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March 12, 2012

How Social Media Revealed a Navajo Family Heirloom


Jared King, who works in the Navajo Nation's D.C. headquarters, shares this story about his quest to track down a print copy of the beautiful photograph above, which features his grandmother on the Navajo Nation during the Depression.

In 1933 American photographer Laura Gilpin (1891-1979) took a photo of a young Navajo girl, age 12 or 13, near the Four Corners in the Navajo Nation. That photo was later published in Gilpin’s book, The Enduring Navaho (1968, University of Texas Press), among other photos taken on and near the Navajo Nation. The subject in the photo is Susan Tsosie, my grandmother. Susan is seated on the ground, holding a kid goat and wearing traditional Navajo clothing: a hand-woven shawl draped around her shoulders, silver coins and buttons adorning her blouse and a stunning piece of turquoise jewelry around her neck.

About a month ago, my cousin Susanna Rose posted the Gilpin photo of Susan on her Facebook page. A number of my cousins responded with their own cherished memories of our grandmother, who later married George King, my grandfather. They have both passed on, but their legacy remains.

It was through Facebook that I was reminded of the photographer Laura Gilpin. I Googled her name. The search led me to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas, where most of her photos are now housed. I contacted the museum and submitted a request for a copy of this photo.

I thought it was a long shot, but the museum responded immediately. They sent over a digital image of the photo I described. It was a match. Two days ago, a print copy of the original photo taken in 1933 arrived at my apartment in Adams Morgan in Washington, D.C. Laura Gilpin captured an incredible image of Susan Tsosie.

In a week, it will hang nicely framed in the Navajo Nation Washington Office for everyone to enjoy.

Jared King, Communications Director, Navajo Nation Washington Office


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This is a great story, social media has been useful in other spectacular discoveries. Like finding missing children or reuniting family. Thanks for the post, I liked it on facebook!

I can not believe that you are a grandchild of the woman captioned on the picture, that is so amazing!The picture of your grandma, holding the kid goat in her native attires is so lovely! Thanks for sharing with us that story!

Really informative article post.Really looking forward to read more. Really Great.

Grandmother looks so young and beautiful. Also see the Navajo clothing! Beautifully traditional. This is a very great memory.

That is a really lovely story, and the photograph is beautiful - someone must have taken great care of the original print to preserve it so well.
Isn't it amazing how modern technology can join together such a historic tradition to the current day..

Wow really cool. Just great to see young artist sharing there works with the community.

I can not believe that you are a grandchild of the lady captioned on the image, that is so amazing!The image of your grandmother, having the kid goat in her local outfits is so lovely! Thanks for discussing with us that story!

Hello grandson. My name is Kathleen Tsosie. Your grand mother was my aunt. My late father's name was Allen Tsosie. I am so proud of what you've done with your grandmother's picture. It great to know that you have her picture up at Washington D.C. at the Navajo Nation office. Love you and continue to do your best with Navajo Nation School board. Currently, a school board member at Cove, Arizona.

Look what social media do! It does not just inspire, promote or advertise but it also connects not just places but also time. This is an inspiring story.

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