When the young Diné boy Hopi-Hopi ran away from the Santa Fe Indian Boarding School in the early years of the twentieth century, he carried with him no paper map to guide his way home. Rather, he used knowledge of the region, of the stars, and of the Southwest’s ecology instilled in him from before infancy to help navigate over rivers, through mountains, and across deserts. In The Earth Memory Compass: Diné Landscapes and Education in the Twentieth Century
(University of Kansas Press, 2018), Farina King
argues that education and the creation of “thick” cultural knowledge played, and continues to play, a central role in the survival of Diné culture. King, Assistant Professor of History at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, takes a unique methodological approach in telling the story of Diné education and knowledge. The Earth Memory Compass
is, in King’s words, an “autoethnography,” weaving her personal story of cultural discovery and family history into a larger narrative of Indigenous boarding school experiences and deep learning within families and other sites of indigenous education. The book tracks four of the six sacred directions in Diné culture, East, South, West, and North, each connected with a sacred mountain in the Southwest, and in doing so tells a rich and complicated history of how the Diné people resisted and sometimes embraced American education while never losing their own much older forms of knowledge in the process.
Stephen Hausmann is a doctoral candidate at Temple University and Visiting Instructor of history at the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently writing his dissertation, a history of race and the environment in the Black Hills and surrounding northern plains region of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.