Spanish (Apache de) Navajó, literally, Apache of Navajó, from Navajó, area occupied by Navajos, probably from Tewa (Pueblo Indian language of northern New Mexico) navahu·, literally, arroyo with planted fields
North American Indian people living mostly in northwestern New Mexico, Arizona, and southeastern Utah, U.S. The Navajo speak an Athabaskan language related to that of the Apache. The Navajo and Apache migrated from Canada to the Southwest c. AD 900–1200, after which the Navajo came under the influence of the Pueblo Indians. Painted pottery and the famous Navajo rugs, as well as sandpainting, are products of this influence. The craft of silversmithing probably came from Mexico in the mid-19th century. The traditional economy was based on farming and later herding of sheep, goats, and cattle. The basic social unit was the band. Religion focused on the emergence of the first people from worlds beneath the Earth's surface. In 1863 the U.S. government ordered Col. Kit Carson to put an end to Navajo and Apache raiding; his offensives resulted in the incarceration of about 8,000 Navajo and the destruction of crops and herds. Today many Navajo live on or near the Navajo Reservation (24,000 sq mi [64,000 sq km] in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah); thousands earn their living as transient workers. Their language has been tenaciously preserved; they used it to great effect during World War II by transmitting coded messages in Navajo. The Navajo are the most populous Native American group in the U.S., with some 300,000 individuals of Navajo descent in the early 21st century.