Tag Archives: History

Arizona Historian Marshall Trimble Retires From Teaching

Marshall Trimble | Jerri Parness Photography

Marshall Trimble | Jerri Parness Photography

If you’ve been reading Arizona Highways for a while, you know all about Marshall Trimble. Designated Arizona’s official historian since 1997, Trimble contributed to our 2012 Arizona Centennial issue, and his folksy “singing cowboy” persona has made him one of Arizona’s best-known figures.

Now, as The Arizona Republic‘s Dan Nowicki reports, Trimble is retiring from his “day job,” teaching a Southwest history course at Scottsdale Community College.

However, Trimble intends to carry on as official state historian, a title given to him by Gov. Fife Symington in 1997 and continued by each governor since. He will keep making public appearances at conventions and performing cowboy songs and telling stories about Arizona history at various gatherings.

The author of more than 20 Arizona-related books, he also intends to keep writing his popular “Ask the Marshall” column for Cave Creek-based True West magazine.

He is even keeping his office in SCC’s administration building, where he had been the school’s longtime director of Southwest studies. And he will still guest-lecture on campus.

“What it boils down to is that I’m retired, but I’m still doing the same thing,” Trimble said. “I’m working for nothing. I’m doing it for free now, and I’m glad to, because I had the best job in the world. I would have done it for nothing if I hadn’t had to pay a mortgage and buy gas for my pickup truck.”

To learn more about Trimble or get information about booking him for an appearance, visit www.marshalltrimble.com.

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History at Your Fingertips at the Arizona Capitol Museum

Courtesy of the Arizona Capitol Museum

Courtesy of the Arizona Capitol Museum

If you haven’t yet made a trip to the Arizona Capitol Museum, you should — and soon. First, it’s free. Second, the museum specializes in teaching Arizona government and civics, using, per their website, “a balance of technology, hands-on activities, historical artifacts and public programs to help visitors learn about and interact with the government of the 48th state.” Third, a new exhibit at the museum, “Arizona Takes Shape,” will show visitors just how Arizona came to be, and it includes a cool interactive component called “History at Your Fingertips.”

Below, Jason Czerwinski, the museum’s on-site experience manager, talks about this exhibit:

Talk to us about “History at Your Fingertips.” What is it exactly, and what can visitors expect?
“History at Your Fingertips” is actually a smaller component (or an exhibit within an exhibit, if you will) of the Arizona Capitol Museum’s newest exhibit, “Arizona Takes Shape,” which covers the changes in Arizona’s government as well as physical boundaries in the pre-statehood era. It is a rich display, featuring a timeline of pre-statehood Arizona, marked by key events and how they coincided with national history. In addition to the “Fingertips” kiosk, we also have the very flag carried up San Juan Hill by Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders (as made by the Woman’s Relief Corps of Phoenix), and a pair of military sabers, one used in the Apache Wars, and another presented to Governor Alexander Brodie by the people of the Territory of Arizona.

The emphasis of the whole exhibit is on the evolution of our state (and pre-state) using examples such as assignment of boundaries by the federal government, appointment of Territorial oversight by the Fed, annexation of land through purchase and conquest, and the documentation of these events in newspapers and other media.

How did this exhibit come to be?
Many factors came together at the right time to make this exhibit possible.  After several delays, our exhibit production team was finally able to dedicate the time needed to research and assemble all the data needed to illustrate the complex journey we took to joining the Union. Fabricating the displays that illustrate their research took months of develop, working with our colleagues in the state archives, the Arizona Memory Project, as well as the team behind the Digital Newspaper Program.

Probably the most long-awaited element we wanted to complete was a new case for the Rough Rider flag, which up to now had to be completely covered to retard light damage for part of each year. The new case is a much more practical solution featuring UV-blocking glass and a movable and adjustable base. In all, it is a very handsome custom display for this one-of-a-kind artifact.

The AZCM’s mission, to “connect people to their government — past and present,” needed “Arizona Takes Shape” to thoroughly show how our state came to be, both for its historic importance, but also as a teaching tool to explain the fundamentals of a citizen-driven democracy.

How long did it take to scan hard copies of newspapers and microfilms?
The scanning program is actually ongoing, and new pages are constantly being added. The Arizona Digital Newspaper Program has been working for almost five years at this point.

What has the response been from the public?
Amazing! We had over 100 people at our grand opening this past Saturday. The opening reception, featuring Arizona Historical Society director Dr. John Langellier, the Territorial Brass Band and Rough Riders re-enactors, was as popular as the exhibit itself, and we have people coming in every day to see the display. Teachers and students, many of whom have visited in previous years, are struck by how much more thorough and immersive the two revamped rooms are.

Are there any specific events in Arizona’s history that may not be common knowledge, and that can be found here?
Oh my, “Arizona Takes Shape” is such a thorough exhibit, there is so much information that I doubt anyone would know all of it before coming in. Serendipitously, “History at Your Fingertips” features an informative quiz about some of the Territorial governors—I didn’t know all the answers, but it is a delight to play through. What might be most informative about the new exhibit though is its timeline, which overlays the history of Arizona over national history to show the relation and overlap of key events of both.

What makes this exhibit different from other exhibits at the museum?
Aside from having the most thorough timeline of any of our exhibits, “Arizona Take Shape” explicitly covers our years before statehood (including time as part of Mexico). It is also a physically immersive exhibit where the historical elements (the Rough Rider flag, scabbards), digital technology and interactive pieces are spread across the footpath — rather than some pieces set behind barricades.
 
You have another exhibit in the works called “Your Vote, Your Voice.” Tell us about that.
“Your Vote, Your Voice”  will be an exhibit and meeting place to talk about and showcase current and upcoming electoral events, such as campaigns for elected offices and constitutional amendments. Our goal is for this to be a continually updating space with news about the election process and how every citizen can be a participant in it.  Plans are still in development, but we expect to feature streaming election news, an easily accessible candidate map, text of all proposed amendments and a history of voting access for the state.

For more information about the Arizona Capitol Museum, call 602-926-3620 or visit www.azlibrary.gov/azcm or www.facebook.com/arizonaCapitolMuseum.

—Kathy Ritchie

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Check Out Our February Issue Featuring Iconic Landmarks Across AZ

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by | January 6, 2014 · 8:00 am

Navajo Code Talkers

Yesterday, members of the Navajo Nation, including President Ben Shelly, gathered in Window Rock to honor the contributions of the Navajo Code Talkers who risked their lives to deliver hundreds of encrypted messages during World War II. Twenty Navajo Code Talkers were on hand to hear Shelly salute their efforts, which helped the U.S. secure its victory in the Pacific theater.

According to an article that ran in Indian Country:

“The Navajo Code Talkers are lauded for hastening a swift end to World War II by providing the U.S. with a dictionary of Navajo words that were transmitted by radio and telephones. The code carried sensitive information about troop movements and other imperative field operations.

Following Iwo Jima, Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, stated ‘were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.’”

In 1982, then President Ronald Reagan declared August 14 National Navajo Code Talkers Day. For more information about the Navajo Code Talkers, visit www.Navajocodetalkers.org, and be sure to check out the story we ran about the Code Talkers in the February 1989 issue of Arizona Highways.

 

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Vintage Arizona Highways Cover: July 1931

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In case you forgot, the early issues of Arizona Highways contained page after page of details of road-building projects “to tell of the work being done by the Arizona Highway Department.” Click here to learn more about the history of the magazine. 

BTW: Check out how much this issue cost in 1931!

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A Tribute to the Indomitable Susie Yazzie by Colette Waddell

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Waddell shares a laugh with Susie Yazzie.

When author Colette Waddell met Susie Yazzie more than a decade ago, she had no idea that she would be tasked with recording the Yazzie family history. But, then again, we are talking about the woman who was given a Navajo nickname that roughly translates to “Woman Who Asks Many Questions.”

Below, Waddell, who spent 10 years talking to Susie and her family, shares an excerpt from her upcoming book, Shade House Conversations: The Story of an American Family.

Remembering Susie
By Colette Waddell

Susie Yazzie, matriarch of Monument Valley, renowned weaver, revered storyteller and one of the last great symbols of an iconic West, passed away quietly on February 3, 2013. She was surrounded by her family during her last days on Earth, and she must have known she was deeply loved. I suspect Susie was unaware, however, of the impact she had on those of us who traipsed through her hogan, eyes wide and full of questions. This kind and patient woman politely referred to us tourists, writers, photographers, and anthropologists as “visitors.” This did not mean we were unimportant to her. In many ways, we helped her maintain the traditional life she held so dear. We were simply different in that we were not blood, and certainly not Navajo. Because of this, Susie may not have realized how heartbroken we would all be when word came of her passing. But to her “visitors,” Susie was more than a gifted artist, a photo opportunity, or a representative of traditional Navajo life that is slowly slipping away. To us, Susie was a friend, an adopted grandmother, and an inspiration.

I met Susie Yazzie on one of the many guided horseback-riding excursions offered by her son, Lonnie. My husband and I became very close with Lonnie and the rest of the Yazzies living in Monument Valley when, at Lonnie’s request, I began to record the family history dating back to the Long Walk of 1864. In the warm darkness of Susie’s hogan I learned about Four-Horned Lady, a revered ancestor who survived Kit Carson’s forced march to the Bosque Redondo internment camp. I heard about Susie’s great-grandmother’s escape from that dreadful camp and the magical odyssey of her return home. We moved on to record Susie’s own rich history, as well as the stories of her children and grandchildren. Every interview was filled with more laughter than tears, though the tears did come. I was hypnotized by the way Suzie quietly but deliberately wove her stories as beautifully as she wove her rugs. Her hands gently danced in the air as she described the adventures, tragedies and intricacies of everyday Dine’ life in the early Twentieth Century. Each time I drove the bumpy washboard road out of the tribal park my head felt cloudy with stories and my heart full of the love so evident amongst this tightly knit family. I recorded the Yazzies’ history over the course of ten years, earning the name “Woman Who Asks Many Questions.” I came to love the Yazzies, and like others who met Susie, I felt protective of this quietly wise matriarch of Monument Valley.

There are no words to describe how much the Yazzies loved Susie, though I saw plenty of evidence they were all completely devoted to her. There were always a number of family members helping with her livestock, taking turns with the hogan business of entertaining visitors, chopping wood for the ever-burning wood stove, or conversing with her over endless cups of the strong coffee brewed in an old, blue camp percolator.

Susie prided herself on managing her home and business, and she learned her self-sufficient ways while growing up on the reservation. Her family believes she was born in the spring of 1914; however, no one could be absolutely certain of Susie’s age. Records were not kept in those days, and the Navajo traditionally looked at time as cyclical rather than in the Western linear manner. Like any young Navajo child in the early twentieth century, Susie spent her days watching over her family’s livestock, and she helped with the many chores that came with living a hardscrabble life on the reservation. Unfortunately, by the age of ten, her mother became very ill. Susie then began to weave, selling her rugs at Goulding’s Trading Post in order to provide for her siblings. Though she never had the benefit of attending school, Susie knew exactly how many sheep and goats she had and how to manage her money. She spent untold hours shearing, carding, dying and spinning her own wool in order tocreate her beautiful rugs. She went on to marry her husband, Tully, and raised a family of five strong children. During that time Susie served her community as a midwife, and offered her skills as a diagnostic “hand trembler.” She appeared as an extra in John Ford’s Western dramas, as well as a number of later films that helped to make her home a mecca for those seeking Monument Valley’s stark beauty. Through all of these endeavors, Susie kept her family close, teaching her children and the generations that followed the traditions she held dear.

Her weaving earned worldwide recognition, and many came to see her demonstrate her art upon the big loom made of juniper wood. She was the favorite subject ofmany gifted photographers, and even appeared in national advertisements. Susie remained unaffected by the attention, and she kept her desires simple. She enjoyed evenings filled with storytelling, and she favored several beautiful pieces of silver and turquoise jewelry created by her family. She relished the cupcake “Snow Balls” we brought her, and I was told she liked my spaghetti. Most of all, she loved the valley and the people in it, earning the love and respect of her community for her devotion to family and traditional Navajo life.

Attending Susie’s memorial service was special because everyone had a story to share about this strong but quiet woman. Her granddaughters fondly recalled the many summers they spent playing and working at Susie’s place. Every morning they were awakened by a gentle pull on the ear, and their grandmother’s urging to “help get the chores done.” Then Susie gave them a lunch of canned tomatoes accompanied by Saltine crackers, and they spent the rest of the day playing on the rock formations surrounding Susie’s home. Even as the granddaughters shared their memories, Susie’s great grandchildren were climbing those very same rocks. Many relatives spoke of a renewed determination to maintain family ties, because “it was important to Susie.” Just as in Susie’s stories, there was enough laughter to temper the tears we all shed in remembering her, and I know she would have been proud of the way her family pulled together in honoring her life and her legacy.

I once asked Susie if she minded me taking down her stories. I had been told by family members that she imagined I was “a crazy white lady,” and that “all the time she wants to know about how things were in the old days.” Susie wondered why I wanted to know about the sheep and her weaving, and she thought that perhaps I “wanted to know people’s secrets.” I could never deny that I truly wished to experience Susie’s life through her stories. After all, it appeared that she had enjoyed a very good life. Upon our last interview in her shade house Susie let me know that she had decided my constant questioning would be put to good use. “I see you writing,” she said with an approving nod, “and now my grandkids will be able read my story. I think it would be a pretty good story and good history for the kids.” She sat quietly for a while, then admitted, “I thought it over, and I don’t mind if other people read my story. People should know how we used to live.” With that Susie stood and smoothed the deep red velveteen blouse and satiny skirt she always wore. She gave me the shy smile I had come to love, and slowly walked from the shade house to her hogan.* I like to remember Susie in this way. She was on her way to sit with family and visitors alike, to weave and to continue her traditions. The path she had worn over the years must certainly hold the essence of this wonderful woman. And if you come to visit the valley, I invite you to find her amidst the towering monuments. If you stand very quietly, you might hear her spirit whispering in the wind.

(*Excerpts drawn from Shade House Conversations: The Story of an American Family. Available through TopCat Press summer 2013)

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