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Left Handed, Son of Old Man Hat

A Navajo Autobiography

Left Handed

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: Bison Books
Published: 08/2018
Pages: 354
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9781496206213


With a simplicity as disarming as it is frank, Left Handed tells of his birth in the spring of 1868 "when the cottonwood leaves were about the size of [his] thumbnail," of family chores such as guarding the sheep near the hogan, and of his sexual awakening. As he grows older, his account turns to life in the open: nomadic cattle-raising, farming, trading, communal enterprises, tribal dances and ceremonies, lovemaking, and marriage. As Left Handed grows in understanding and stature, the accumulated wisdom of his people is revealed to him. He learns the Navajo lifeway, which is founded on the principles of honesty, foresightedness, and self-discipline. The style of the narrative is almost biblical in its rhythms, but biblical, too, in many respects, is the traditional way of life it recounts.  


​Left Handed (Navajo) (1868–?) was a Diné man who was born at Hweéldi (the Bosque Redondo prison camp), where the American military held Navajos from 1863 to 1868, and then returned to the Navajo homeland with his family. At the time of Walter Dyk's interviews about his life, he was positioned as an elder who had lived well and prospered. Walter Dyk (1899–1972) was a linguist who studied under Edward Sapir. He studied Navajo language and published Old Mexican. Jennifer Denetdale (Diné/Navajo) is the first Diné/Navajo to earn a PhD in history and is an associate professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico. She is the author of Reclaiming Diné History: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita and The Long Walk: The Forced Exile of the Navajo.