Manual Origin Stories of the Navajo Natives

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Some of its many traditions relate the emergence of the first people from various worlds beneath the surface of the earth; other stories explain the origins and purposes of numerous rites and ceremonies. Some of these are simple rituals carried out by individuals or families for luck in travel and trade or for the protection of crops and herds.

More-complex rites involve a specialist who is paid according to the complexity and length of the ceremonial.


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Traditionally, most rites were primarily for curing physical and mental illness. In other ceremonies there were simply prayers or songs, and dry paintings might be made of pollen and flower petals. In some cases there were public dances and exhibitions at which hundreds or thousands of Navajo gathered. Many of these rites are still performed. Although the Navajo never raided as extensively as the Apache , their raiding was serious enough to cause the U.

Native American myths in brief

Kit Carson to subdue them. The ensuing campaign resulted in the destruction of large amounts of crops and herds and the incarceration of about 8, Navajo, along with Mescalero Apache, at Bosque Redondo, miles km south of Santa Fe , New Mexico. This four-year —68 captivity left a legacy of bitterness and distrust that has still not entirely disappeared. The Navajo resemble other Apachean peoples in their general preference for limiting centralized tribal or political organization, although they have adopted pan-tribal governmental and legal systems in order to maintain tribal sovereignty.

Traditional Navajo society was organized through matrilineal kinship ; small, independent bands of related kin generally made decisions on a consensus basis. Similar groups still exist but tend to be based on locality of residence as well as kinship; many of these local groups have elected leaders. A local group is not a village or town but rather a collection of dwellings or hamlets distributed over a wide area. In the early 21st century many Navajo continued to live a predominantly traditional lifestyle, speaking the Navajo language , practicing the religion, and organizing through traditional forms of social structure.

Towner, Located on the lower Colorado Plateau, between the San Juan and the little Colorado Rivers, about 75 miles northwest of Santa Fe, the Navajo Nation occupies almost 29, square miles reservation in northern Arizona and New Mexico and parts of southern Utah. As the Navajo began to spread west and south, the early 19th century brought raids between the Mexicans and Spaniards.

Mexico had better fire power and took many of the Navajo children in as slaves. They did not have tribes at this time and traveled with their livestock in clans to summer and winter hogans what they called their homes. Wilson, The Navajo fought hard against the U.

The U. Some were not captured and hid out in the Navajo country. In they returned to U.

Soon after the Navajo culture changed quickly, Trading posts opened and tourists came to watch blanket weaving, children began school, and some Navajos began to work for the railroad. Soon economic and natural disasters reduced the herds so the Navajo had to switch from subsidence herding to raising stock for market. Many came back with much honor and good paychecks. Like the rest of the country post-war brought on unemployment and hunger. Major alterations within the Navajo culture ensued, especially in areas of daily life. Ceremonies and traditions were still held sacred, however, even though alterations within the sings continued.

This characterizes the Navajo way. Everything to the Navajo is sacred and interrelated, e. Most ceremonies are for curing illness, because they may be off balance with non-natives, witches, ghosts, or the dead. Ferraro, In myth the Navajos came to this world through a progression of underworlds. These beings can be called on for help in curing. Ceremonies are held as needed.

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Many of the aspects of the Navajo ceremonies were borrowed by the Hopi and other Pueblo people. Important aspects of the ceremonies are masked dancers, feathered prayer sticks, dry sand painting, cornmeal, pollen, and alters. Navajo ceremonies are conducted by singers who have mastered up to 24 chant systems. The Navajo government was traditionally organized in bands, each lead by a headman, and a clan leader, who was assisted by war leaders. They met every few years and decisions were made by the consensus. Clans were both matrilineal and matrilocal. The Navajo had a great fear of death and therefore after the dead were buried their belongings were destroyed.

DiLucchio, Now one-third of the tribal workforce is unemployed. Some still farm and many make. Many are employed by industries. Women, for the most part, have continued their matriarchal roles. Alcoholism is high among the Navajo reservations as well as high suicide rates. Today many live off the reservation, but still believe in the Navajo culture and identity.


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  • The evidence stands within the sings themselves, both separate and together, unique and intermeshed with the stories around the United States. Levy covered the many preliterate ceremonial traditions and sings of the Navajo creation myths, such as the Blessingway and the Evilway, Coyoteway, and Mothway, etc.

    In , a local rancher refused to pay the Navajo a fine of livestock. The Navajo tried to collect it, and whites in southern Colorado and Utah claimed that 9, of the Navajo were on a warpath. A small military detachment out of Fort Wingate restored white citizens to order. In , an Indian agent ordered a Navajo and his three wives to come in, and then arrested them for having a plural marriage.

    A small group of Navajo used force to free the women and retreated to Beautiful Mountain with 30 or 40 sympathizers. They refused to surrender to the agent, and local law enforcement and military refused the agent's request for an armed engagement. General Scott arrived, and with the help of Henry Chee Dodge , a leader among the Navajo, defused the situation.

    During the time on the reservation, the Navajo tribe was forced to assimilate to white society. Navajo children were sent to boarding schools within the reservation and off the reservation. Once the children arrived at the boarding school, their lives changed dramatically. European Americans taught the classes under an English-only curriculum and punished any student caught speaking Navajo. Other conditions included inadequate food, overcrowding, required manual labor in kitchens, fields, and boiler rooms; and military-style uniforms and haircuts. Change did not occur in these boarding schools until after the Meriam Report was published in by the Secretary of Interior, Hubert Work.

    This report discussed Indian boarding schools as being inadequate in terms of diet, medical services, dormitory overcrowding, undereducated teachers, restrictive discipline, and manual labor by the students to keep the school running. This report was the precursor to education reforms initiated under President Franklin D.

    Navajo Nation

    Roosevelt , under which two new schools were built on the Navajo reservation. But Rough Rock Day School was run in the same militaristic style as Fort Defiance and did not implement the educational reforms. Navajo accounts of this school portray it as having a family-like atmosphere with home-cooked meals, new or gently used clothing, humane treatment, and a Navajo-based curriculum.

    Educators found the Evangelical Missionary School curriculum to be much more beneficial for the Navajo children. It is a repository for sound recordings, manuscripts, paintings, and sandpainting tapestries of the Navajos. It also featured exhibits to express the beauty, dignity, and logic of Navajo religion. When Klah met Cabot in , he had witnessed decades of efforts by the US government and missionaries to assimilate the Navajos into mainstream society.

    The museum was founded to preserve the religion and traditions of the Navajo, which Klah was sure would otherwise soon be lost forever. The Navajo Livestock Reduction was imposed upon the Navajo Nation by the federal government starting in the , during the Great Depression. Worried about large herds in the arid climate, at a time when the Dust Bowl was endangering the Great Plains, the government decided that the land of the Navajo Nation could support only a fixed number of sheep, goats, cattle, and horses.

    The Federal government believed that land erosion was worsening in the area and the only solution was to reduce the number of livestock. In many ways, he worked to reform government relations with the Native American tribes, but the reduction program was devastating for the Navajo, for whom their livestock was so important.

    The government set land capacity in terms of "sheep units". In the Navajo grazed 1,, mature sheep units. Collier's solution was to first launch a voluntary reduction program, which was made mandatory two years later in The government paid for part of the value of each animal, but it did nothing to compensate for the loss of future yearly income for so many Navajo.

    In the matrilineal and matrilocal world of the Navajo, women were especially hurt, as many lost their only source of income with the reduction of livestock herds. The Navajo did not understand why their centuries-old practices of raising livestock should change. Dippie adds that, "He became an object of 'burning hatred' among the very people whose problems so preoccupied him. Many Navajo men volunteered for military service in keeping with their warrior culture, and they served in integrated units.

    The Navajo gained firsthand experience with how they could assimilate into the modern world, and many did not return to the overcrowded reservation, which had few jobs. Four hundred Navajo code talkers played a famous role during World War II by relaying radio messages using their own language. The Japanese were unable to understand or decode it. In the s, large quantities of uranium were discovered in Navajo land. From then into the early 21st century, the U. The Navajo have claimed high rates of death and illness from lung disease and cancer resulting from environmental contamination.

    Since the s, legislation has helped to regulate the industry and reduce the toll, but the government has not yet offered holistic and comprehensive compensation. Like other Apacheans, the Navajos were semi-nomadic from the 16th through the 20th centuries. Their extended kinship groups had seasonal dwelling areas to accommodate livestock, agriculture, and gathering practices. As part of their traditional economy, Navajo groups may have formed trading or raiding parties, traveling relatively long distances.

    There is a system of clans which defines relationships between individuals and families. The clan system is exogamous : people can only marry and date partners outside their own clans, which for this purpose include the clans of their four grandparents. While clans are associated with a geographical area, the area is not for the exclusive use of any one clan.

    Members of a clan may live hundreds of miles apart but still have a clan bond. Historically, the structure of the Navajo society is largely a matrilineal system, in which the family of the women owned livestock, dwellings, planting areas and livestock grazing areas. Once married, a Navajo man would move to live with his bride in her dwelling and near her mother's family.

    Daughters or, if necessary, other female relatives were traditionally the ones who received the generational property inheritance. Children are "born to" and belong to the mother's clan, and are "born for" the father's clan. The mother's eldest brother has a strong role in her children's lives. As adults, men represent their mother's clan in tribal politics. A hogan , the traditional Navajo home, is built as a shelter for either a man or for a woman. Since they live in the arid Four Corners area, the houses are made of dried mud.

    Male hogans are square or conical with a distinct rectangular entrance, while a female hogan [ citation needed ] is an eight-sided house. Both are made of wood and covered in mud, with the door always facing east to welcome the sun each morning. The Navajos construct hogans out of poles and brush covered with earth.

    She writes, "even today, a solidly constructed, log-walled Hogan is preferred by many Navajo families. Those who practice the Navajo religion regard the hogan as sacred. The Beaver People gave Coyote logs and instructions on how to build the first hogan. Navajos made their hogans in the traditional fashion until the s, when they started to make them in hexagonal and octagonal shapes.

    Hogans continue to be used as dwellings, especially by older Navajos, although they tend to be made with modern construction materials and techniques. Some are maintained specifically for ceremonial purposes. The Navajo people believe they passed through three worlds before arriving in this world, the Fourth World or the Glittering World.

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    Because the world was so dark, life could not thrive there and they had to move on. The First World beings had offended him and were asked to leave. From there, they headed south and arrived in the Third World, or Yellow World. The four sacred mountains were found here, but due to a great flood, First Woman, First Man, and the Holy People were forced to find another world to live in.

    This time, when they arrived, they stayed in the Fourth World. In the Glittering World, true death came into existence, as well as the creations of the seasons, the moon, stars, and the sun. Throughout religions, the importance of a specific number is emphasized and in the Navajo religion, the number four appears to be sacred to their practices.

    Navajos have many different ceremonies. For the most part, their ceremonies are to prevent or cure diseases. The Blessing Way ceremonies are based on establishing "peace, harmony, and good things exclusively" within the Dine. The Enemy Way, or Evil Way ceremonies are concerned with counteracting influences that come from outside the Dine. One of them, the Night Chant ceremony, is conducted over several days and involves up to 24 dancers.