by Andy Connolly
The following pages will be about the Southwestern Native American Indians. The tribes are in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. Some of the tribes are the Apache, Hopi, Cochimi , Papago , Pima , Laguna, San Illdefonso , Taos, Yuma , and Zuni. But most of the information I have is on the Navajo Indians.
The Navajo Creation story is quite different from anything I have previously learned. They believe that there are five worlds. Four of the worlds are without sun and one has it, obviously we live in that one.
The first world, Ni'hodilqil , is very dark. It has four clouds; one black, one white, one blue, and one yellow cloud. First Man, Atse'hastqin , was formed in the east when the white and black cloud met, white corn was also made at this time. First Woman, Atse'esdza , was formed in the west when the blue and yellow clouds met, yellow corn was also made at this time. Man represented dawn and the giver of life. Woman represented darkness and death. The First Woman burned turquoise to make a fire, man used a crystal. It took three times but First Man finally found the turquoise fire. It also took First Woman three times to find the crystal fire. Eventually First Woman went to First Man and they started to live together. At about the same time The-Great-Coyote-Who-Was-Formed-in-the-Water was born from an egg and knew all about the sky and the water below the surface. First Man placed him above everything else. Then came Atse'hashke , First Angry or Coyote. After him about eight more beings formed and the first world became to crowded and the people began to fight.
The second world was blue. Everything that was there was blue; blue jays, blue birds, and all other blue feathered beings. The Swallow People were there too. There was fighting and Killing. So the First Four found an opening and went to the Yellow World.
In the third world there were two rivers and six mountains. One river ran north and south, this is the Female River. The other river ran east and west, this is the Male River (you must note that the rivers and the mountains are not in their present form, also all the beings, first through four, are people, but again not in their present form). The Coyote stole two children from the Water Buffalo. Because the Water Buffalo didn't know this, she started to flood the Earth. The water level got so high that the people had to climb the mountains to get to the forth world.
In the fourth world, some call it the White World (but not all medicine men agree with this), the Coyote gave back the male child. The male child was known as the Turquoise Boy. He became known as the Black Cloud or Male Rain, he would bring the thunder and the lighting. The Coyote kept the girl. She would be known as the Blue, Yellow, and White Clouds or Female Rain. She would be the gentle rain that would moisten the earth and help them to live. After the Water Buffalo received her boy back she disappeared and with her did the water. After the water went away there was a new being, it was the badger. He was formed when the Yellow Cloud touched the Earth. After this the Yellow Cloud turned into a sunbeam. First Man didn't like the fourth world. So he planted the big Female Reed and it grew to the top of the fourth world.
The First Woman and Man led the way to the fifth world. They emerged through a lake surrounded by four mountains. First Man and First Woman dressed the Mountain Lion and the Wolf. They divided the people into two groups. The first group was ask to choose their chief. They chose the Mountain Lion even though they thought they chose the Wolf (because of their dress). The other group had the Wolf for their chief. The people who chose the Mountain Lion turned out to be the people for Earth. The Wolf's followers became the animals and birds. After this was done, both groups where placed into their present form.
Some Medicine men think there are two more worlds above ours. One is the Spirits of the Living Things and the other is the Place of Melting into One. But again not all medicine men agree on this.
After the fifth world was put in order the First Man made a hogan (house). Then the other people made their hogans. In First Man's and First Woman's hogan lived two children. They were not their's but the children of the Turquoise Boy and the White Shell Girl. The Holy Ones asked the Turquoise Boy to enter the great, perfect turquoise that was to become the sun; and they asked the White Shell Girl to enter the great, perfect, white shell that was to become the moon. The Turquoise Boy had a whistle with twelve holes. Each hole represented a different month. The White Shell Girl also had a whistle. She blew her whistle to move the tides at sea. The Navajo Indians have a different calender than us. They start with October. Here are the names of each month in Navajo terms and what they mean:
October -- Gah'ji -- ~Back to back
November -- Nlchi'tso'si -- ~Time of slender winds
December -- Nlchi'tso -- ~Time of great winds
January -- Zas'ntl'tis -- ~Crusted snow
February -- Atsa'biyazh -- ~Baby eagle
March -- Wozhchid -- ~Meaning not known
April -- Da'chil -- ~Month of little leaves (start of summer)
May -- Dotso -- ~After the All-Wise Fly
June -- Yaish -- jash'chili ~When-Few-Seeds-Ripen
July -- Jas'tso -- ~Great seed ripening
August -- Binint A'tso'si -- ~Little ripening
September -- Binint a'tso -- ~Harvest time
There are no organized priesthood or fixed places of worship in the Navajo spiritual tradition. The Navajožs relationship with the world is one of individuality. If a person is out of harmony with this world, then sickness and misfortune can take place. When someone is troubled by sickness, bad dreams, or fears the first step is to determine which action/s brought on the disharmony. You find what it is by talking to one of your relatives. Sometimes a diagnosis might be needed by a practitioner of Handtremblingway, a traditional divining method used to determine the cause of disease. If you find that you have a disease, then find a singer/medicine man that specializes in treating your disease. The ceremonies take the form of chants, and all these chants or songs have been given to the Navajos by representatives of the spiritual world. The ceremonials used in restoring balance and harmony according to the Navajo teachings are known as Chantways. There are several Chantways, and each Chantway has subgroups according to the disharmonies and imbalances they are intended to cure. The true significance of each of the different factors in choosing a particular Chantway is to heal a disease. This lies in the qualities of the inner forms, or powers, of the phenomena or creatures associated with them.
Every healing ceremonial begins with the consecration of the hogan by the singer. These consecration rites are part of the Blessingway ceremonials, which have been described as the "spinal column" of the songs and chants of all the other Navajo Chantways. The Blessingway rites alone are not used specifically in healing. However, they are an essential component of all healing rituals. Blessingway lays the foundation for the whole system of Chantways, including the various elements of the sand paintings. Blessingway songs always mark the beginning and end of all the other Chantway ceremonials. In addition, there are several Blessingway ceremonials performed in circumstances where peace, harmony, and good fortune are desired; such as celebrations at birth, adolescence, and marriage, to consecrate a new home or important possessiones, or as a part of the installation of a new tribal official. Only one ritual object is absolutely required for a Blessingway rite, and that is a Mountain Soil Bundle. This small bundle consists of soils gathered from each of the holy mountains, wrapped in a buckskin that is tied and decorated with stones according to tradition.
The creation and use of sand paintings in Navajo healing rites generally occur on the last day of the ceremonial. By this time, all the other component rites of the ceremonial have been performed at least two or three times, so the patient is well prepared for this important part of the healing process.
The Navajo Nation is located in the southwestern United States, with territories stretching from the northeast corner of Arizona into Utah and New Mexico, making it the largest reservation in the country by far. Additionally there are three noncontiguous smaller reservations under the tribal government. These desert dwellers have achieved a mastery particular to this universe: tending flocks of sheep and goats, weaving rugs that receive thousands of dollars at auctions, fashioning jewelry of silver and turquoise, dry- painting healing pictures in the sand. Most visitors rarely believe that these Indians are actually latecomers. They arrived at about the same time that Columbus set sail for the Indies in 1492.
While studying all of the Southwest Native Americans it is easy to see why the Navajo think that they are one of the last really traditional Indians.