A Navajo Fourth of July, 1953

Photo by Austin E. Fife, University of Utah

Whatever you wore for the Fourth of July celebration, it was probably not nearly as beautiful as this Navajo woman’s outfit.  The shirt is most likely velvet, the traditional fabric for Navajo women’s festive clothing.  It is adorned with silver buttons, beading and an array of Mercury dimes.  What a relatively inexpensive way to make a dramatic effect.  It reminds me of the Pearly Kings and Queens of London.  You can also find Navajo pearl necklaces made from Mercury dimes.  Not stopping with silver adornments, she has also worn necklaces, pins and earrings of turquoise, coral, and blue glass.

This is one of several photos the folklorist Austin E. Fife made of a Fourth of July festival in Monticello, Utah in 1953.  He and his wife Alma were famous researchers of Western American folk culture. Did they wonder at the irony of Native Americans celebrating a holiday that so profoundly changed their world?

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