HENRY CHEE DODGE Biography - Royalty, Rulers & leaders


Biography » royalty rulers leaders » henry chee dodge


Henry Chee Dodge began his career in politics early. At the age of twelve, he           
worked as an interpreter at his first                                                   
job at the supply room at Fort Defiance. At the age of 20, Henry was hired by           
the US Government to serve as official                                                   
interpreter for the Navajos, a position he held for nearly ten years. He was             
asked to translate in many different                                                     
situations, often serving as the conveyor of Government laws to his people while         
explaining to the Government the                                                         
Navajo view of the same situation. He was valued for his ability to remain calm         
in heated and difficult situations.                                                     
US Government Agent Dennis Riordan praised him for his “cool headedness and good         
judgment, and tact” when                                                                 
under pressure.                                                                         
While Dodge was still serving as official interpreter he was appointed “head             
Chief of the Navajos” in 1884 by                                                         
Agent Riordan, a position sanctioned by the Secretary of the Interior and the           
Commissioner of Indian Affairs.                                                         
Dodge was twenty-four years old. He continued to spend a great deal of time             
traveling throughout the large                                                           
expanse of the Navajo reservation talking to headman about Government issues. He         
also began working closely                                                               
with Dr. Washington Matthews, post surgeon at Fort Defiance, to collect and             
translate Navajo stories and chants.                                                     
From his first job at the age of twelve to his job as official interpreter and           
Head Chief, Dodge had begun earning                                                     
a wage. By his late twenties, he was a wealthy man. Dodge invested his earnings         
in several ventures, but his                                                             
most prosperous was in ranching. Besides his primary home in Crystal, New Mexico,       
Dodge purchased ranch                                                                   
land at Tanner Springs near Klagetoh, Arizona where he ran several thousand head         
of cattle sheep and horses.                                                             
When the Navajo Tribal Council was formed in 1923 as the official governing body         
of the Navajo tribe, Dodge                                                               
was elected by the Council as the Navajo Tribal Chairman. He was so revered by           
his people that, again, in 1946                                                         
he was elected Chairman. However, Dodge never took office. He was old and had           
fallen ill with pneumonia in the                                                         
winter of 1946 and died on January 7, 1947.                                             
The exact year of Dodge’s birth is unknown. His mother was Bisnayanchi, half             
Navajo and half Jemez. His                                                               
father is said to be Juan Cocinas (several variations), a Mexican silversmith           
and interpreter in the employ of Agent                                                   
Henry L. Dodge. However, there is recent evidence that Agent Henry L. Dodge             
himself may have been his father.                                                       
After Agent Dodge’s untimely death, a letter was written in February 1875 from           
Agent Dodge’s brother, Augustus C.                                                       
Dodge, to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Edward P. Smith. He talks at               
length about a Navajo son belonging to                                                   
Henry Dodge. He refers to the boy being “…now some 18 years of age”. If this             
indeed is Henry Chee Dodge, this                                                         
would place his birth at about 1857. Whatever Dodge’s parentage, or exact birth         
date, there is no question that he                                                       
lived a full and rewarding life that substantially impacted the history of the           
Navajo people.