Will Evans's writings should find a special niche in the small but significant body of literature from and about traders to the Navajos. Evans was the proprietor of the Shiprock Trading Company. Probably more than most of his fellow traders, he had a strong interest in Navajo culture. The effort he made to record and share what he learned certainly was unusual. He published in the Farmington and New Mexico newspapers and other periodicals, compiling many of his pieces into a book manuscript. His subjects were Navajos he knew and traded with, their stories of historic events such as the Long Walk, and descriptions of their culture as he, an outsider without academic training, understood it. Evans's writings were colored by his fondness for, uncommon access to, and friendships with Navajos, and by who he was: a trader, folk artist, and Mormon. He accurately portrayed the operations of a trading post and knew both the material and artistic value of Navajo crafts. His art was mainly inspired by Navajo sandpainting. He appropriated and, no doubt, sometimes misappropriated that sacred art to paint surfaces and objects of all kinds. As a Mormon, he had particular views of who the Navajos were and what they believed and was representative of a large class of often-overlooked traders. Much of the Navajo trade in the Four Corners region and farther west was operated by Mormons. They had a significant historical role as intermediaries, or brokers, between Native and European American peoples in this part of the West. Well connected at the center of that world, Evans was a good spokesperson.
This volume grew out of a symposium held at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in November 1969 at New Orleans, Louisiana. The "Apachean Symposium" was designed to provide an opportunity for scholars engaged in research on southern Athapaskan cultures to report upon their findings, and wherever possible, to link them to known fact and existing theory. The diverse work presented here will add significantly to the knowledge about Apachean cultures, and each of contributions also pertains directly to wider spheres of anthropological concern.
Arc and the Sediment: a Novel
Christine Allen-Yazzie Utah State University Press, 2007 Library of Congress PS3601.L439A73 2007 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Gretta Bitsilly, a gin-steeped mother of two and self-proclaimed expert at standing just outside the margins of ethnicity and peering in, has been all but eclipsed by the world that eludes her—as a wife, as a writer, as a skeptic in "the other land of Zion," Utah. Gretta has set off to Fort Defiance, Arizona, where she hopes to convince her Navajo husband, who has escaped not from his family but from alcoholism, to come home. Over a sputtering two-steps-forward, one-step-back desert journey, Gretta is diverted by chance, by seizures, an inconstant memory, and the disjointed character of her irresolute quest. She is fueled by a volatile mix of rage and curiosity and is rendered careless by ambivalence toward her marriage—she knows a welcome mat will not be waiting for her, "that white girl" who can't seem to get anything right. On route Gretta fi nds herself lost in the landscape, in strange company, or in her own convolution of language and inner space. With a dictionary and a laptop she attempts to write herself into a better existence—a hopeful existence—and to connect points of intellectual, physical, even spiritual reference.
This tale, though dark and difficult, is infused with tart, twisted humor. Confused, disheveled, self-deprecating, and self-destructive, Gretta is also sharp and funny. Here, first-time novelist Christine Allen-Yazzie breaks apart her own narrative arc but with gritty reality seals it near-shut again, if in rearrangement, drawing us into Gretta's wrestling match with herself, her husband, her addiction, and the road.
The Arc and the Sediment received an honorable mention from the James Jones First Novel Competition, and it won the Utah Arts Council Annual Writing Competiton Publishing Prize.
Bighorse the Warrior
Tiana Bighorse; Edited by Noël Bennett University of Arizona Press, 1990 Library of Congress E99.N3B5333 1990 | Dewey Decimal 978.9004972
"I want to talk about my tragic story, because if I don't, it will get into my mind and get into my dream and make me crazy."
When the Navajos were taken from their land by the federal government in the 1860s, thousands lost their lives on the infamous Long Walk, while those who eluded capture lived in constant fear. These men and women are now dead, but their story lives on in the collective memory of their tribe.
Gus Bighorse lived through that period of his people's history, and his account of it—recalled by his daughter Tiana and retold in her father's voice—provides authentic glimpses into Navajo life and values of a century ago. Born around 1846, Gus was orphaned at sixteen when his parents were killed by soldiers, and he went into hiding with other Navajos banded together under chiefs like Manuelito. Over the coming years, he was to see members of his tribe take refuge in Canyon de Chelly, endure the Long Walk from Fort Defiance to Bosque Redondo in 1864, and go into hiding at Navajo Mountain. Gus himself was the leader of one of Manuelito's bands who fought against Kit Carson's troops.
After the Navajos were allowed to return to their land, Gus took up the life of a horseman, only to see his beloved animals decimated in a government stock reduction program.
"I know some people died of their tragic story," says Gus. "They think about it and think about how many relatives they lost. Their parents got shot. They get into shock. That is what kills them. That is why we warriors have to talk to each other. We wake ourselves up, get out of the shock. And that is why I tell my kids what happened, so it won't be forgot." Throughout his narrative, he makes clear those human qualities that for the Navajos define what it is to be a warrior: vision, compassion, courage, and endurance.
Befitting the oral tradition of her people, Tiana Bighorse draws on her memory to tell her father's story. In doing so, she ensures that a new generation of Navajos will know how the courage of their ancestors enabled their people to have their reservation today: "They paid for our land with their lives." Following the text is a chronology of Navajo history, with highlights of Gus Bighorse's life placed in the context of historical events.
Many know that the removal and relocation of Indigenous peoples from traditional lands is a part of the United States’ colonial past, but few know that—in an expansive corner of northeastern Arizona—the saga continues. The 1974 Settlement Act officially divided a reservation established almost a century earlier between the Diné (Navajo) and the Hopi, and legally granted the contested land to the Hopi. To date, the U.S. government has relocated between 12,000 and 14,000 Diné from Hopi Partitioned Lands, and the Diné—both there and elsewhere—continue to live with the legacy of this relocation.
Bitter Water presents the narratives of four Diné women who have resisted removal but who have watched as their communities and lifeways have changed dramatically. The book, based on 25 hours of filmed personal testimony, features the women’s candid discussions of their efforts to carry on a traditional way of life in a contemporary world that includes relocation and partitioned lands; encroaching Western values and culture; and devastating mineral extraction and development in the Black Mesa region of Arizona. Though their accounts are framed by insightful writings by both Benally and Diné historian Jennifer Nez Denetdale, Benally lets the stories of the four women elders speak for themselves.
Scholars, media, and other outsiders have all told their versions of this story, but this is the first book that centers on the stories of women who have lived it—in their own words in Navajo as well as the English translation. The result is a living history of a contested cultural landscape and the unique worldview of women determined to maintain their traditions and lifeways, which are so intimately connected to the land. This book is more than a collection of stories, poetry, and prose. It is a chronicle of resistance as spoken from the hearts of those who have lived it.
An outstanding work crafted from the handwritten pages of translations from the Navajo of the late Father Berard Haile giving three separate versions of the Blessingway rite with each version consisting of a prose text accompanied by the ritual songs and prayers. Valuable insights into the character and use of the Blessingway rite; its ceremonial procedures, its mythology, and its drypaintings.
Adulthood in the Navajo world is marked by the onset of menstruation in females and by the deepening of the voice in males. Accordingly, young adults must accept responsibility over the powers manifest in blood and voice: for women, the forces that control reproduction and growth; for men, the powers of protection and restoration of order that come through maintaining Navajo oral tradition.
The maintenance of the latter tradition has long been held to be the function of the Navajo singer, a role usually viewed as male. But despite this longstanding assumption, women can and do fill this role. Drawing on interviews with seventeen Navajo women practitioners and five apprentices, Maureen Trudelle Schwarz explicates women's role as ceremonial practitioners and shows that it is more complex than has previously been thought. She examines gender differences dictated by the Navajo origin story, details how women came to be practitioners, and reveals their experiences and the strategies they use to negotiate being both woman and singer.
Women who choose careers as singers face complex challenges, since some rules prohibit menstruating women from conducting ceremonies and others regarding sexual continence can strain marital relationships. Additionally, oral history places men in charge of all ceremonial matters. Schwarz focuses on how the reproductive life courses of Navajo women influence their apprenticeships and practices to demonstrate how they navigate these issues to preserve time-honored traditions. Through the words of actual practitioners, she shows how each woman brings her own unique life experience to the role. While differing among individuals, these experiences represent a commitment to shared cultural symbols and result in a consensus that sustains social cohesion.
By showing the differences and similarities between the apprenticeship, initiation, and practice of men and women singers, Blood and Voice offers a better understanding of the role of Navajo women in a profession usually viewed as a male activity—and of the symbolic construction of the self in Navajo culture. It also addresses classic questions concerning the sexual division of labor, menstrual taboos, gender stereotypes, and the tension between tradition and change that will enlighten students of other cultures.
Wrapped in blankets and looking at the stars, a young Navajo girl listened long ago to stories that would guide her for the rest of her life. "Such summer evenings were filled with quiet voices, dogs barking far away, the fire crackling, and often we could hear the faint drums and songs of a ceremony somewhere in the distance," writes Luci Tapahonso in this compelling collection.
Blue Horses Rush In takes its title from a poem about the birth of her granddaughter Chamisa, whose heart "pounded quickly and we recognized / the sound of horses running: / the thundering of hooves on the desert floor." Through such personal insights, this collection follows the cycle of a woman's life and underlines what it means to be Navajo in the late twentieth century. The book marks a major accomplishment in American literature for its successful blending of Navajo cultural values and forms with the English language, while at the same time retaining the Navajo character. Here, Luci Tapahonso walks slowly through an ancient Hohokam village, recalling stories passed down from generation to generation. Later in the book, she may tell a funny story about a friend, then, within a few pages, describe family rituals like roasting green chiles or baking bread in an outside oven. Throughout, Tapahonso shares with readers her belief in the power of pollen and prayer feathers and sacred songs.
Many of these stories were originally told in Navajo, taking no longer than ten minutes in the telling. "Yet, in recreating them, it is necessary to describe the land, the sky, the light, and other details of time and place," writes Tapahonso. "In this way, I attempt to create and convey the setting for the oral text. In writing, I revisit the place or places concerned and try to bring the reader to them, thereby enabling myself and other Navajos to sojourn mentally and emotionally in our home, Dinétah."
The Bearlake Athapaskan-speaking Indians of Canada's Northwest Territories have valued industriousness, generosity, individual autonomy, and emotional restraint for many generations. They also highly esteem "control" in human thought and behavior. The latter value integrates the others in a coherent framework of moral responsibility that persists as a central feature of Bearlake culture. Rushforth here provides an ethnographic description and analysis of these beliefs and values, which considers their relationship to examples of Bearlake social behavior.
Defending The Dinetah
Ronald H Towner University of Utah Press, 2003 Library of Congress E99.N3T675 2003 | Dewey Decimal 307.3172089972
Among the most striking features of the northwestern New Mexico landscape are the more than 130 fortresses and towers built on boulders, promontories, and mesa rims. These "pueblitos" in the traditional Navajo homeland of Dinétah have been a key piece of evidence used by archaeologists to infer a massive immigration of Puebloans into the Navajo country following the Spanish re-conquest of New Mexico (ca. 1700), yet they have never been comprehensively analyzed.
Using a database of tree-ring dates taken from beams and wood used to construct these pueblitos, Ronald Towner shows in this volume that most pueblitos are unrelated to Puebloan immigration or the re-conquest. He concludes that Navajos constructed the masonry structures and hogans contemporaneously for protection against Ute raiders and later Spanish entradas. Further, most were occupied for relatively brief periods and population density was much lower than has been assumed.
Towner points to a new model of Navajo ethnogenesis, based on a revised early population distribution and a variety of other means of incorporating non-Athapaskan elements into Navajo culture, making Defending the Dinétah a major contribution to Navajo studies.
A Diné History of Navajoland
Klara Kelley and Harris Francis University of Arizona Press, 2019 Library of Congress E99.N3K3345 2019 | Dewey Decimal 979.10049726
For the first time, a sweeping history of the Diné that is foregrounded in oral tradition. Authors Klara Kelley and Harris Francis share Diné history from pre-Columbian time to the present, using ethnographic interviews in which Navajo people reveal their oral histories on key events such as Athabaskan migrations, trading and trails, Diné clans, the Long Walk of 1864, and the struggle to keep their culture alive under colonizers who brought the railroad, coal mining, trading posts, and, finally, climate change.
The early chapters, based on ceremonial origin stories, tell about Diné forebears. Next come the histories of Diné clans from late pre-Columbian to early post-Columbian times, and the coming together of the Diné as a sovereign people. Later chapters are based on histories of families, individuals, and communities, and tell how the Diné have struggled to keep their bond with the land under settler encroachment, relocation, loss of land-based self-sufficiency through the trading-post system, energy resource extraction, and climate change.
Archaeological and documentary information supplements the oral histories, providing a comprehensive investigation of Navajo history and offering new insights into their twentieth-century relationships with Hispanic and Anglo settlers.
For Diné readers, the book offers empowering histories and stories of Diné cultural sovereignty. “In short,” the authors say, “it may help you to know how you came to be where—and who—you are.”
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.
What does it mean to be a Navajo (Diné) person today? What does it mean to “respect tradition”? How can a contemporary life be informed by the traditions of the past? These are the kinds of questions addressed by contributors to this unusual and pathbreaking book.
All of the contributors are coming to personal terms with a phrase that underpins the matrix of Diné culture: Sa’ah Naagháí Bik’eh Hózhóón. Often referred to simply as SNBH, the phrase can be translated in many ways but is generally understood to mean “one’s journey of striving to live a long, harmonious life.” The book offers a variety of perspectives of Diné men and women on the Diné cultural paradigm that is embedded in SNBH. Their writings represent embodied knowledge grounded in a way of knowing that connects thought, speech, experience, history, tradition, and land. Some of the contributors are scholars. Some are Diné who are fighting for justice and prosperity for the Navajo Nation. Some are poets and artists. They are united in working to preserve both intellectual and cultural sovereignty for Diné peoples. And their contributions exemplify how Indigenous peoples are creatively applying tools of decolonization and critical research to re-create Indigenous thought and culture in a present day that rarely resembles the days of their ancestors.
More than 300,000 people self-identify as Diné today. Every one must grapple with how to make a life that acknowledges Sa’ah Naagháí Bik’eh Hózhóón. DinéPerspectives is unique in bringing such personal journeys to the public eye.
Traditional teachings derived from stories and practices passed through generations lie at the core of a well-balanced Navajo life. These teachings are based on a very different perspective of the physical and spiritual world than that found in general American culture. Dinéjí Na`nitin is an introduction to traditional Navajo teachings and history for a non-Navajo audience, providing a glimpse into this unfamiliar domain and illuminating the power and experience of the Navajo worldview.
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.
Winner of the Don D. and Catherine S. Fowler Prize
Foragers and Farmers of the Northern Kayenta Region presents the results of a major archaeological excavation project on Navajo tribal land in the Four Corners area and integrates this new information with existing knowledge of the archaeology of the northern Kayenta region. The excavation of thirty-three sites provides a cross section of prehistory from which Navajo Nation archaeologists retrieved a wealth of information about subsistence, settlement, architecture, and other aspects of past lifeways. The project’s most important contributions involve the Basketmaker and Archaic periods, and include a large number of radiocarbon dates on high-quality samples. Dating back to the early Archaic period (ca. 7000 BC) and ranging forward through the Basketmaker components to the Puebloan period, this volume is a powerful record of ancient peoples and their cultures. Detailed supplementary data will be available on the University of Utah Press Web site upon publication of this summary volume.
From the Belly of My Beauty
Esther G. Belin University of Arizona Press, 1999 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 38 | Dewey Decimal 810.80054
If it can be said that Native culture is hidden behind the facade of mainstream America, there is a facet of that culture hidden even to many Native Americans. One of today's generation of outstanding Native writers, Esther Belin is an urban Indian. Raised in the city, she speaks with an entirely different voice from that of her reservation kindred as she expresses herself on subjects of urban alienation, racism, sexism, substance abuse, and cultural estrangement.
In this bold new collection of poems, Belin presents a startling vision of urban California—particularly Los Angeles—contrasted with Navajo life in the Four Corners region. She presents aspects of Diné life and history not normally seen by readers accustomed to accounts written by Navajos brought up on the reservation.
Her work reveals a difference in experience but a similarity in outlook. Belin's poems put familiar cultural forms in a new context, as Coyote "struts down east 14th / feeling good / looking good / feeling the brown." Her character Ruby dramatizes the gritty reality of a Native woman's life ("I laugh / sit / smoke a Virginia Slim / and talk to the spirits"). Her use of Diné language and poignant descriptions of family life will remind some of Joy Harjo's work, but with every turn of the page, readers will know that Belin is making her own mark on Native American literature.
From the Belly of My Beauty is also a ceremony of affirmation and renewal for those Native Americans affected by the Federal Indian Relocation Program of the 1950s and '60s, with its attempts to "assimilate" them into the American mainstream. They have survived by remembering who they were and where they came from. And they have survived so that they might bear witness, as Esther Belin so powerfully does. Belin holds American culture accountable for failing to treat its indigenous peoples with respect, but speaks for the ability of Native culture to survive and provide hope, even for mixed-blood or urban Indians. She is living proof that Native culture thrives wherever its people are found.
According to traditional Navajo belief, seizures are the result of sibling incest, sexual witchcraft, or possession by a supernatural spirit—associations that have kept such disorders from being known outside Navajo families. This new study is concerned with discovering why the Navajos have accorded seizures such importance and determining their meaning in the larger context of Navajo culture. The book is based on a 14-year study of some 40 Navajo patients and on an epidemiological survey among the Navajos and among three Pueblo tribes.
"The author has written a well-documented book on the Navajo concept of personality. . . . Holy Wind gives life, movement, thought, speech, and behavior and links the Navajo soul to the immanent powers of the universe. . . . A valuable case study." —Journal of Psychology & Theology
"An admirable volume . . . it illustrates how much we can learn about the importance of poetry as a fundamental activity by investigating the traditions of what should be acknowledged as the New World's unique classical past." —New Scholar
"This book is a fascinating analysis of what obviously is a central dimension in the traditional Navajo awareness of life." —New Mexico Historical Review
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.
Charlotte J Frisbie University of Utah Press, 1993 Library of Congress E99.N3F84 1993 | Dewey Decimal 299.74
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.
To experience change on the Navajo Reservation, one need only close one's eyes and listen. Today an increasing number of Navajos speak only English, while very few speak only Navajo. The Navajo language continues to be taught, but it is less often practiced. Deborah House asks why, despite the many factors that would seem to contribute to the maintenance of the Navajo language, speakers of the language continue to shift to English at such an alarming rate—and what can be done about it. Language Shift among the Navajos provides a close look at the ideological factors that intervene between the desire of the Navajos to maintain their language as an important aspect of their culture and their actual linguistic practice. Based on more than ten years of fieldwork within a Navajo institution and community, it points to ideologies held by Navajo people about their unequal relationship with the dominant American society as a primary factor in the erosion of traditional language use. House suggests that the Navajos employ their own paradigm—Sa’ah Naagháí Bik’eh Hózhóón—to learn both Western language and culture and their own without denigrating either perspective. By building on the traditional Navajo belief in harmony and balance, she advocates that those who value the language should use and teach it not just in school but also in the home, in the ceremonial hogans, and among those who cherish their heritage. Now is the time when language choices and behavior will influence whether the Navajo language lives or dies. House's book carries important lessons for anyone concerned with cultural continuity. It is a wake-up call for educators, youth, politicians, or family and community members who value Native language and culture. It remains to be seen in what language that call will be answered.
Letters from Wupatki
Courtney Reeder Jones; Edited by Lisa Rappoport University of Arizona Press, 1995 Library of Congress E78.A7J67 1995 | Dewey Decimal 979.133
When David and Courtney Reeder Jones moved into two rooms reached by ladder in a northern Arizona Indian ruin, they had been married only two weeks. Except for the ruin's cement floors, which were originally hardened mud, and skylights instead of smokeholes, the rooms were exactly as they had been 800 years before.
The year was 1938, and the newlyweds had come to Wupatki National Monument as full-time National Park Service caretakers for the ruin. Remote in time and place, their story as described in Courtney's letters will take readers into a dramatic landscape of red rocks, purple volcanoes, and endless blue sky. Here, some 60 years ago, two young people came to terms with their new life together and with their nearly total reliance upon each other and their Navajo neighbors.
"They helped us in any way that a neighbor would, and we helped them as we could," wrote Courtney in her memoirs years later. Vivid and engaging, her letters home spill over with descriptions of their friendship with local Navajo families, their sings and celebrations, and her good luck in being able to be a part of it all.
Letters from Wupatki captures a more innocent era in southwestern archaeology and the history of the National Park Service before the post-war years brought paved roads, expanded park facilities, and ever-increasing crowds of visitors. Courtney's letters to her family and friends reflect all the charm of the earlier time as they convey the sense of rapid transition that came after the war.
Tracking those changes in the development of Wupatki National Monument and the National Park Service, the letters also—and perhaps more important—reveal changes in the Joneses themselves. Of particular interest to anthropologists and historians, their story also gives the general reader captivating glimpses of a partnership between two people who only grew stronger for the struggles they shared together.
"Although they are among the most studied people on earth, the Navajo possess a complex philosophy. . . . A valuable source for those deeply interested in the structure of the Navajo universe, its mythology, and its central concept of long life and happiness." —Masterkey
"This is a stimulating book. Essentially, it criticizes previous discussions of Navajo religion and philosophy for greatly underestimating their complexity and sophistication. . . . What the author discovers in Navajo thought is that the key concepts are interrelated in a grand, moral, ethical, philosophic, and cosmic unity." —American Anthropologist
"Discredits dualists, both non-Indian and Indian, who see simplistic oppositions of Good and Evil in Navajo culture and philosophy. The concept of walking in beauty, as related to the proper growth of the corn plant, unifies the book, and Farella does some impressive cross-cultural linguistic analysis to derive practical and ceremonial applications of these central Navajo metaphors. . . . This is one of the better books on Indian religion." —Choice
Masked Gods is a vast book, a challenging and profoundly original account of the history, legends, and ceremonialism of the Navaho 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 Indian legends and ritual — Navaho 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.
"It was in the year of 1945 on a cold morning, the third day, in the month of March. A little boy was born as the wind blew against the hogan with bitter colds and the stars were disappearing into the heaven." So begins the story of Broneco, a Navajo boy who tells of his search for a miracle. Through that telling we learn a new perspective on language and life. In Miracle Hill, Blackhorse Mitchell presents the unforgettable account of a boy’s struggle to learn—which would be for him a miracle—in the face of handicaps most people would call insurmountable. Under the guidance of a teacher determined to help him pursue that miracle, he records his life from birth to the dawn of manhood: herding family sheep, living at a boarding school, encountering whites for the first time, journeying home, and finally enrolling in the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, where his talent was encouraged. Miracle Hill is written in a distinctively personal style, without strict adherence to orthodox grammar that would have robbed Mitchell of his true voice. Filled with unforgettable characters and brimming with insights into Navajo ways and family relationships, it is a book that crosses cultural barriers and speaks to the miracle-seeker in us all.
What might result from hearing a particular song, wearing used clothing, or witnessing an accident? Ethnographic accounts of the Navajo refer repeatedly to the influences of events on health and well-being, yet until now no attempt has been made to clarify the Navajo system of rules governing association and effect. This book focuses on the complex interweaving of the cosmological, social, and bodily realms that Navajo people navigate in an effort alternately to control, contain, or harness the power manifested in various effects. Following the Navajo life-course from conception to puberty, Maureen Trudelle Schwarz explores the complex rules defining who or what can affect what or whom in specific circumstances as a means of determining what these effects tell us about the cultural construction of the human body and personhood for the Navajo. Schwarz shows how oral history informs Navajo conceptions of the body and personhood, showing how these conceptions are central to an ongoing Navajo identity. She treats the vivid narratives of emergence life-origins as compressed metaphorical accounts, rather than as myth, and is thus able to derive from what individual Navajos say about the past their understandings of personhood in a worldview that is actually a viable philosophical system. Working with Navajo religious practitioners, elders, and professional scholars. Schwarz has gained from her informants an unusually firm grasp of the Navajo highlighted by the foregrounding of Navajo voices through excerpts of interviews. These passages enliven the book and present Schwarz and her Navajo consultants as real, multifaceted human beings within the ethnographic context.
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
The Mountainway of the Navajo
Leland C. Wyman; with a myth of the Female Branch recorded and translated by Father Berard Haile, OFM University of Arizona Press, 1975 Library of Congress E99.N3W9325 | Dewey Decimal 970.00497
Comprehensive examination of a Navajo song ceremonial and its various branches, phases, and ritual. Includes a myth of the female branch recorded and translated by Father Berard Haile, O.F.M., 32 illustrations of Mountainway sandpaintings, with detailed analysis of their symbols and designs.
Washington Matthews University of Utah Press, 1994 Library of Congress E99.N3N273 1994 | Dewey Decimal 398.2089972
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.
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.
A new approach to the study of myths relating to the origin of the Navajos. Based on extensive fieldwork and research, including Navajo hunter informants and unpublished manuscripts of Father Berard Haile.
Part 1: The Navajo Tradition, Perspectives and History
Part II: Navajo Hunter Mythology A Collection of Texts
Part III: The Navajo Hunter Tradition: An Interpretation
Navajo Kinship and Marriage
Gary Witherspoon University of Chicago Press, 1996 Library of Congress E99.N3W68 | Dewey Decimal 301.4210979
The Navajo are one of the most studied people in the world; yet their social organization is one of the least well understood. In NavajoKinship and Marriage, Gary Witherspoon, a fluent speaker of the Navajo language who lived among the Navajo for eight years, offers a new theoretical approach to kinship based on its cultural dimensions. Witherspoon makes a primary distinction between culture (patterns for behavior) and the system of social relations (observable patterns of behavior) in this definitive work on Navajo kinship and marriage.
"Witherspoon . . . clarifies problems pertaining to Navajo kinship and marriage through his skillful use of the concepts of cultural and social systems. He adds to the body of knowledge on the Navajo by his own fieldwork and unique life experiences." —R. S. Freed, Sociology
"Not only can Witherspoon's book on Navajo kinship help unravel the web for the Anglo willing to concentrate, it can also bring to Navajo readers an understanding of why Anglos don't understand Navajo family relationships." —Joanne Reuter, Navajo Times
"This is an important work on Navajo kinship and marriage." —David F. Aberle, American Anthropology
In a rigorous and innovative study, Thomas R. Rocek examines the 150-year-old ethnohistorical and archaeological record of Navajo settlement on Black Mesa in northern Arizona. Rocek's study, the first of its kind, not only reveals a rich array of interacting factors that have helped to shape Navajo life during this period but also constructs a valuable case study in archaeological method and theory, certain to be useful to other researchers of nonurban societies.
Rocek explores a neglected but major source of social flexibility in these societies. While many studies have focused on household and community-level organization, few have examined the flexible, intermediate-sized, "middle-level" cooperative units that bind small groups of households together. Middle-level units, says the author, must be recognized as important sources of social flexibility in many such cultural contexts. Futhermore, attention to middle-level units is critical for understanding household or community-level organization, because the flexibility they offer can fundamentally alter the behavior of social units of a larger or smaller scale.
In examining the archaeological record of Navajo settlement, Rocek develops archaeological methods for examing multiple-household social units (variously called "outfits or "cooperating groups") through spatial analysis, investigates evidence of change in middle-level units over time, relates these changes to economic and demographic flux, and compares the Navajo case study to the broader ethnographic literature of middle-level units. Rocek finds similarities with social organization in non-unilineally organized societies, in groups that have been traditionally described as characterized by network organization, and particularly in pastoral societies. The results of Rocek's study offer a new perspective on variability in Navajo social organization while suggesting general patterns of the response of social groups to change.
Rocek's work will be of significant interest not only to those with a professional interest in Navajo history and culture, but also, for its methodological insights, to a far broader range of archaeologists, social anthropologists, ethnohistorians, ethnoarchaeologists, historians, cultural geographers, and political scientists.
Laurance D. Linford University of Utah Press, 2000 Library of Congress E99.N3L645 2000 | Dewey Decimal 979.004972
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.
Gladwell Richardson University of Arizona Press, 1986 Library of Congress E99.N3R53 1986 | Dewey Decimal 979.100497
Gladwell "Toney" Richardson came from a long line of Indian traders and published nearly three hundred western novels under pseudonyms like "Maurice Kildare." His forty years of managing trading posts on the Navajo Reservation are now recalled in this colorful memoir.
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.
McPherson argues that, instead of being a downtrodden group of prisoners, defeated militarily in the 1860s and dependent on the U.S. government for protection and guidance in the 1870s and 80s, the Navajo nation was vigorously involved in defending and expanding the borders of their homelands. This was accomplished not through war nor as a concerted effort, but by an aggressive defensive policy built on individual action that varied with changing circumstances. Many Navajos never made the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo. Instead they eluded capture in northern and western hinterlands and thereby pushed out their frontier. This book focuses on the events and activities in one part of the Navajo borderlands-the northern frontier-where between 1860 and 1900 the Navajos were able to secure a large portion of land that is still part of the reservation. This expansion was achieved during a period when most Native Americans were losing their lands.
In this sixth collection of stories and verse, award-winning writer Luci Tapahonso finds sacredness in everyday life. Viewing a sunset in a desert sky, listening to her granddaughter recount how she spent her day, or visiting her mother after her father's passing, she finds traces of her own memories, along with echoes of the voices of her Navajo ancestors.
These engaging words draw us into a workaday world that, magically but never surprisingly, has room for the Diyin Dine’é (the Holy People), Old Salt Woman, and Dawn Boy. When she describes her grandson’s First Laugh Ceremony—explaining that it was originally performed for White Shell Girl, who grew up to be Changing Woman—her account enriches us and we long to hear more. Tapahonso weaves the Navajo language into her work like she weaves “the first four rows of black yarn” into a rug she is making “for my little grandson, who inherited my father’s name: Hastiin Tsétah Naaki Bísóí.”
As readers, we find that we too are surrounded by silent comfort, held lovingly in the confident hands of an accomplished writer who has a great deal to tell us about life.
In this groundbreaking book, the first Navajo to earn a doctorate in history seeks to rewrite Navajo history. Reared on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and Arizona, Jennifer Nez Denetdale is the great-great-great-granddaughter of a well-known Navajo chief, Manuelito (1816–1894), and his nearly unknown wife, Juanita (1845–1910). Stimulated in part by seeing photographs of these ancestors, she began to explore her family history as a way of examining broader issues in Navajo historiography.
Here she presents a thought-provoking examination of the construction of the history of the Navajo people (Diné, in the Navajo language) that underlines the dichotomy between Navajo and non-Navajo perspectives on the Diné past. Reclaiming Diné History has two primary objectives. First, Denetdale interrogates histories that privilege Manuelito and marginalize Juanita in order to demonstrate some of the ways that writing about the Diné has been biased by non-Navajo views of assimilation and gender. Second, she reveals how Navajo narratives, including oral histories and stories kept by matrilineal clans, serve as vehicles to convey Navajo beliefs and values.
By scrutinizing stories about Juanita, she both underscores the centrality of women’s roles in Navajo society and illustrates how oral tradition has been used to organize social units, connect Navajos to the land, and interpret the past. She argues that these same stories, read with an awareness of Navajo creation narratives, reveal previously unrecognized Navajo perspectives on the past. And she contends that a similarly culture-sensitive re-viewing of the Diné can lead to the production of a Navajo-centered history.
"My house is the red earth; it could be the center of the world."
This is Navajo country, a land of mysterious and delicate beauty. "Stephen Strom's photographs lead you to that place," writes Joy Harjo. "The camera eye becomes a space you can move through into the powerful landscapes that he photographs. The horizon may shift and change all around you, but underneath it is the heart with which we move." Harjo's prose poems accompany these images, interpreting each photograph as a story that evokes the spirit of the Earth. Images and words harmonize to evoke the mysteries of what the Navajo call the center of the world.
Sherwin Bitsui University of Arizona Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS501.S85 vol. 52 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
"Fourteen ninety-something, / something happened / and no one can pick it out of the lineup . . . "
In words drawn from urban and Navajo perspectives, Sherwin Bitsui articulates the challenge a Native American person faces in reconciling his or her inherited history of lore and spirit with the coldness of postmodern civilization.
Shapeshift is a collection of startling new poetry that explores the tensions between the worlds of nature and man. Through brief, imagistic poems interspersed with evocative longer narratives, it offers powerful perceptions of American culture and politics and their lack of spiritual grounding. Linking story, history, and voice, Shapeshift is laced with interweaving images—the gravitational pull of a fishbowl, the scent of burning hair, the trickle of motor oil from a harpooned log—that speak to the rich diversity of contemporary Diné writing.
"Tonight, I draw a raven's wing inside a circle
measured a half second
before it expands into a hand.
I wrap its worn grip over our feet
As we thrash against pine needles inside the earthen pot."
With complexities of tone that shift between disconnectedness and wholeness, irony and sincerity, Bitsui demonstrates a balance of excitement and intellect rarely found in a debut volume. As deft as it is daring, Shapeshift teases the mind and stirs the imagination.
In this cycle of poetry and stories, Navajo writer Luci Tapahonso shares memories of her home in Shiprock, New Mexico, and of the places and people there. Through these celebrations of birth, partings, and reunions, this gifted writer displays both her love of the Navajo world and her resonant use of language. Blending memoir and fiction in the storytelling style common to many Indian traditions, Tapahonso's writing shows that life and death are intertwined, and that the Navajo people live with the knowledge that identity is formed by knowing about the people to whom one belongs. The use of both English and Navajo in her work creates an interplay that may also give readers a new way of understanding their connectedness to their own inner lives and to other people.
Luci Tapahonso shows how the details of everyday life—whether the tragedy of losing a loved one or the joy of raising children, or simply drinking coffee with her uncle—bear evidence of cultural endurance and continuity. Through her work, readers may come to better appreciate the different perceptions that come from women's lives.
No Native American groups placed more emphasis on the horse in their lives than did the Navajo and Apache of the Southwest. They Sang for Horses, first published in 1966 and now considered a classic, remains the only comprehensive treatment of the profound mystical influence that the horse has exerted for more than three hundred years.
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.
Nearing graduation from Phoenix Indian School, Peterson Zah decided he wanted to attend college. He was refused the reference letters needed for college admission by teachers who told him he would fail and thus embarrass them. Several years later, these instructors would receive invitations from Zah to a party celebrating his graduation from Arizona State University.
And so began a career that took Zah to the presidency of the Navajo Nation. His life and accomplishments have exemplified the ongoing efforts by American Indian communities to gain greater control over their lives and lands. He has made important contributions in many areas, but education has always been one of his main priorities. Perhaps no one in the Southwest has done more than Peterson Zah to increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation of American Indian students from colleges and universities.
Zah's presentations to Peter Iverson's classes at Arizona State University, employed examples drawn from his own experiences. Students praised his thoughtful, honest and direct observations. He reinforced a central theme in Iverson's classesthat Indian history encompasses triumph as well as tragedy and victory as well as victimization.
This book grew out of Iverson's determination to share Zah's insights with a wider audience. The two met every few months to consider many subjects related to Zah's life. These sessions formed the foundation for this volume.
Part autobiography, part interview, and part conversation, Zah and Iverson's account touches on a wide range of overlapping topics, but two central themes prevail: education and empowerment. We Will Secure Our Future is a fascinating look into the life of a man who became a respected visionary and passionate advocate for his people.
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.