FARMINGTON — With the Navajo language fading, Evangeline Parsons Yazzie decided to do something to try to preserve her native language.
Having already published a textbook in Diné, Yazzie decided she would write a novel. The novel, entitled "Her Land, Her Love" is written with the conversations in the Diné language and the narrations in English.
It tells the story of a couple's search for their kidnapped daughters during the Long Walk, when the Navajo were relocated to Fort Sumner in the mid-1860s.
"Most of the information about the Long Walk has been written by non-Navajos," Yazzie said.
She said she wanted to write the story from a Native American perspective and was familiar with the elders' stories of the Long Walk after hearing her father and grandmother speak about it.
Her grandmother was a child when the Navajo returned from the Long Walk.
"I just tucked these stories away in the back of my mind," she said.
She said the biggest difference between a non-Native American perspective and a Navajo perspective of the Long Walk is the reason given for why the Navajo were forced to leave their homes. She remembers reading in history textbook that the Navajo were raiders.
When she began teaching at Northern Arizona University, she was determined to teach a different perspective that included how the outside civilization changed Navajo history.
She teaches that the Navajo were not the violent people of the history books.
"A lot of (the students) never knew many, many things about our history," she said.
"Her Land, Her Love" is the first book of a four book series Yazzie is writing.
The second book will focus on the oldest daughter's story and the third book will look at the youngest daughter. The final book will tell about the return from Fort Sumner.
"The trauma doesn't stop with the Long Walk," Yazzie said.
After the Navajo returned from Fort Sumner in 1868, Yazzie said there were challenges trying to reestablish their homes.
In 1996, Yazzie began to write the stories.
"At the time, I really needed strength," she said. "I have my faith in God, but I needed me to put the strength in words."
She submitted the four books in a single manuscript, but the publisher decided they would be better as separate books.
Yazzie is the daughter of a Baptist minister and is strongly influenced by her faith.
She said one of the stories in the Bible tells about the master giving three servants each a coin called a talent. The first and second servants took their talents and invested the talents while the third servant hid his.
"I took the word talent to mean a real talent," she said.
She said her talent is writing.
"You do something with the talents God gave you and, look what happened," Yazzie said. "One story became four."