Navajo Railroad Workers
5½x8½, 208 pages
is an attorney in a law firm based in Houston, Texas. He holds a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a masterýs of divinity from Harvard University. He is the majority owner of the East Bay Express newspaper in Oakland, California. Currently, he is a fellow at the Initiative for Responsible Investing at Harvard University and resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Working on the Railroad, Walking in Beauty
Navajos, Hózhó, and Track Work
"Youngdahl's book explores fascinating and virtually unexcavated historical and cultural terrain. Curious about religiosity and cultural practices, Youngdahl has woven an unusual narrative which takes us deep into both the past and the present of the Navajos."
—William Deverell, author of Railroad Crossing: Californians and the Railroad, 1850-1910
"A valuable account of how the Navajo involvement in railroad labor and underlying cultural values interface. It is the sensitivity to that cultural identity that gives the work a special edge and at the same time a broad appeal. It is extremely well written and well organized. Jay Youngdahl tells a good story while applying high standards of scholarship along with an underlying humanism."
—Paul Zolbrod, author/translator of Diné Bahané: The Navajo Creation Story
For over one hundred years, Navajos have gone to work in significant numbers on Southwestern railroads. As they took on the arduous work of laying and anchoring tracks, they turned to traditional religion to anchor their lives.
Jay Youngdahl, an attorney who has represented Navajo workers in claims with their railroad employers since 1992 and who more recently earned a master's in divinity from Harvard, has used oral history and archival research to write a cultural history of Navajos' work on the railroad and the roles their religious traditions play in their lives of hard labor away from home.
Feature Article about author Jay Youngdahl The College p.51 St. John's College, 2012 / Gregory Shook & Deborah Spiegelman
Book Review Books of the Southwest 2012 / Shiloh Richter
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