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navajo indians

Navajo IndiansExploring the world of the Navajo indians

I'm back from my trip. We saw Yellowstone in the bright sunlight this year. Colorful orange bacterial ponds, turquoise pools and spewing thermal features including Old Faithful were all enhanced by a beautiful blue sky. The other national parks of the West were impressive as well.

One day stands out among all the rest. This year we had the opportunity to spend a Navajo cultural day with Chief Tsosie, his family and guides. We photographed the stunning landscapes in Antelope Canyon. We went far out into the Navajo land to learn how it provided sumac branches for the chief's mother's basket weaving and wild rhubarb root to color the rugs she made. We learned about spiritual quests, cleansing sweat lodges and experienced a traditional sand massage intended to remove toxins from the skin (and in my case, ease screaming muscles after a day of walking through the canyons).

We journeyed out again at nightfall for an amazing adventure in the dark, exploring Cathedral Canyon, listening to sung and spoken prayers and some of the most haunting Navajo flute music you can imagine.

I heartily recommend this trip to everyone but if you can't go in person, the sites I'm listing today will allow you to share some of what I have just described as part of a virtual visit. -- There are a lot of companies offering Slot Canyon tours in Page, Ariz., but only one that also enables you to understand the significance of the land to the Navajo people. Chief Tsosie stocks a fine selection of books on Native Americans as well as many handcrafted items including fine jewelry and handmade wooden flutes. If you have the time, ask about the sand massages and night tours as well. -- To learn about the Navajo Nation, you'll want to spend time at this official site. You'll learn about their current government and what they have accomplished in recent months. There's also a section on tourism that was interesting. One thing that you might wonder about is the link to homeland security. For a better understanding, you might want to visit the next site I've listed. -- If a visit to the West is a possibility for you, and you think you might want to spend some time exploring the Navajo Nation, this would be a fine first site to begin planning your journey. -- Here's another fine site with both information about travel and about the Navajo people and their culture. -- You've probably heard of the Navajo Code Talkers who saved lives and helped bring about an end to World War II. This site tells the stories of the more than 400 individuals who served and describes their immense contribution. -- It might surprise some to learn just how patriotic the Native American people continue to be. In addition to those who served in the armed forces, an elite number are known as Shadow Wolves. The Shadow Wolves have honed traditional tracking skills to a level of excellence. They currently work with customs officials to stop the flow of drugs into the U.S. while others are overseas adding their expertise to the search for terrorists.,10117,21363226-2,00.html?from=public_rss -- It's a long address, but worth it to read about the Shadow Wolf assignment to aid in the capture of Osama bin Laden.

Jan Perry is a Kentucky-based freelance writer. She welcomes your questions and suggestions at

"Rights of the Navajo Woman" is a short story about Navajo indians from The Bucks County Gazette published in November 1902.

 The Navajo woman, who has made her tribe the most famous of all living Indian races by means of her great and excellent invention, the Navajo blanket, occupies a social position of great independence. Her property rights are carefully respected. She owns much of the wealth of the tribe, and her children belong to her alone. A woman may have hundreds of sheep when she marries, and not one becomes the property of her husband. Descent is traced through the female line. It is a survival of the primitive matriarchate.


The Navajo woman has no permanent home. The progress of the tribe has been greatly impeded by its dark superstition that every death is caused by Chinde, the devil, and that evil spirits linger about the dead body. The house is never occupied again. The corpse is buried in the floor and the house pulled down over it, and a Navajo would freeze before he would make a fire upon the logs of one of these deserted heaps.


So the Navajo "hogan" is a poor, temporary affair, a mere circular hut of logs and stones, with a hole in the roof for the smoke and a blanket for the door. In the summer the Navajo woman loves to move into a brush wickiup, made of greaswood boughs. There she sets up her loom in the shadow of the rocks and lives in the open air all summer.

From The Bucks County Gazette, Nov 1902. Found at

The word Navajo comes from the phrase Tewa Navahu, meaning highly cultivated lands. The Navajo Indians largely resides in New Mexico and Arizona. The Navajo Indians originally began their tribes in the 1500’s. They traded maize (or corn crops) and woven cotton items such as blankets for things like bison meat and various materials that they could use to make tools and weapons.

The Navajo Indians are considered to be the largest tribe of all Native American Indians. Their homes were very simple, just a small shelter of wooden sticks, mud, and tree bark. These homes were known as hogans, and their doors faced the east to be sure the sun would shine in. When the Spanish came into their territory in the 1600’s, the Navajo who use their sheep for things like clothing and food. They would set up trading posts within the Spanish towns with their handmade items in order to barter for things that they needed.

Eventually, both the Spaniards and the Mexicans began to take violent action against the Navajo tribes because of their raids on the camps. They sent in military installations to intimidate the tribes, and eventually about 2/3 of them surrendered to their wishes and moved to new territories, including Utah. For those who refused to surrender, they hid out in the mountains and the canyons to avoid being caught. Eventually the Navajo Indians settled into a reservation on Fort Sumter in the late 1800’s. By this point, they had begun raising sheep, giving them a prosperous and profitable edge. Today the Navajo population is still going strong. While young people in the tribes today search for their own identities, they still remain very close to their families and to their heritage. The Navajo tribes are some of the most influential of all Native Americans, and their history and traditions have been passed down over many generations.


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