Sandoval, Hastin Tlo'tsi hee (Old Man Buffalo Grass), was the first of the four chiefs of the Navaho People. I had known him for years. In late November 1928, he came to the Mesa Verde National Park, where I was then living, for the purpose of having me record all that he knew about his people.
"You look at me," he said, "and you see only an ugly old man, but within I am filled with great beauty. I sit as on a mountaintop and I look into the future. I see my people and your people living together. In time to come my people will have forgotten their early way of life unless they learn it from white men's books. So you must write down all that I will tell you; and you must have it made into a book that coming generations may know this truth."
This I promised to do. I have recorded it without interpolation, and presented it, in so far as is possible, in the old man's words.
Sam Ahkeah, Sandoval's nephew, now head of the Navaho Council at Window Rock, as well as First Chief of his people, was the interpreter, as Sandoval spoke only the Athapascan tongue.
Sandoval told us that medicine men know the chants and the ceremonies in detail, but these stories are the origins from which the ceremonies were developed; also, that some medicine men divide the different periods into 12 worlds, whereas the older version holds to 4 dark worlds and the present or changeable world.
During the 17 days of his stay with us on this occasion, he spent the greater part of each day narrating the legends and checking them for correction. He would often stop and chant a short prayer, and sprinkle the manuscript, Sam, and myself with corn pollen.
He believed the Mesa Verde to be the center of the old cultures, and he said that it was fitting that the stories should be reborn, written down, in "the Place of the Ancients."
Sandoval died the following January.
Santa Fe, N. Mex., December 1953.