Man finds himself in museum photo

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, December 13, 2012

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(Times photo – Noel Lyn Smith)

Donald Holyan was about four years old when this photograph was taken of himself, his grandfather Naaltsoos Neiyéhí and his mother Annie Manuelito Holyan. The photograph is part of the Chief Manuelito exhibit at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock.





W hen Donald Holyan and his family were in Window Rock last year, they visited the Navajo Nation Museum.

"That's when we noticed the picture," Holyan's daughter Diane Holyan-Lee said.

The black-and-white photograph shows an elderly Navajo man and a young Navajo woman standing next to a wagon and a little Navajo boy sitting in the wagon.

The caption states, "Naaltsoos Neiyéhí with his daughter and grandson."

It is displayed in the museum's Chief Manuelito exhibit.

Naaltsoos Neiyéhí ("Mail Carrier") was also known as Bob Manuelito or Manuelito Number Two and was the son of Manuelito and Asdzáá Tsin Sikaadnii.

Holyan said he is the little boy and his mother, Annie Manuelito Holyan, is the young woman.

In a Dec. 7 interview, Holyan remembered being about four years old when the photograph was taken. The family had returned home from the trading post in Tohatchi, N.M.

In the photograph, Holyan is holding a small paper sack and remembered its contents.

"Lollipops," he said.

Throughout Holyan's life, he knew about the ties to Manuelito.

"It makes me way up there," Holyan said, adding that Naaltsoos Neiyéhí would remind him of the tie to Manuelito.

For Holyan-Lee, it gives a sense of pride knowing that Manuelito was one of the Diné leaders to sign the Treaty of 1868 and had compassion to bring his people home to Dinétah.

"I feel that my dad comes from someone great," she said.

Holyan-Lee said she remembers seeing that photograph in Annie's home in Tohatchi.

When the family visited Window Rock last year, they waited to speak with museum staff about adding Holyan's name and Annie's name to the caption but the staff was in a meeting.

They could not wait further because it started to snow and they wanted to return home to Hogback, N.M. before the roads iced.

"One of the reasons why we're here is to reveal who that little boy is, to let everyone know that he's 69 years old. He lived a good life…and still carries on the teachings, the words of his great grandfather Chief Manuelito," Holyan-Lee said. "He instilled that in his children and now he instills it in his grandchildren."

Holyan is Tábaahá (Water's Edge Clan), born for Tl'ógí (Weaver-Zia Clan). His parents are Tom Holyan and Annie Manuelito Holyan of Tohatchi, N.M.


His sisters were Emma Tracey, Alice Hardy, Mary Henry and Lillian Holyan McReeves. His brothers were Johnny Holyan and Monty Holyan.

Holyan is the youngest of the family and the only sibling still alive.

He grew up in Tohatchi, then went to elementary school in Church Rock, N.M. and grade school in Gallup and Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma.

When Donald was attending Wingate High in 1959, he met Abbie, who became his wife and mother to his two daughters – Diane and Donna Reshawnna Yazzie.

Holyan graduated from Wingate and Abbie from Kirtland Central High before they married.

They will celebrate their 50th anniversary next year. In addition to their daughters, the couple has seven grandsons and two great-grandchildren.

After high school, Holyan was a bull rider and rodeo judge throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Among the black-and-white photographs that the family bought were two of Holyan's membership cards to the All-Indian Rodeo Cowboy Association, he was a member throughout his career.

He was also named a Top 10 legendary bull rider.

"He went all over the reservation and he was pretty well known," Holyan-Lee said. "That's what he was pretty popular for, his bull riding."

She remembers being a child and traveling to rodeos.

"We practically grew up in a camper and traveled to rodeos every weekend," she said. "We would always sit there along side the fence or the bleachers. As soon as we would hear my dad's name being announced then we would always be attentive and always cheering for him."

When her father won, he would take the family to town to buy supplies or clothes and shoes for his girls, Holyan-Lee said.

While looking at the photographs, which show Holyan bull riding or posing with fellow riders, he explained that his oldest brother, Johnny, taught him how to ride.

Holyan was also a rancher, he learned about raising livestock and waking before sunrise to say prayers from Naaltsoos Neiyéhí.

"He taught me, someday when you get married, you're suppose to raise your family in the good ways," Holyan said.

Abbie said when Holyan was a boy he would make figures of cattle, horses and trucks from mud and the horse trailer he played with was made from a discarded can of Spam.

"He would always tell his grandkids that, 'Now days you kids go into the store and buy a lot of toys but you kids should have seen me, I used to make animals out of the mud,'" Abbie said.

After the rodeo days, Holyan joined the Carpenters and Millwright Local Union 1319 from Farmington and worked at San Juan Generating Station and Arizona Public Service Co.

He retired as a skilled scaffold carpenter in 2000.

As for the photograph, Holyan was surprised to find it in the museum.

"It surprised me when I first seen this in the museum, I didn't know I was famous," he said.

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