Shiprock, New Mexico: 1952-1954

When a co-worker from the Chilocco Indian School left to become the Superintendent of Shiprock Schools, he recruited Suzanne’s father Owen Grant to be the principal of a new High School being built in Shiprock, New Mexico. Bring Carrie, he said, we’ll give her a teaching position. The family was to be housed in newly built staff housing on the mesa overlooking the boarding school buildings. Suzanne and Martha Nell attended the local public school with both children of Shiprock employees and Navajo children. It was during this time that Suzanne skipped a grade and became one of the youngest people in her class throughout the rest of her school years.

It seemed too good to be true, and it was. The high school was delayed in opening, and Owen never became principal, settling for a teaching position instead. The newly constructed building sat empty except for two young girls, 6 and 8 years old, roller skating up and down the hallways. Carrie’s job turned out to involve supervising not only the meals at the Shiprock school, but also at several auxillary sites throughout the reservation. She spent so much time driving alone on reservation roads, covering such great distances, that she was often treated to a police escort from the Navajo Police to make sure she arrived safely.

Living on the Navajo reservation was certainly a cultural experience for the family. Suzanne and Martha Nell enjoyed playing with a young sheep that the neighbor family had in the driveway, but then were devastated when it was gone (having been butchered). The girls also attended Vacation Bible School and learned to sing Jesus Loves Me in Navajo.

View more pictures of the Grant Family in Shiprock

Read the beginnings of a letter Suzanne was writing to her children describing her experience at Shiprock, and her struggle for identity as a mixed blood Cherokee.