Working on the Railroad, Walking in Beauty

Navajos, Hozho, and Track Work

by Jay Youngdahl

"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

"The stories captured in Working on the Railroad, Walking in Beauty testify to a resourcefulness and resilience that the Navajos have demonstrated throughout their engagement with economic change."

—Daniel H. Usner, Vanderbilt University

"This book demonstrates many necessary truths about how humans cope with existence, and sometimes—rarely—find a way to ascend towards beauty despite extreme physical and psychological hardship."

—Books of the Southwest

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.




  • publisher
    Utah State University Press
  • publisher place
    Logan, Utah
  • rights
  • rights holder
    University Press of Colorado