Marietta Wetherill

Life With the Navajo in Chaco Canyon

by Kathryn Gabriel


… a Navajo told Marietta Palmer Wetherill. “You will remember and tell our story to the white man.”

In the years after she moved to Chaco Canyon in 1897 with her husband, Richard, Marietta Wetherill got to know the Navajo probably as intimately as a white person could. When her husband was murdered by a Navajo in 1910 in the midst of an interracial conflict, Marietta was spared because the Navajo considered her one of them rather than white. While Richard, who had previously discovered the Cliff Palace Ruins at Mesa Verde, was excavating at Chaco Canyon, Marietta ran their trading post and learned the Navajo ways. She became close friends with a singer, Hosteen Bi’al, who adopted her into the Chee clan. At his side, she learned the secrets of sand painting and curing dances, doctored the Navajo’s illnesses, and served as a midwife. She observed the harsh code of Navajo ethics and even witnessed the execution of a bewitched singer.

In 1953, a year before her death, Marietta Wetherill told the story of her life to a newspaper reporter who recorded it on seventy-five reels of tape, bequeathing a priceless historical treasure to the future. It is on the transcripts of these tapes that Marietta Wetherill: Life with the Navajo in Chaco Canyon is based. In Marietta’s own words, the book vividly portrays the beauty and tragedy of life with the Navajo in the turn-of-the-century Southwest.

“Thanks to Gabriel’s book, we can experience primitive life in Chaco Canyon at the turn of the century through the eyes of a small, sturdy, energetic twenty-one-year old bride, a woman in love and possessed of great independence and spirit.”

—Rocky Mountain News

“Gabriel has done a first-rate job… . Marietta’s plainspoken manner makes this book more accessible and readable than a dry recitation of historical facts.”

Albuquerque Journal 

Categories: , , Product ID: 3711

Additional information




Johnson Books





Publication Date

February 15, 2021


6 x 9

The Author

Kathryn Gabriel

A native of New Mexico, Kathryn Gabriel Loving has published seven books. These include (under Kathryn Gabriel): Roads to Center Place: A Cultural Atlas to Chaco Canyon and the Anasazi and Gambler Way: Indian Gaming in Mythology, History, and Archaeology in North America, among others.