I spent my early boyhood in Durango, Colorado. My father was a teacher among the Navajo, the second-largest Native American tribe next to the Cherokee. Although we were not Native Americans, not members of the tribe, and not speakers of Navajo, these people welcomed us into their society. The cultural differences between us were significant, and they didn’t magically disappear, yet they accepted us— not suddenly, but gradually—by extending bonds of affection and a sense of belonging that I clearly perceived as a child. They included us, and we could feel that sense of inclusion.

On one occasion I went with my father to a remote part of the reservation. As we drove by a small settlement, we saw a man standing outside. Dad stopped ...

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