The Navajo Indians
ANT101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Instructor: Professor Heywood
July 10, 2013
Navajo Indians 2 The Navajo Indians are considered to be the largest tribe of all Native American Indians within the United States. Among the Navajo culture their primary mode of subsistence are pastoralists. In this paper I will discuss the Navajo’s beliefs and values, sickness and healing as well as their social organization. “Pastoralists are those who regularly move in search of naturally occurring grass and water.”
(Nowak & Laird, 2010). The Navajo being a pastoral society as their main source of subsistence meant the use of farming to produce corn and raising of livestock, primarily sheep. These were techniques the Navajo learned after raiding Pueblo villages. Once both cultures were integrated, these techniques became important for survival and economic foundation. The shift to a pastoral and agricultural lifestyle created many opportunities which made it possible for the Navajo to become one of the most modernized societies in the United States. Having a new lifestyle and way of living, the Navajo were considered nomads because they often traveled from one area to another due to the change of season. Traveling during season changes resulted in abandoning and rebuilding of shelters repeatedly. The Navajo people have a very spiritual way of life and base their way of living around a spiritual essence. Being a spiritual people, the Navajo give thanks daily for their food as well as the land where they reside. The Navajo base their life on a belief that both the physical and spiritual world are blended together and that all things on earth are alive and sacred. The Navajo believe the creator placed them in the middle of four mountains that represented the four cardinal directions. Among these four cardinal directions, is where the Holy Ones are believed to have lived and that they are attracted to them by prayers, songs, stories as well as their paintings.
Navajo Indians 3
The Navajo believe that the Holy people have the power to aid or to harm the Earth People, which are the Navajo or otherwise known as the Dine. There is also the belief that the use of baskets and weaving came from the first man and women from the Holy ones, for ceremonial purposes. One item the Navajo valued was Turquoise. When the Navajo learned silversmith work, they combined the turquoise with the beauty of silver. This jewelry was often large and set with turquoise as the stone. The size and detail was said to reflect the owner’s wealth and their status. Turquoise and other gem stones are an important part of Navajo silversmiths they focus more on the detail and designs made with silver. Along with jewelry making the Navajo also valued basketry, pottery and sand painting. The baskets were used as to carry such things as water, food and other things meant for trading. The pottery was used to cook with as well as to store things such as food and water. Healing of illnesses by the Navajo was performed by ceremonies. Some of the ceremonies were called, chants, sings, or ways. Sand painting ceremonies were helot to either cure an illness and also to ensure ones general wellbeing. During these ceremonies, there were some that could last up to nine nights, however, most only lasted one day. These ceremonies are conducted by a practitioner, “priest”, that had the highest training and they are called a hatta[ii. In definition this means a singer or chanter.