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Navajo Icon Dies

Katherine Smith
Marykatherine Smith
Katherine Smith is most famous for standing up to the federal government when it forced thousands of Navajo people to move.

In the 1970s Congress passed a law to divide jointly-owned Navajo and Hopi land and relocate thousands of Navajos, so energy companies could mine for coal.

The federal government hired Navajo men to build a fence on the new boundary. That all came to a stop when they ran into Katherine Smith and her rifle.

“They just kind of laughed at her and mocked her,” said Marykatherine Smith, Katherine’s daughter. “And she said 'I’m asking you nicely you need to stop this work.' So they continued to mock her and she backed up and said 'that was a warning' and shot the gun up in the air.”

Katherine stayed on her homesite and raised a dozen children there. Smith was 98, according to her records. Her family said she was more than 100.

The utility that runs the Navajo c oal-fired power plantannounced in February it will close in 2019.

Laurel Morales was a Fronteras Desk reporter in Flagstaff from 2011 to 2020.