An Online Navajo History page of Natani- Navajo from Toadlena Two Gray Hills

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Yah-tah-hey, Yah sho,NATANI, Navajo HeadmanOne Navajo Family History

This page is our family history, to see an image click on the name. First is NATANI from Toadlena, he was married to RED MUSTACHES DAUGHTER, MATANA. They in turn had children, ADA BEDAY BEGAY NATANI and ALTHBAH NATANI THIS STORY STARTS IN 1850 NATANI

NATANI, Navajo Headman

1850 to 1952 Cambridge family history

    (This history was written by Lucy Bloomfield, wife of the Trader at Toadlena, New Mexico about 1950. It is written here just as Mrs. Bloomfield, the Toadlena Trading Post Owner's Wife just exactly as she wrote it.)

    In this story I have changed neither names nor dates. Why change anything when facts are better than fiction? Some of the dates are guessed at because of no written record history among the early day Navajos.

    In order to refute an old adage that “A dead injin is the only good injin,” I want to tell some of the life story of our friend and neighbor. Natani. In order to do it, I will have to tell some of our own story because we were traders to the Navajos for thirty-six years at Toadlena, New Mexico, and Natani, was one of our customers; but he was much more than that, he was our counselor, our friend, and our neighbor. He was also as his name means, Chief or head man.

    Most biographies start with, “He was born at…………” and on a certain date, but only the year of Natani’s birth has been ascertained. This place is only in the record kept in the Happy Hunting Ground. He thought it was somewhere near Fort Defiance, Arizona. The date was gleaned from an old document that he once showed us. It was an appointment to act as Chief over his people and was issued form the Army when they were located at Fort Defiance, some years after the Navajos came back from the round-up of the tribe at Ft. Sumner in 1864. Natani was born in 1850.

NATANI & MATANA about 1935

There is no record to tell us what his father’s name or mother’s name was. He says he always just called the “Shi-ze'-e’ (father) and “Shi-mah” (mother). There was no paper and no one knew how to write, and so dates and names were soon forgotten. He told us that his mother said he was born when the cold was deep in the ground and they caught the rabbits by the tracks in the snow. He laughingly said, “I think it was on Kishmush (Christmas), but that was just his little joke because the Navajo people came to set much store in Kishmush. At the time the traders generally gave the Indians a feed and nuts and candy.

He told us he well remembered the “Long Walk” when the soldiers rounded up the Navajo tribe and they walked all the way to Fort Sumner and four years later walked back again. He told of how he had nothing to get his rations in and of how held his shirt tail out to catch every morsel.

We asked him about his parents one-day and such pride and love shone in his eyes as he said, “My father was much good man and my mother was very kind.” He said, “All the Navajo people came to my father for advice and counsel on everything.”

When we bought the Toadlena Trading Post in 1911 from the two Smith boys who had started it a year previous, Natani was one of the assets. He would be at the post when we opened the door in the morning and was still there when we closed up at night after the last customer had been traded with. It gave great prestige to any issue to have Natani’s approval. If our prices were right and to suit him, they were right for our customers: but if we carried an article that was inferior or too high priced, we just as well throw it under the counter because none of his people would buy it if he said ”do-ya-a-son-dah” (no good). The respect and heed they paid to his every word was something we paid much attention to also.

If the permits to start to buy the Indian lambs in the fall came from the Indian Superintendent, and Natani said “U-ta-unda” (wait), we waited. If the grass was good that year, he would sometimes tell his people not to sell for a couple of weeks longer and their lambs would grow more and weigh heavier and they would get a better price, and wait they did, till their Chief came driving in his lambs for sale. Then an only then did our customer start to sell. This often rushed us to buy all the lambs in the allotted time before the permits expired.

Those were the days of no cars on the reservation. All our “nal-yeh-gae” (Merchandise) came in by Navajo freight teams, usually a four-pony team and a wagon. It took a full week to make the trip from Toadlena to Gallup and back, around a hundred and fifty miles. One fall the permits came to buy the lams, and I was sick and unable to run the store while my husband rode horseback to Gallup for the money with which to pay for the lambs; so we sent Natani on his little pony for the “Pe-so” Sent a note by him to the bank to him $2500.00. We gave him a fifty pound flour sack to bring it back in. It took him three days to make the trip. Just after dark on the third day he came riding in with the heavy sack, mostly in silver dollars because the Indians love to have us count out the shiny dollars for each lam, generally around five dollars a head in those days. The bank in Gallup became greatly worried and the fourth day they sent a man in a buggy to see if we had gotten the money okay. We had never worried a minute. Natani would have protected our money with his life.

The Navajos have a ceremony called (for what we lack for a better word) “Sings” They are religious ceremonies, held mostly for someone who is sick-elaborate affairs where many of the tribe collect and stay for the duration, sometimes as long as nine days for the “Yeibechi.” It would take many pages to describe these events. There are “Fire Dances”, “Squaw Dances”, and ceremonies for thanksgiving. They are generally presided over and managed by their “Medicine Man” We have attended many of them at their invitation.

At a given signal, which I always failed to catch, the singing and dancing and chanting would stop, and the dancers would find seats on the ground; and then Natani would step into the firelight in all his dignity and regalia and address them. I have been present when you could have heard a pin drop if there had been a pin to drop. Mothers would nurse their babes to quiet any crying and everyone one quickly found a seat on the ground or sheepskins. Natani would speak to them for an hour or more. We used to sit enthralled at his advice and wisdom. He would really lay the law down to them and in those days his was really their law.

The inroads of the example of the white people that have so undermined the honesty and morality had not started in those days. There was very seldom ever seen a drunk Navajo. Natani told them to leave “To-dil-hit” (Whiskey) alone. He told them it was like fire water or snake water, and could kill them besides making them crazy. He told a clever little story to illustrate his point. Said he went to Gallup one time with a trader and saw the places where they sod the firewater and bought himself a bottle and brought it home unopened. After he got home he took the cork out and set it on the floor. When a fly came buzzing and lit on the cork and took a swig, he said it buzzed harder and flew around the room and came back for another drink, but this time did not fly so far. The third time it came back for drink, it did not fly away but just started to clean its beak and with its front legs as a fly will do, and pretty soon it pulled its own head off. He said he just picked up the bottle and pouted the contents on the ground and said, “If whiskey does that to a fly, I want none of it.” He never drank in all his life. And then he would give them a lecture on morality. There wasn’t much immorality in those days. Their marriage ceremony was much more sacred and binding than the ceremonies later introduced by missionaries and the Indian Service laws. There was seldom a divorce. He would say, “Husbands, be good to your women and wives be good to your men and don’t even look at others.” He not only preached this but set them an example worthy of imitation.

He was always in demand as a public speaker at different functions both by Navajos and white. If there was bridge to be dedicated a school to be opened on the reservation, a meeting of Government officials with the Indians or a Christmas or Fourth-of-July celebration, it was Natani who was called on to orate on the occasion.

He was a firm advocate for education for the Navajo children, and sent most of his children to boarding schools.

Our children grew up along with his, played together and even went to the Indian boarding school for a few years until we finally got a public school, and then his children and ours attended the little white school house on the hill till they finished the 8th grade.

One of our boys, Monte, got to reading his father’s WILD WEST magazine and got ideas from it. One Saturday when the Indian boys came to the post to spend their dimes, nickels, and pennies for candy and gun, Monte lined them up back of the corn house and swiped his father’s .22 gun and told them to ”Run for your lives.” Natani was on the front porch and heard the commotion and ran to see what was up. He caught up with Monte just as he had the boys running at top speed over the little hill between the school and the post. He then and there gave him a severe chastisement. He came back to the store and told us what he had done for which he our profound thanks. Picture of Toadlena Trading Post, it sits on a hill against the Mountain facing East.

Natani was ever progressive. He built the second house in Toadlena. The first house was build by a prospector named by the Indians, Red Shirt. He married One-Eyed Doc’s sister, and built her a nice log cabin. He panned for gold in the mountain back of Toadlena. Natani was quick to see the advantage to a nice house over the “ho-gan” that all the Indians lived in at that time.

After building the “Kin”, he decided he needed some peaches, so he mounted his pony and rode away to Farmington, no the San Juan river, and brought back a sack of peaches. The trip home was hard on the peaches, but the peach pits were all okay, and they saved every one and planted themselves an orchard, the first of such an experiment on the reservation. In time he came to have a fine orchard of seedling peaches and, besides having all his family and friends could eat, he sold many bushels and dried many flour sacks full for winter use.

The year before we moved to Toadlena and bought the post. Natani traded some peaches to the Smith boys for a rooster and two hens, and this brings me up the first Christmas we spend in Toadlena. We moved there in August and only saw one white woman, (a missionary) and three white men for six months, but we made many friends among our Navajo neighbors. We had our Christmas, “Kishmush” for the Indian as they all it, on the 23rd and then came all our customers and friends for the handouts. Then on Christmas day we locked up the post and had a quiet happy time with our family. About ten o’clock there came a timid knock on the front door and there stood a daughter of Natani, with a five-pound lard bucket full of eggs. She said, “My father send you Kishmush present.” It touched our heart to tears. It takes quire a while to save two dozen eggs from only two hens. I appreciated the children going without eggs in order to make the gift. You maybe sure we sent little Anna back with her bucket full of peanuts and peppermint stick candy.

I remember that Christmas an old lady brought us a winter squash she had raised. She was ninety-nine years young.

Any description of our friend wound not be complete without mention of his dress. For all “Sings,” ceremonies and state and Government affairs, he always wore modern men’s attire bought at a trading post or far away town, but when not on parade he dressed more comfortably in his old Navajo attire which consisted of a pair of white muslin trousers and a calico shirt. The trousers were made from Indian Head muslin, 36 inches wide. Grandma Matana would tear off a strip four inches wide from the length of one and a half yards and then tear the remainder in two parts lengthwise. She would then sew the legs up to within six inches of the bottom and join the two legs at the top but with the crotch left open. A hem at the top and bottom with a draw string at the top and they were made. The four-inch strip was used as a G-string, the ends pulled over the top and hanging down the back and front. It was fine art to keep this adjusted for complete coverage. They were cool, especially for summer. The calico shirt was lined with muslin and very simple to make---just two sleeves sewed to the double of calico with a slit left open under the arms for ventilation. Buckskin moccasins and a bandana twisted and tied around his head and he was fully and comfortably attired.

For state occasions he always wore a leather pouch hung from a strap over the shoulder and decorated with quarter dollars made into buttons and threaded on the strap with buckskin thongs and a fancy case silver ornament on the pouch. He kept in this pouch some staple medicine and his money and a clean white handkerchief. He also wore what the Navajo call a “Kato” This was a leather wrist band about found inches wide and fastened with buckskin lacing, and it too was decorated with a fancy silver and turquoise medallion.

Most of the time these two articles together with a turquoise pendant threaded with buckskin to tie it to the beads were in pawn to us. That is, we let him have what he wanted and he left the articles with us for security, as was the custom of the Navajos. Natani was different though. I t never mattered what he wanted, his pawns were good for it. Their value was intrinsic compared to the amount we put on them. If he wanted to buy some sheep to increase his herd and needed a hundred dollars, we just handed him the cash and put it on the pawn tag. When a “Sing” came up he would borrow the articles for the occasion. We could not extend this privilege to all our customers but Natani, being the honest gentleman he was we knew we took no risk. He always returned them and always redeemed them when he sold his wool and lambs.

Grandma and Natani had one grievous cross to bear. One of their girls had serious illness in childhood which left her with a mind that did not develop beyond a two-year-old. She grew up tall and strong but all the could ever teach her was to herd sheep. Wen the rest of the children gained their education and grew up and married, and the grandchildren came along to bless their lives. The poor girl blessed them with her babies too. We once asked him why he allowed such a thing. His answer was, “I can’t herd the sheep, the girl and the no-good men day and night. One must sleep some time.” Her children were beautiful and smart and thy are Natani’s peaches in the summertime and he sent them to school in the wintertime. The Navajos, too, have their axioms, one of which is comparable to our, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” Theirs goes like this---Life’s sorrows often bring great joys.” Strangely enough, it was one of the beautiful daughters of the poor afflicted girl that tenderly nursed both Grandma and Grandpa Natani through their last illness. But this is ahead of the story.

Prior to 1933, the Indian service officials urged and helped the Navajos to increase and improve their sheep herds. Most of them had sufficient to live on and always there was plenty of their beloved mutton to eat.

Then in 1933, John Collier, Indian Commissioner, had a brain storm brought on by Hoover Dam construction experts. The maintained that the reservation was over-grazed and the result was erosion which eventually found its way in the big reservoir. Be that as it may, “Washington” ordered all the Navajos to reduce their herds by more than half. This was accomplished by officers of law forcing sale of their sheep and goats. The price paid was not market price at all, but amounted to less that half what they were worth.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the tribe.

One morning when I opened the store and was sweeping off the front steps, there was Natani sitting on the ground with a pile of stones and pebbles and a stick marking a circle in the dirt. I said, “Well, Natani, are you a little boy playing with stones for sheep?” His answer was, “Either, I am crazy or Washington is,” and then he proceeded to illustrate by picking up the stones one by one or a handful and putting them in his corral. He said, “Get a sheep here, get a sheep there, pretty soon heap big herd; no more worry, plenty mutton, plenty wool, plenty lambs, sleep good all time.” The he picked up a hands full of “sheep” and threw them away, and said, “John Collier, him take our sheep, him think he smarter than God, him dan-sona-bish.

As the years began to creep up on us and our neighbor, we used to have long talks about the past and future. Many fine traditions he related to us and then we talked of our future life. Ours was in the Great Beyond while his was in the Happy Hunting Ground. On some things we were in complete accord, one of which was that we were both dead sure there was future beyond the grave.

Then we began to notice that he was not so spry as usual, and one day he bought a new lantern and a gallon of coal oil. Then grandma came to tell us he was sick and did not eat. So after we closed the store in the evening, we walked down to see him. I t was not yet dark but had his lantern lit and hanging at the head of his bed. We asked him why he lit it so early. His reply was, “Some time I am going to die and if it is night I want a light to see which way to go.” He kept his lantern ever filled and trimmed and let the rest of his life, at night.

He thanked us for the crackers, tomatoes and bottle of soda pop we had taken along and after a few days he recovered but was never so active afterwards.

Death and a century caught up with him at the same time, and although his lantern was still burning away, at the head of his bed, yet we are sure that the light of his faith illuminated his way to the Happy Hunting Ground of the Indian people.

As is the age-old custom, he was buried with many of his prized possessions so he will have what he needs in that place to which he has gone

We shall soon join him. And if his abode is not in the same place where we abide, we hope it will not be far distant, and that there is a good trail between so that we can visit back and forth with our friend and talk of the food old days of earth life together at Toadlena.

His memory will live forever, green and respected in our hearts.


And when the Books are opened and we are judged by our capabilities and deeds done in the body, we are pretty sure St. Peter will say to our friend, “Natani, I appoint you Chief over a considerable number of your tribe.

As a note, Lucy Bloomfield and her husband had the town of Bloomfield, New Mexico named after them, this ia reprint of her story word for word from a booklet I found in my father's things after he passed away. This has been about Natani, my great grandfather. He was married to Matana, they in turn had children, ADA BEDAY BEGAY NATANI and ALTHBAH NATANI

One of whom was ADA BEDAY BEGAY NATANI, who married LEWIS CAMBRIDGE, and they had children and lived all their lives in Toadlena.

One of whom wss FRANCIS CAMBRIDGE , who married HELEN HARPER,, and they had children.

One of whom is me, NORMAN CAMBRIDGE, ALSO KNOWN AS "JOHNNY RUSTYWIRE", who married MERELYN GROVES and had six children.


Two of these children are married, NORMAN CAMBRIDGE II is married to ANNE COLTON and now have two children.

KELLY CAMBRIDGE married JENNIFER PERKINS, and they have three children.

We are the descendants of NATANI



If you want to send me a thought or some of your experiences please E-MAIL me your thoughtsCopyright © 1999, Rustywire, all rights reserved.
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