Born in AZ. Ethnicity: "Navajo." Education: Northern Arizona University, M.A. (bilingual multicultural education), Ed.D. (educational leadership).
Educator and writer. Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, associate professor of Navajo and head of Navajo section.
Dzaní Yázzí Naazbaa': Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home: A Story of the Navajo Long Walk, illustrated by Irving Toddy, Salina Bookshelf (Flagstaff, AZ), 2005.
Author and educator Evangeline Parsons-Yazzie seeks to honor her deceased parents and elders with her writing and teaching. Raised on a Navajo reservation in the Arizona community of Hardrock, Parsons-Yazzie grew up hearing stories of the "Long Walk", and in her bilingual book Dzaní Yázzí Naazbaa': Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home: A Story of the Navajo Long Walk she shares these family stories with the naabeeth, or Navajo youth in both English and Navajo.
Dzaní Yázzí Naazbaa' takes place in 1864, in the Black Mesa of Arizona, where an eight-year-old girl named Dzanbaa' lives with her family and her Navajo people. Tragically, the peace and safety of this community are shattered when U.S. soldiers storm the area, gather up the Native Americans, and force the tribe on an arduous journey by foot to Fort Sumner, some 450 miles away. Forced to remain at the fort, the Navajo attempt to reestablish their community, growing crops in the arid land in order to survive. When the earth proves unyielding and the crops fail, the Navajo become dependent on the soldiers for rations, which are often rotten and bug infested.
During her stay at Fort Sumner, Dzanbaa' comes of age, but she is determined to postpone her kinaald, or coming-of-age celebration, until her people return to their rightful land. Years later, on June 1, 1868, the Navajo are finally allowed to return to the Black Mesa. Despite their suffering at the fort, the Navajo have been made stronger due to their experiences, and their stories of the Long Walk become stories of the endurance and sacrifice that have forged a strong pride among tribal members.
Marlette Grant-Jackson, writing in School Library Journal, commented that Dzaní Yázzí Naazbaa' "is informative and well told, and the sacrifices and losses that the people experienced come through clearly." A Children's Bookwatch critic stated that Irving Toddy's "realistic color illustrations make the story come alive, and the text is sufficiently involved to make Dzaní Yázzí Naazbaa' ideal for young readers who are just about ready to make the transition from picture books to chapter books." Noting that the fate of the elderly and infirm during the Long Walk—many were shot by U.S. soldiers or left behind to starve—is included in Parsons-Yazzie's story, Jeff Berglund wrote in the Salina Bookshelf online newsletter that "these details are particularly striking in comparison to other children's stories, and are daring by what is implied. Parsons-Yazzie and Toddy refuse to whitewash the historical account, an all-too-common trend in writing for children about historical events."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 15, 2005, Karen Hutt, review of Dzaní Yázzí Naazbaa': Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home: A Story of the Navajo Long Walk, p. 1452.
Children's Bookwatch, September, 2005, review of Dzaní Yázzí Naazbaa'.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2005, review of Dzaní Yázzí Naazbaa', p. 361.
Library Media Connection, January, 2006, Bridget Slay-den, review of Dzaní Yázzí Naazbaa', p. 82.
School Library Journal, August, 2005, Marlette Grant-Jackson, review of Dzaní Yázzí Naazbaa', p. 120.
Gallup Independent Online Web site, (Gallup, NM) http://www.gallupindendent.com/ (March 28, 2005), "A Reason to Be Proud."
Northern Arizona University Web site, http://www.cal.nau.edu/ (June 6, 2006),.
Salina Bookshelf Newsletter Online, http://www.salinabookshelf.com/ (April 17, 2005), Jeff Berglund, "A Navajo Long Walk."