The Navajo were among the most feared opponents of white settlers until they were starved into submission in the 1860's, when Kit Carson orchestrated the slaughter of their sheep herds. But after making their peace with Washington in 1868, they were among the most successful native Americans in their adaptation to the changing world, particularly since the discovery of oil and gas under their sprawling Arizona lands in the 1960's. But with relative wealth, they also discovered political corruption, which led in 1989 to the first suspension of a tribal leader by the tribal council.
Since then, the Navajo, who with 219,000 members are America's largest Indian tribe, have worked to reshape their government along more democratic lines. Last week, they inaugurated their first elected tribal president, Peterson Zah, a 62-year-old education consultant who has been active in tribal politics. Addressing an audience of 8,000 Navajos, Mr. Zah said, "In unity, we will demonstrate that we have regained our stability."
Photo: Peterson Zah (Paul Natonabah for The New York Times)