but it will appeal to everyone interested in American history, primitive culture, and the Southwest. Thirty-four striking photographs illustrate the text, and the entire book has been designed to reflect the color and spirit of the Navahos.