One Book, One Community selection focuses on dark chapter from Navajo history

'Send a Runner' authors will speak at San Juan College later this month

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A book that juxtaposes a modern journey by a Navajo family with a tragic chapter from Navajo history has been chosen as this year's selection for the One Book, One Community program at San Juan College.

"Send a Runner: A Navajo Honors the Long Walk" by Edison Eskeets and Jim Kristofic was published last year by the University of New Mexico Press.

The book chronicles a 16-day, 330-mile run made by Eskeets and members of his family from Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly in Arizona to Santa Fe. That run honored the survivors of the Long Walk, the forced removal of the Navajo people from their homeland in the Four Corners area to Bosque Redondo in southeast New Mexico, on the 150th anniversary of that event.

"Send a Runner" is no dry retelling of history, according to Andrea Cooper, the San Juan College anthropology professor who serves as the director of the One Book, One Community program. The book is equal parts uplifting, disturbing, funny and compelling, she said, noting that the authors are skilled at retracing the Eskeets family run while mixing in the specifics of the Long Walk and explaining why it happened.

The book "Send a Runner: A Navajo Honors the Long Walk" has been named this year's selection for the One Book, One Community program at San Juan College.

"I'm hoping it opens up a lot of these conversations that are hard to have," she said.

San Juan College students, and faculty and staff members are being encouraged to read the book and discuss its message. But members of the One Book, One Community Committee also are hoping it will find a wider audience throughout San Juan County. The book is being released in paperback this fall by the UNM Press, and copies of it are available for purchase at the San Juan College bookstore.

Cooper said the committee chose "Send a Runner" in large part because Eskeets and Kristofic live in the region and have many ties to the college and the Farmington area. That made it relatively easy to book both authors for an in-person appearance on the college campus later this month — something that hasn't been possible for the last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cooper said.

"They're both really excited to come here," she said.

Cooper said "Send a Runner" is beautifully written and is very accessible to readers of all tastes. She said she especially appreciated how the authors were able to tie specific locations along the Eskeets' run to important events in Navajo history, allowing her to gain a new perspective on sites she has driven past many times.

Edison Eskeets is one of the authors of the book "Send a Runner: A Navajo Honors the Long Walk."

"Send a Runner" does not sugarcoat the darker aspects of Navajo history, she said, but its tone is hopeful, as the tale concludes with Eskeets delivering a powerful message to members of the New Mexico Legislature at the end of his run. Cooper said that part of the story gave her goosebumps.

The feedback she has gotten from others who already have read the book has been very positive, she said, with many students noting that "Send a Runner" was not what they expected.

Eskeets and Kristofic will deliver a presentation on and sign copies of their book at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, in the Connie Gotsch Theatre on the college campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. Admission is free.

Taos resident Jim Kristofic is one of the authors of the book "Send a Runner: A Navajo Honors the Long Walk."

That event is one of several the One Book, One Community Committee has planned in conjunction with "Send a Runner" over the next several months. For a complete list of activities, visit www.sanjuancollege.edu/onebook or call 505-566-3373.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.