The History and Near Extinction of the Churro
The History of the Navajo Sheep Project
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Chronological History of the Navajo Sheep Project
1972 to 1997

The unwanted Navajo Sheep Project nucleus flock and operations had to erect facilities and relocate to 13 different sites in 4 different States in it's first 25 years of existence!
1972 A small flock of Navajo-Churros was located in Gonzales, California. These were the remnants of the last of the U.S.D.A Southwestern Sheep Breeding Laboratory flock at Fort Wingate, NM.

A census conducted by the Navajo Tribal Veterinary Services discovered that less then 435 original 'old-type' Navajo Churros existed on the Reservation.
1977 Navajo Sheep Project concept to establish Navajo-Churro rescue and research flock initiated by Lyle McNeal, Professor, Animal Science Dept. at Cal Poly State University at San Luis Obispo, CA.

First 'offical' trip of many, over the next two decades, to the Navajo Reservation to search for specimens of Navajo Churro.

American Minor Breeds Conservancy (AMBC) founded.
1978 Six (6) ewes and two(2) four-horned rams donated to Navajo Sheep Project, by Buster Naegle of Gonzales, CA.
1979 Navajo Sheep Project moved to Utah State University, Logan, UT when Dr. McNeal takes position as professor of sheep and wool science. Nine (9) ewes and four (4) rams.

Nucleus flock expanded with procurement of isolated specimens dispered throughout the Navajo Reservation.
1980 Navajo Sheep Project moved to Karren Oil Co. (Conoco) land west of Logan, UT
1981 Navajo Sheep Project moved to USU Animal Science Farm near Wellsville, UT
1982 First deployment of Navajo-Churro Sheep back to the Navajo sheep producers/weavers.

Dr. McNeal invited by Ms. Noel Bennett to address the Shared Horizons conference in Santa Fe, NM. Largest gathering of southwestern textile collectors,weavers, experts in U.S. First significant contributions received by NSP during this conference by Mr. & Mrs. John Ernst who have since then become the NSP's primary benefactors.
Smithsonian publishes article about the NSP and its efforts to rescue and preserve the Navajo-Churro.
1st Edition of "Update," the 'offical' semi-annual newsletter for the NSP is written and mailed out (summer 1982).
Bloomingdale Foundation, NY provides a $12,000 grant for remodeling and repairing facilities for NSP flock at USU Animal Science Farm.

1983 NSP assists Ganados del Valle, Hispanic ag development corp. in North Central New Mexico with the re-establishment of the Churro (1983-90).
1984 Navajo Sheep Project moved to Mt. Sterling, UT under a private lease with Dean Baxter, Paradise, UT. Log sheds and water hauling required at this site.

Navajo sisters, Sharon Becenti Yazzie and Darcy Becenti designed the fist 'offical' NSP logo, using a Navajo wedding basket theme, with a four-horned ram centreal to the emblem.

The famous Burnham, NM Navajo weavers begin utilizing NSP wool for their textiles. Cooperative assistance through Ton-Atin Gallery, Durango, CO & the Jackson family ( 1984-present day).

1985 Navajo-Churro breeding Rams deployed to Ramah sheep producers and weavers.

Technical assistance, wool marketing and sheep breeding and development work requested by the Ramah Navajo Weavers Association, Pinehill Adult Education program, Ramah, Pinehill, and Mountain View, NM (1985-1990)

Sheep and Wool on a Small scale, first national conference sponsored by the USU Navajo Sheep Project, Logan, UT.

1986 NSP moved to North Logan, UT, ( in middle of lambing season) 21 acre site acquired by the USU Foundation. NSP counseled to erect fence and facilities (at our expense) to utilize this site indefinitely. During the next decade NSP facilities are constructed using private sources. Hogan & Tingey Construction co., Bountiful, UT largely responsible for on site assistance.

NSP begins utilizing Great Pyrenees guard dogs

Initiated the Rocky Mountain Specialty Sheep Sale with Ganados del Valley organization in Chama, NM.

1987 NSP begins marketing pelts, lamb meat, and other products to assist cash flow.

Dr. McNeal receives award for inventing a new approach to wool scouring, utilizing an air-injection, from U.S. Wool Bureau, Inc.

NSP nucleus flock herded to Hudson Ranch in North Logan for late spring. summer, and fall seasonal grazing (private land 1987-1990).

1988 NSP contracts with Vermont woolen mill to custom process Navajo-Churro yarn.

Dr. McNeal receives the Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. Award for Intercultural Communications, for work both with Navajo-Churro sheep and Navajo sheep producers and weavers.

1989 NSP experiments with ingedients and begins marketing of Churro summer sausage.
1990 First shipment of NSP Navajo-Churro breeding stock received by "Women in Resistance", the Big Mountain Weavers at Dinnebito, AZ.

Sheep and Wool Small Scale II national conference held at USU.

Due to increasing losses of Navajo-Churro lambs from coyotes, dogs and red foxes, the NSP initates the use of guarding Llamas. Losses cease.

1991 NBC Today Show features work of the NSP.

The Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture dishonors signed legal contract with NSP for sheep and wool outreach education during last week of March (end of tribal fiscal year). Total amount of $150,000 lost. NSP faces serious deficit, over $50,000, and begins Navajo-Churro nucleus flock reduction and liquidation of registered Australian Cormo ( Tasmanian Merino) sheep flock. This incident brought the NSP to the brink of complete project termination.

NSP nucleus flock trucked to Wellsville Mountains for late spring and summer seasonal grazing (private land 1991-1994).

1992 American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), Seedstock Committee recognizes Navajo-Churro sheep as a distintive breed.

NSP begins a sheep dairy research project at USU, along with sheep milk product experimentation.

NSP provides leadership and incentive for independent Navajo sheep producers and weavers to establish their own cooperative. Name selected for organization, Dine' be iina, Inc. (The Navajo Life Way). First president, Joe Benally, Pinon, AZ.

NSP forms a national Advisory Council and Regional Board of Trustees in Salt Lack City, UT.

Navajo-Churro breeding stock re-introduced to Dine'iina, Inc. cooperative.

1993 Mexican government of Chihuahua recognizes a need to re-introduce 'new' Churro genes into the resident Churro sheep flocks of the Tarahumara Indians of the Sierra Madre Mountains. A significant numer of rams and ewes were purchased from the NSP.

NSP begins experimentation and field testing of 'mutton stew stick', and Kosher lamb jerky products.

USU-NSP receives three (3) year @ $100,000/year USDA-SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant entitled "Four-Corners Navajo Nation Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Project. (Multi-state project with USU and CSU and the people of the Navajo Nation).

USDA-SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program) work begins.

Dialog on collaborative work with CSU and Fort Lewis College begins.

NSP learn by accident that USU plans to sell the land that the NSP resides on in North Logan. The purpose, to raise revenue for USU, because of the increasing number of elite homes being constructed around the NSP unit.

NSP begins negotiations with the Church of Jesus Crist of Latter-day Saints officals, regarding the possible donation or low-cost lease of ranch or farmland properties near USU, or in the Four-Corners Region.

The American Minor Breeds Conservancy (AMBC) changes their name to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC).

1994 Large shipment of Navajo-Churro rams purchased by the Mexican government in Chihuahua for further development of ram breeding stations with the state of Chihuahua for the Tarahumara Indians.

Two large purchases of sheep for the 'Women in Resistance' Navajo weavers at Big Mountain. Sheep purchases made possible by Grateful Dead, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Mitchell hair care products.

Dr. McNeal selected a national winner of the U.S.D.A. Excellence in College and University Teaching Award for the Western US. In addition to university teaching, the founder of the NSP and its outreach educational efforts on the NAvajo Reservation were cited as unique and exemplary.

NSP Director, Dr. McNeal invited to address 'The World Congess on Coloured Sheep, York, UK. Title of presentation: "Survival of Endangered Sheep Linked to Survival of Navajo Tradition".

1995 NSP receives W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant for the purpose of the development of an 'Outreach Education Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources' to serve the various indigenous cultures of the Four-Corners region.

June 30,1995, The NSP-SARE Team works with Colorado State University's San Juan Basin Research Center, Hesperus, CO to initiate the return of Navajo flocks to the northern sacred peak to the Navajo people; Dide' Ni'tsaa mountain (Big Sheep Mtn.). THis event was the first time Navajo flocks, primarily Navajo-Churros, returned to this traditional land claim in 132 years.

Dr. McNeal works with Navajo sheep and goat producers to encourage the formation of a Navajo producer organization on an equal par to each of the States' wool growers associations.This independent producers association will be affiliated with the American Sheep Industry Association Inc., Englewood, CO.

NSP sponors guard llama workshop in Hesperus, CO, and deploys bonded and trained guard llamas to Navajo family cooperators on the Reservation. The llamas were donated by various llama breeders from the west.

Dr. McNeal and Ms. Sharon Begay, President, Dine' be iina, address the entire summer meetings of the American Sheep Industry Association at Englewood, CO. This is the first time that the 'real sheep people' had a chance to hear about the NSP, its programs, mission, goals ect.

NSP Broad of Trustees vote on, and pass new sub-title for the project. The new offical name now reflects accurately the efforts and programs of the NSP which is, The Navajo Sheep Project; Serving People, Preserving Cultures.

Due to a Vesicular stomatits (a.k.a VS an equine disease) outbreak in SW U.S., NSP flock is quarantined at Hesperus, CO an additional 60 days. Then when NSP flock is permitted to be trucked back to Utah in November, once again it is required to be placed in quarantine, this time near Richmond, UT before being permitted to return to its'permanet' North Logan homesite. Flock was never diagnosed or detected to have be carrying the VS organism.
Thus the 1995 breeding plans and nutritional management program had to be discarded, and at a great expense to the NSP. Again, USU although claiming ownership of NSP flock and its other assets did not offer to help pay for these bureaucratic impositions. Once again the NSP flock was a victim of the system.

1996 NSP works to finalize lease arrangments to make move to LaPlata, NM and Blanding, UT for at least 30 years ( LDS church land).

NSP Director McNeal receives The American Sheep Industry's Association lifetime achievement recognition by receiving the '1996 Camptender Award'. Selection was also based on efforts to rescue, breed back and serve the Navajo and Hispanic cultures of the Southwest.

NSP prepares for relocation to new home site(s) in the Four-Corners region. April 26, NSP Trustees, USU Administration and Director McNeal make the decision to separate from USU and become their own non-profit organization, proir to moving to the Four-Corners region. The University was uncomfortable about many apsects of the NSP, which includes 'turf concerns,'i.e. NSP outreach educational programs going into New Mexico abd Arizona doing work there that the other universities should be doing.

The 30 year leases for the move to the Four-Corners are being reconsidered because of the NSP having to separate from Utah State University.

June, NSP Founding Director receives the prestigious " Conservation Breeder of the Year Award" from the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy at their annual meeting in Lexington, KY. This recognition is especially supportive of his work to help Navajos, using the Navajo-Churro (an endangered sheep breed) to economically and spiritually meet the needs of the various cultures of the Southwest.

July, NSP Founding Director receives the United States of America, Distinguished Teacher Award from the American Society of Animal Science at their annual meetings in Rapid City, SD.

August 6, NSP becomes an offical Utah non-profit corporation, know as,The Navajo Sheep Project; Serving People, Preserving Cultures, Inc.

September 23 NSP is informed that because of USU's non-endorsement of the 30 year, non-fee cost farm property leases withthe LDS Church have been rejected. USU and administration was the cause for this non-endorsement. McNeal decides that the NSP, their fundraising along with the bad news about losses of the farm leases they worked so hard to acquire, now gives him no other option but to investigate the possibility of a civil suit against the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station Director, H.P. Rasmussen and Utah State University.

1997 March 18, NSP becomes an offical IRS 501(c)(3) federal tax exempt non-profit corporation.

March 18, SLC, semi-annual Board of Trustees meeting, and Board recommends getting sheep and assets out of Logan ASAP. Approves grazing project at Deseret Livestock.

Apirl 18, SLC, A lawsuit against USU and Utah Agricultural Experiment Station Director, H.P. Rasmussen is filed in Utah's 3rd District Court. Causes: Breach of Contract, Due Process and Declaratory Relief.

June 12, NSP evicted from USU North Logan site and relocated temporarily to Deseret Ranch near Woodruff, UT for joint USU and Federal Coyote predation project. The NSP flock was not allowed to keep it's flock guarding llamas with this research project.

June 16, Ganado, AZ,over 120 yearling and two-year old Navajo-Churro rams of various colors are donated to the Navajo sheep producers through Dine' be iina, Inc. Distribution begans around 1:30 p.m. at the Ganado rodeo arena. Well attended. The NSP donated this set of beautiful rams as a gesture of appreciation over the 20 years of the NSP lifespan in recognition of the NSP's 20th anniversary celebration of the famous Two-Gray Hills Trading Post, currently owned and operated by Mr. Les Wilson who bought it in 1987. Mr. Wilson is the 8th owner during the 100 years of the TGH trading Post's life.

September 11, USU transfers NSP flock and assests to new NSP organization for $50,000 Agreement was arrived at and endorsed without the NSP principals, Dr. and/or Mrs. Lyle G. McNeal present or involved with the negotiations. Agreement and negotiations were conducted while the McNeal's were in Alaska on assignment.

September 17, NSP nucleus flock moved from Woodruff, UT to Bloomfield, NM, new temporary home of NSP sheep and guard llama operations (private land).

2002 August 17, following 2 years of heavy predation loss, substandard care and husbandry, along with high feed costs and no pasturage, the NSP is relocated to the J.R. Broadbent Co. Ranch of Evanston, WY. The NSP will be maintained as a range type operation, mixed with typical commercial Western white-face type ewes during most of the year, except during a controlled single-sire breeding season and a more closely monitored spring lambing season. USU students and Dr. McNeal are within 2 hours or less from the NSP flockm verse the 12+ hours while it was housed at Bloomfield, NM (private land).

Agreement with J.R. Broadbent Co. Ranch terminated in fall. Major deployment of the NSP Nucleous Flock takes place in Nov; with the retention of three "NSP Mentor Flocks" in Utah. Dr. McNeal retires as Executive Director of the NSP; but continues to serve as Technical Advisor and Founder, Emeritis of the NSP. After 5 years of ongoing litigation McNeal vs USU; a week-long trial is completed in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City, UT and the jury found USU guilty. Annual NSP sheep exchanges continue to this day.

2007 Lamb checking out a Navajo baby The NSP celebrated it's 30th Anniversary in June during the annual Dine'be iina sponsored "Sheep in Life Celebration" at Dine' College in Tsaile, AZ.

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