Wolfkiller is the remarkable life story of a Navajo herdsman and plant-gatherer who lived in the Monument Valley region of Navajo country, along the Utah/Arizona border, from about 1855 until 1926. Raised by his grandfather and mother, Wolfkiller learned the ancient wisdom of his people. He grew up seeing the beauty in nature and discovering how to face the wind, storms, cold, and even death with optimism and courage. Through his embrace of the natural world, he developed both a rare depth of character and an understanding of human relations that guided him through times of adversity. Wolfkiller's story was recorded and translated by pioneer trader Louisa Wade Wetherill, who met him after moving to his community in the early twentieth century. After listening to Wolfkiller describe the wisdom of the elders he had learned as a child and by observing his respect for all of life, Louisa proposed that these lessons be preserved for the benefit of future generations. Photographs of Wolfkiller and the Wetherills and other historical images are included throughout the book to help illustrate the mode of life, types of personalities, and environment in which Wolfkiller's story took place. Louisa Wade Wetherill was born in a small mining town in Nevada in 1877. When she was two years old, her family moved to the town of Mancos in southwestern Colorado. There she grew up and married rancher and explorer John Wetherill. In 1900, Louisa, John, and their two small children left Mancos and moved to a trading post among the Navajos in northwestern New Mexico. In 1906, the Wetherills moved to an isolated area in southeastern Utah where they established their Oljato trading post. Among their neighbors was Wolfkiller, a man Louisa quickly came to know and respect. For more than forty years she devoted herself to studying Navajo culture and became an advocate for recording their ancient customs. Her Navajo friends called her Asthon Sosi, Slim Woman. Harvey Leake began tracing the trail of his great-grandparents, Louisa and John Wetherill, more than twenty-five years ago in libraries, archives, and family papers, and by listening to the recollections of the family elders. He assists in the interpretation of historical documents and photographs for the Wetherill archive at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from Arizona State University and a Master of Arts degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. "If Mrs. Wetherill could be persuaded to write on the mythology of the Navajos . . . she would render an invaluable service. She not only knows their language; she knows their minds." Theodore Roosevelt, after visiting the trading post in 1913 "The ancient world and the American present meet in [Louisa Wetherill's] personality as perhaps in no other personality alive." John Collier, who later became U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
Kayenta and Monument Valley
By Carolyn O’Bagy Davis and Harvey Leake
Arcadia Press, 2010
“Well into the Twentieth Century, the northern border country of Arizona near Monument Valley was a frontier wilderness…. In December 1910, Indian traders John and Louisa Wetherill opened their trading post—with a tent for supplies (and sleeping), and a store counter of boards laid across two barrels. From that modest beginning, Kayenta became the center of Navajo gatherings, exploring expeditions to Rainbow Bridge, Monument Valley, and the grand cliff dwellings in Tesgi Canyon. Soon came a parade of visitors: authors, painters, and archaeologists, as well as cowboys, miners, traders, and tourists. The township today is the hub for thousands of annual visitors from around the world who come to see the magnificent region known as Kayenta country.”
Artists of the painted Desert and Beyond
Forward by Harvey Leake
Jimmy Swinnerton drawing of Black Mesa
Harvey Leake began researching the history of the Four Corners Country more than twenty five years ago, focusing on the explorations and activities the Wetherill family from whom he is descended. His investigations have taken him into many of the Colorado plateau's remote canyons as well as into archives, libraries, and family historical collections. He assists in the interpretation of historical documents and photographs for the Wetherill archive at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado and is employed as an electrical engineer in Phoenix. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from Arizona State University and a Master of Arts degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary.
Through their study of the cliff dwellers
and association with their Native American neighbors, the Wetherills
developed a value system that was quite different from that of the dominant culture. Harvey Leake contrasts these beliefs in this article entitled "The Wisdom of Nature and why we try so hard to avoid it".
Harvey Leake Website