Diné identity in the twenty-first century is distinctive and personal. It is a mixture of traditions, customs, values, behaviors, technologies, worldviews, languages, and lifeways. It is a holistic experience. Diné identity is analogous to Diné weaving: like weaving, Diné identity intertwines all of life’s elements together.
In this important new book, Lloyd L. Lee, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and an associate professor of Native American studies, takes up and provides insight on the most essential of human questions: who are we? Finding value and meaning in the Diné way of life has always been a hallmark of Diné studies. Lee’s Diné-centric approach to identity gives the reader a deep appreciation for the Diné way of life. Lee incorporates Diné baa hane’ (Navajo history), Sa’ą́h Naagháí Bik’eh Hózhǫ́ǫ́n (harmony), Diné Bizaad (language), K’é (relations), K’éí (clanship), and Níhi Kéyah (land) to address the melding of past, present, and future that are the hallmarks of the Diné way of life.
This study, informed by personal experience, offers an inclusive view of identity that is encompassing of cultural and historical diversity. To illustrate this, Lee shares a spectrum of Diné insights on what it means to be human. Diné Identity in a Twenty-First-Century World opens a productive conversation on the complexity of understanding and the richness of current Diné identities.
Historian Robert McPherson discusses basic Navajo concepts such as divination, good and evil, prophecy, and metaphorical thought, as well as these topics' relevance in daily life, making these far-ranging ideas accessible to the contemporary reader. He also considers the toll of cultural loss on modern Navajo culture as many traditional values and institutions are confronted by those of dominant society. Using both historical and modern examples, he shows how cultural change has shifted established views and practices and illustrates the challenge younger generations face in maintaining the beliefs and customs their parents and grandparents have shared over generations.
This intimate look at Navajo values and customs will appeal not only to students and scholars of Native American studies, ethnic studies, and anthropology but to any reader interested in Navajo culture or changing traditional lifeways.
Ak'é Nýdzin, or Navajo Oshley, was born sometime between 1879 and 1893. His oral memoir is set on the northern frontier of Navajo land, principally the San Juan River basin in southeastern Utah, and tells the story of his early life near Dennehetso and his travels, before there were roads or many towns, from Monument Valley north along Comb Ridge to Blue Mountain. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Anglos and Navajos expanded their use and settlement of lands north of the San Juan. Grazing lands and the Anglo wage economy drew many Navajos across the river. Oshley, a sheepherder, was among the first to settle there. He cared for the herds of his extended family, while also taking supplemental jobs with the growing livestock industry in the area.
His narrative is woven with vivid and detailed portraits of Navajo culture: clan relationships, marriages and children, domestic life, the importance of livestock, complex relations with the natural world, ceremonies, trading, and hand trembling.
Kinaaldá, the ceremony associated with the onset of a girl’s puberty, is an important Navajo rite within the Blessingway complex. Derived from the experiences of Changing Woman, the puberty ceremony has been passed through generations and continues to be observed throughout Navajoland.
An acknowledged classic, Kinaaldá remains the most complete "outsider" account of this important ceremony. Charlotte Frisbie’s lucid description takes the reader through the four-day ritual, describing sequence, daily activities, restrictions, observances that include the girl’s race toward the east, and an analysis of the ceremonial music, complete with notations and translation.
To give readers a better sense of why, Frisbie relates the beliefs and practices expressed in Kinaaldá to origin accounts conveyed by medicine people and to explanations and discussions with other Navajos.
Masked Gods is a vast book, a challenging and profoundly original account of the history, legends, and ceremonialism of the Navajo and Pueblo Indians of the Southwest. Following a brief but vivid history of the two tribes through the centuries of conquest, the book turns inward to the meaning of Native American legends and ritual—Navajo songs, Pueblo dances, Zuni kachina ceremonies. Enduring still, these rituals and ceremonies express a view of life, of man’s place in the creation, which is compared with Taoism and Buddhism—and with the aggressive individualism of the Western world.
The Mountain Chant is a nine-day Navajo healing ceremony, one of several major rites undertaken only in winter. Aside from curing disease, it brings rain and invokes the unseen powers for general benefit. Though perhaps practiced less often now than better-known ceremonies such as the Night Chant, it is by no means forgotten.
Fully faithful to the original book published by Washington Matthews over a century ago, this edition contains the story of the wandering hero upon whose exploits the Mountain Chant is based, a description of each of the nine ceremonial days, and original song text and translations.
"Each Navajo ceremony builds on a specific story, which in turn contributes to a network of interlocking narratives as poetically rich as the Homeric epics or the Arthurian cycle. Non-Navajos are only now beginning to fathom the extent of that poetic richness as we learn more about the nature of ceremonial Navajo, with its formulaic virtuosity, its rhythmic cadences, its deep allusiveness to enduring human values, and the spellbinding thrust of its stories."
- Paul Zolbrod, from the foreword
Navaho Legends is one of the earliest collections of Navajo oral traditions in English, and still the best. Originally published in 1897, Washington Matthews’s sensitive translation contains extensive versions of the Original Legend and two other tales. These richly detailed legends remain among the most complete sources of Navajo cultural, ritual, and ceremonial information.
This edition is fully faithful to the original, containing Matthews’s introduction, extensive notes, interlinear prayer translations, musical notations, and index, plus a new note on orthography by Robert Young.
Navaho Material Culture was conceived in the 1940s when the noted anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn began to collect data for a reference work on Navaho objects. The unique work he began was concluded by W. W. Hill and Lucy Wales Kluckhohn, who incorporated unpublished data collected by more than twenty research workers among the Navaho for varying periods over four decades.The beautifully illustrated collection of material culture traits is organized into five major categories: subsistence, shelter, clothing, ritual, and recreation. Information about the 263 traits includes description of manufacture and use, Navaho knowledge and belief associated with the product, and pertinent material from the anthropological literature.The authors analyze the distribution of traits according to area and through time, and discuss the broader issues of culture change, obsolescence, differential acculturation, and cultural homogeneity. Navaho Material Culture is the first such study to include all these diverse elements; in fact, it is the first such study made of the Navaho or any Southwestern tribe. Because many of the traits are obsolete and others are no longer remembered, much of the information presented here can no longer be obtained.
What are the Navaho today? How do they live together and with other races? What is their philosophy of life? Both the general reader and the student will look to this authoritative study for the answers to such questions. The authors review Navaho history from archaeological times to the present, and then present Navaho life today. They show the people’s problems in coping with their physical environment; their social life among their own people; their contacts with whites and other Indians and especially with the Government; their economy; their religious beliefs and practices; their language and the problems this raises in their education and their relationships to whites; and their explicit and implicit philosophy.This book presents not only a study of Navaho life, however: it is an impartial discussion of an interesting experiment in Government administration of a dependent people, a discussion which is significant for contemporary problems of a wider scope; colonial questions; the whole issue of the contact of different races and peoples. It will appeal to every one interested in the Indians, in the Southwest, in anthropology, in sociology, and to many general readers.This work forms the most thoroughgoing study ever made of the Navaho Indians, and perhaps of any Indian group. The book was written as a part of the Indian Education Research Project undertaken jointly by the Committee on Human Development of the University of Chicago and the United States Office of Indian Affairs. The cooperation of a psychiatrist and anthropologist both in the research for, and in the writing of, this study is noteworthy—as is the fusion of methods and points of view derived from medicine, psychology, and anthropology. Probably no anthropological study has ever been based upon so many years of field work by so many different persons.
The Navajo Nation court system is the largest and most established tribal legal system in the world. Since the landmark 1959 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Williams v. Lee that affirmed tribal court authority over reservation-based claims, the Navajo Nation has been at the vanguard of a far-reaching, transformative jurisprudential movement among Indian tribes in North America and indigenous peoples around the world to retrieve and use traditional values to address contemporary legal issues.
A justice on the Navajo Nation Supreme Court for sixteen years, Justice Raymond D. Austin has been deeply involved in the movement to develop tribal courts and tribal law as effective means of modern self-government. He has written foundational opinions that have established Navajo common law and, throughout his legal career, has recognized the benefit of tribal customs and traditions as tools of restorative justice.
In Navajo Courts and Navajo Common Law, Justice Austin considers the history and implications of how the Navajo Nation courts apply foundational Navajo doctrines to modern legal issues. He explains key Navajo foundational concepts like Hózhó (harmony), K'é (peacefulness and solidarity), and K'éí (kinship) both within the Navajo cultural context and, using the case method of legal analysis, as they are adapted and applied by Navajo judges in virtually every important area of legal life in the tribe.
In addition to detailed case studies, Justice Austin provides a broad view of tribal law, documenting the development of tribal courts as important institutions of indigenous self-governance and outlining how other indigenous peoples, both in North America and elsewhere around the world, can draw on traditional precepts to achieve self-determination and self-government, solve community problems, and control their own futures.
Navajoland is the heart and soul of the American Southwest. While the Navajo Reservation incorporates portions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, this is only about half the traditional homeland of 220,000 Diné, the People. In one way or another, nearly all of it, including the original homeland, is sacred to them. Before Spaniards and Americans affixed their own names to the land, every topographic feature had at least one Navajo name. Many of these made their way onto maps—in various forms—or are still in use among Navajo speakers.
Navajo Places is the most ambitious attempt yet to preserve this rich legacy. Through years of research, interviews, and consultation with Navajo authorities, Laurance Linford has compiled a place-name guide that goes beyond reservation boundaries to include the entirety of the traditional Navajo homeland. The volume contains over 1,200 entries, plus a pronunciation guide and sections on Navajo history and the relation of ritual and sacred legend to landscape.
An invaluable resource for anyone interested in the Four Corners region.
The last few decades have given rise to an electrifying movement of Native American activism, scholarship, and creative work challenging five hundred years of U.S. colonization of Native lands. Indigenous communities are envisioning and building their nations and are making decolonial strides toward regaining power from colonial forces.
The Navajo Nation is among the many Native nations in the United States pushing back. In this new book, Diné author Lloyd L. Lee asks fellow Navajo scholars, writers, and community members to envision sovereignty for the Navajo Nation. He asks, (1) what is Navajo sovereignty, (2) how do various Navajo institutions exercise sovereignty, (3) what challenges does Navajo sovereignty face in the coming generations, and (4) how did individual Diné envision sovereignty?
Contributors expand from the questions Lee lays before them to touch on how Navajo sovereignty is understood in Western law, how various institutions of the Navajo Nation exercise sovereignty, what challenges it faces in coming generations, and how individual Diné envision power, authority, and autonomy for the people.
A companion to Diné Perspectives: Revitalizing and Reclaiming Navajo Thought, each chapter offers the contributors’ individual perspectives. The book, which is organized into four parts, discusses Western law’s view of Diné sovereignty, research, activism, creativity, and community, and Navajo sovereignty in traditional education. Above all, Lee and the contributing scholars and community members call for the rethinking of Navajo sovereignty in a way more rooted in Navajo beliefs, culture, and values.
Raymond D. Austin
Bidtah N. Becker
Manley A. Begay, Jr.
Larry W. Emerson
Michelle L. Hale
Born in the early 1940s in northern Arizona’s high country desert, Jim Dandy began life imbued with the traditions of the Navajo people. Raised by his father and grandfather—both medicine men—and a grandmother steeped in Navajo practices, he embraced their teachings and followed in their footsteps. But attending the LDS Placement program in northern Utah changed his life’s course when he became a member of the Mormon Church. Following graduation from high school, Jim served an LDS mission among his people, obtained a bachelor’s degree, and entered the work force in southeastern Utah as a career counselor, teacher, and community advocate who improved educational opportunities on the Navajo Reservation.
Jim has led a life of service and teaching. He maintains the traditional philosophy with which he was raised and the Mormon beliefs that he learned and continues to follow; his life reflects the values inherent in these two different worlds. Readers interested in Navajo philosophy will find his blend of these two distinct views fascinating, while others will better understand the effects of the controversial placement program on the life of one individual. However, this is primarily the warm story of a man’s life among his people and his love for them and their culture.
In this completely redesigned and expanded edition, LaVerne Harrell Clark examines how storytellers, singers, medicine men, and painters created the animal's evolving symbolic significance by adapting existing folklore and cultural symbols. Exploring the horse's importance in ceremonies, songs, prayers, customs, and beliefs, she investigates the period of the horse's most pronounced cultural impact on the Navajo and the Apache, starting from the time of its acquisition from the Spanish in the seventeenth century and continuing to the mid-1960s, when the pickup truck began to replace it as the favored means of transportation. In addition, she presents a look at how Navajos and Apaches today continue to redefine the horse's important role in their spiritual as well as material lives.
This classic work is a must for historians, readers interested in Native American folklore and mythology, and anyone who has ever been captivated by the magic and romance of the horse.
Co-winner of the 1967 University of Chicago Folklore Award.
The life story of this World War II Navajo Code Talker introduces middle-grade readers to an unforgettable person and offers a close perspective on aspects of Navajo (or Diné) history and culture.
Thomas H. Begay was one of the young Navajo men who, during World War II, invented and used a secret, unbreakable communications code based on their native Diné language to help win the war in the Pacific. Although the book includes anecdotes from other code talkers, its central narrative revolves around Begay. It tells his story, from his birth near the Navajo reservation, his childhood spent herding sheep, his adolescence in federally mandated boarding schools, and ultimately, his decision to enlist in the US Marine Corps.
Alysa Landry relies heavily on interviews with Begay, who, as of this writing, is in his late nineties and one of only three surviving code talkers. Begay’s own voice and sense of humor make this book particularly significant in that it is the only Code Talker biography for young readers told from a soldier’s perspective. Begay was involved with the book every step of the way, granting Landry unlimited access to his military documents, personal photos, and oral history. Additionally, Begay’s family contributed by reading and fact-checking the manuscript. This truly is a unique collaborative project.
Wastelanding tells the history of the uranium industry on Navajo land in the U.S. Southwest, asking why certain landscapes and the peoples who inhabit them come to be targeted for disproportionate exposure to environmental harm. Uranium mines and mills on the Navajo Nation land have long supplied U.S. nuclear weapons and energy programs. By 1942, mines on the reservation were the main source of uranium for the top-secret Manhattan Project. Today, the Navajo Nation is home to more than a thousand abandoned uranium sites. Radiation-related diseases are endemic, claiming the health and lives of former miners and nonminers alike.
Traci Brynne Voyles argues that the presence of uranium mining on Diné (Navajo) land constitutes a clear case of environmental racism. Looking at discursive constructions of landscapes, she explores how environmental racism develops over time. For Voyles, the “wasteland,” where toxic materials are excavated, exploited, and dumped, is both a racial and a spatial signifier that renders an environment and the bodies that inhabit it pollutable. Because environmental inequality is inherent in the way industrialism operates, the wasteland is the “other” through which modern industrialism is established.
In examining the history of wastelanding in Navajo country, Voyles provides “an environmental justice history” of uranium mining, revealing how just as “civilization” has been defined on and through “savagery,” environmental privilege is produced by portraying other landscapes as marginal, worthless, and pollutable.
For over one hundred years, Navajos have gone to work in significant numbers on Southwestern railroads. As they took on the arduous work of laying and anchoring tracks, they turned to traditional religion to anchor their lives.
Jay Youngdahl, an attorney who has represented Navajo workers in claims with their railroad employers since 1992 and who more recently earned a master's in divinity from Harvard, has used oral history and archival research to write a cultural history of Navajos' work on the railroad and the roles their religious traditions play in their lives of hard labor away from home.
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