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Robert W. Young Papers

Identifier: MSS-672-BC

Scope and Content

The Robert W. Young collection contains newspaper clippings, papers, manuscripts (published and unpublished), data, handwritten and typed notes, memoranda, court cases and correspondence concerning linguistics (Athabaskan - Navajo), anthropology, history, BIA records, and Navajo Nation Tribal records from 1880 to 1992.

The collection is divided into 7 overlapping series: Linguistics, History/Anthropology, Navajo Condition, Government Relations, and Other Native American Related Publications, Oversize, and Office Files..

The Linguistics series divides into General, Comparative Canadian Athabaskan, and Applied. The General Linguistics subseries contains manuscripts, conference papers, typed, and handwritten notes regarding Navajo grammar. The subseries also contains correspondence between Robert Young and William Morgan, Sr. during their collaborative efforts on The Navajo Language: A Grammar and Colloquial Dictionary (1980) and Analytical Lexicon of Navajo (1992). The Comparative Canadian Athabaskan subseries regards comparative field work across the Beaver, Carrier, Chipewyan, and Sarci languages with audio samples of the Thlingit and Haida languages. The Applied Linguistics subseries concerns materials for classroom instruction.

History/Anthropology contains correspondence, reports, articles, and historical sketches concerning early Spanish and Anglican contact in the Southwest. The theme for this series surrounds agriculture/hunting, dancing, kinship, peyote, place names, stars/constellations, and witchcraft. This series includes materials on peyotism by David Aberle.

The Navajo Condition incorporates several subseries: 1) General - summaries/reports regarding the Navajo situation from 1939-1969, 2) Education - materials concerning boarding schools and special education, 3) Employment - reports and articles of employment statistics in the Navajo Reservation area, 4) Industry, 5) Land/Resources/Surveys - land purchases, irrigation, soil & moisture programs, and uranium drilling, 6) Livestock - range resources and stock reduction programs, 7) Welfare - charities, reports, and articles concerning alcohol consumption.

Government Relations divides into three subseries: Federal, Tribal/Constitution, and Court Cases/Legal Issues. The Federal subseries contains correspondence reflecting early U.S. Government-Navajo contact, Navajo trading, administration, policies, progress on Navajo withdrawal, and census statistics. Materials in the Tribal/Constitution subseries concern early Navajo government, self-administration, formation of the Navajo constitution, and Ramah Navajo jurisdiction to the Pueblo Lands Board. Court Cases/Legal Issues mostly concerns the activities of Norman Littell, Navajo General Council and Claims Attorney hired in 1947. A particular focus concerns Littell's private negotiations with outside mining interests while bypassing the Navajo Tribe's own mining engineers. Material also relates to the time period when the Navajo Council was divided on the renewal of Littell's contract, ultimately involving Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall.

Oversize series contains a few large publications, plates, and miscellaneous items.

The Office Files series was added to the collection in April 2010. These are files that remained in Dr. Young's office at the time of his death.


  • 1850-2003 (bulk 1823-1980)


Language of Materials

English, Athapaskan, Navajo

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

Robert W. Young, linguist, was born on May 18, 1912 in Chicago, IL. Following graduation from the University of Illinois, in 1935, he enrolled in anthropology at the University of New Mexico. There he became interested in the Navajo language and he was invited to collaborate with John P. Harrington of the Smithsonian Institution in the translation of a series of primers for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 1939-40, he accompanied Harrington to Canada for comparative fieldwork with four Athabaskan languages.

Subsequently, during the period 1940-1971, he was employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, first as a Specialist in Indian Languages, and after 1950, in Navajo Tribal Relations. In 1971, he joined the staff of the Modern Languages Department at the University of New Mexico where he taught classes in Navajo Linguistics and collaborated with Professor Bernard Spolsky in research conducted by the Navajo Reading Study. It was during this period that a grant was received from the National Endowment for the Humanities to permit Young, jointly with his longtime Navajo colleague, William Morgan Sr., to embark on a major project designed for the compilation of an extensive bilingual Navajo-English/English-Navajo dictionary and grammar. It was published in 1980 under the title, The Navajo Language: A Grammar and Colloquial Dictionary. This work was published again in 1987 in revised form, and this was followed in 1992 by An Analytical Lexicon of Navajo, compiled with the assistance of Sally Midgette. Both works were published by the University of New Mexico Press.

In 1968, Young wrote a history of the Navajo for publication in a commemorative edition of The Gallup Independent celebrating the centennial of the Navajo Treaty of 1868 between the United States Government and the Navajo Tribe. During the 1950's, he compiled a detailed historical-statistical study entitled The Navajo Yearbook, which was published in annual editions and widely distributed to State, Federal, and Tribal officials. In 1989, Young wrote A Political History of the Navajo Tribe, published by Navajo Community College (now Din College). Finally, in 2000, the University of New Mexico Press published his treatise on the Navajo verb, under the title, The Navajo Verb System.

In 1969, Young received an honorary doctorate from the University of New Mexico. He received the Department of the Interior's Superior Service Award in 1972. In 1994, he received the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities award for Excellence in the Humanities, and in 1996, he and his colleague, William Morgan were honored by the Navajo Tribe in a special session of the Navajo Nation Government.

Robert Young passed away on February 20, 2007 at the age of 95.


6 boxes (6 cu. ft.) + 1 oversize folder


This collection contains works and materials written and gathered by Robert W. Young, professor emeritus in linguistics at the University of New Mexico. Materials concern Navajo linguistics, BIA and Navajo tribal government records, customs, livestock, education, employment, natural resources, and other issues.

Related Material

Center for Regional Studies and the Center for Southwest Research Fellows presentation, Jay Scott Williams.

Sophie D. Aberle Papers Center for Southwest Research. University Libraries. University of New Mexico. Sacred Lands Project Collection Center for Southwest Research. University Libraries. University of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Navajo Reading Study Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico David M. Brugge Papers Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Mary C. Wheelwright Autobiography and Related Materials. Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico

Separated Material

Photograph album and other pictorial material have been transferred to the Robert W. Young Pictorial Collection.

The following books have been cataloged fpr UNM University Libraries:
  1. Adahooniligii. Phoenix, Ariz. : Bureau of Indian Affairs, Navajo Agency, scattered issues.
  2. Allen, John Eliot. Mineral resources of Fort Defiance and Tohatchi quadrangles, Arizona and New Mexico, 1954.
  3. Arizona State Employment Service. Characteristics of the Navajo work force, 1956.
  4. Bass, Willard P. The American Indian high school graduate in the Southwest, 1969.
  5. Buffum, Katharine G. and Lieut. Col. Charles Lynch. Joloano moro. Manila, P.I.: E.C. McCullough and Co., 1914.
  6. Castetter, Edward and M. E. Opler. The Ethnobiology of the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache. Albuquerque: University of New Mexcico Press, 1936.
  7. Clark, Ann Nolan. About the Grass Mountain mouse = He p'eji it'unkala kin, 1943. Compilation of Material Relating to the Indians of the United States and the Territory of Alaska, including certain Laws and Treaties affecting such Indians..., 1950.
  8. Conzemius, Eduard. Ethnographical survey of the Miskito and Sumu Indians of Honduras and Nicaragua, 1932.
  9. Costa, Angyone. Introducao a arqueologia brasileira : etnografia e historia, 1959. Executive Orders relating to Indian Reservations from May 14, 1855 to July 1, 1912. Washington : U.S.G.P.O., 1912
  10. Gayle, John R. Tourist potential on the Navajo Indian Reservation, 1955.
  11. Gudschinsky, Sarah C. "The ABC's of Lexicostatistics". Reprint from Word. 12:2, 1956.
  12. Hack, John T. Prehistoric coal mining in the Jeddito valley, Arizona, 1942.
  13. Hack, John T. The changing physical environment of the Hopi Indians of Arizona, 1942.
  14. Haile, Berard. Soul Concepts of the Navaho. Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Missionary Union, 1964.
  15. Hill, W. W. Navajo Salt Gathering. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1940.
  16. Hill, W. W. Navaho Trading and Trading Ritual: A Study of Cultural Dynamics. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1948.
  17. Hobson, Richard. Navaho Acquisitive Values. Cambridge MA: Peabody Museum, 1954.
  18. Kelly, Roger E., R. W. Lang, Harry Walters. Navaho figurines called dolls, 1972.
  19. Kelly, A.R. A preliminary report on archeological explorations at Macon, Ga, 1938.
  20. Kelly, William H. Indians of the Southwest : a survey of Indian tribes and Indian administration in Arizona, 1953.
  21. Kluckhohn, Clyde. Navaho Witchcraft. Cambridge, MA, 1944.
  22. La Flesche, Francis. A dictionary of the Osage language, 1932
  23. Lockett, H. C. Along the Beale Trail. Window Rock, AZ: U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, 1938.
  24. McAllester, David Park. Peyote music, 1949.
  25. Meaders, Margaret. The Indian situation in New Mexico, 1963.
  26. Merriam, C. Hart. The classification and distribution of the Pit River Indian tribes of California, 1926.
  27. Miller, Two-Guns. Songs of the Navajo Sea. 26th collection. Lupton, AZ, 1950.
  28. National Archives. Preliminary Finding Aid of the Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, vol. 1 and vol. 2, 1965.
  29. Navajo Tribe. Navajo tribal code, vol. 2, 1962.
  30. Navajo Tribe. Navajo tribal code, vol. 1, 1962
  31. New Mexico State Planning Board. Indian lands in New Mexico, 1936.
  32. Ruffing, Lorraine Turner. An alternative approach to economic development in a traditional Navajo community, 1972.
  33. Runyan, Norma, et. al. The Special Five-Year Program. Brigham City, UT: Intermountain Indian School, 1953.
  34. Seidel, A. Marokkanische sprachlehre: praktilrhe grammatik des dulgrarabilrhen in Marokko. Heidelberg: Julius Groos, 1907.
  35. Seidel, A. and I. Struyf. La langue Congolaise: grammaire vocabulaire systmatique, phrases gradules et lectures. Paris: Jules Groos, 1910.
  36. Smith, Watson and John M. Roberts. Zuni law: a field of values, 1954.
  37. Steward, Julian H. Basin-plateau aboriginal sociopolitical groups, 1938.
  38. Swanton, John R. The Indian tribes of North America, 1952.
  39. Swanton, John R. Linguistic material from the tribes of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico, 1940.
  40. Thomas, Cyrus. Indian languages of Mexico and Central America and their geographical distribution, 1911.
  41. Tsistlahnii Yazhi. Keshjee. Albuquerque : Navajo Reading Study, University of New Mexico, 1974.
  42. Tyler, S. Lyman. Indian Affairs: A Study of the Changes in Policy of the United States Toward Indians. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1964.
  43. U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Navajo Yearbook, report no. 5, Window Rock, AZ, 1955.
  44. U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Navajo Yearbook, report no. 7, Window Rock, AZ, 1958.
  45. U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Planning in action on the Navajo-Hopi Indian reservations, report no. 2, Window Rock, AZ, 1953.
  46. U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Planning in action on the Navajo-Hopi Indian reservations, report no. 3, Window Rock, AZ, 1953.
  47. U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Navajo Yearbook of Planning in Action, report no. 4, Window Rock, AZ, 1954.
  48. U.S. Bureau of the Census. United States census of population: 1950: Special report, nonwhite population by race, 1953.
  49. U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Planning in action on the Navajo-Hopi Indian reservations, report no. 1, Window Rock, AZ, 1952.
  50. U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Navajo Yearbook of Planning in Action, report no. 6, Window Rock, AZ, 1957.
  51. U.S. Department of Commerce. Statistical abstract of the United States: 1958.
  52. U.S. Bureau of the Census. United States census of population: 1960, 1961.
  53. United States. Bureau of the Census. Census of population: 1950; a report of the seventeenth decennial census of the United States, 1953.
  54. United States. Dept. of the Interior. The Navajo; report [on] a long-range program for Navajo rehabilitation, 1948.
  55. United States Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth census of the United States: 1930. The Indian population of the United States and Alaska, 1930.
  56. United States Department of the Interior. Fortieth Honor Awards Convocation, 1972.
  57. United States. Congress. Joint Special Committee. Condition of the Indian tribes. Report of the Joint Special Committee, appointed under joint resolution of March 3, 1865, 1867.
  58. Urgent Navajo Problems: Observations and Recommendations based on a Recent Study by the New Mexico Association on Indian Affairs. Santa Fe, N.M., 1940.
  59. Vogt, Evon Zartman. Navaho veterans; a study of changing values, 1951.
  60. Wardell, Morris L. A political history of the Cherokee nation, 1838-1907, 1938.
  61. Wood, John J., Walter M. Vannette, Michael J. Andrews "Sheep is life" : an assessment of livestock reduction in the former Navajo-Hopi Joint Use Area, 1982.
  62. Wyman, Leland C. and W. W. Hill. Navajo Eschatology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1942.
  63. Young, Robert W. Report of J.M. Stewart: The Navajo blizzard emergency, January 29 through February 19, 1949, n.d..

Processing Information

A small amount of additional materials were integrated into the collection in October 2006. Annotations to this effect will be found within the respective folder descriptions in the contents list.

Office Files series was added to the collection in April 2010.
Finding Aid of the Robert W. Young Papers, 1850-2003(bulk 1823-1980)
Edited Full Draft
Processed by Jay Williams
©2002, ©2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 672 BC::Robert W. Young Papers)//EN" "nmu1mss672 bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131