CHAPTER III. THE NAVAHO.


Up: Contents Previous: CHAPTER II. THE APACHE (Continued). Next: CHAPTER IV. THE NAVAHO (Continued).


[page 36]

Location—Stock Raisers—Early Record of— Creation of—Of Composite Origin— Hogans—Weaving—Religion and Myths —Legends—Creation of First Man and Woman—Old Man and Woman of First World—Creation of the Sun—Religious Worship—Lower Worlds—Dark World— Red World — Blue World — Eleventh World—Emergence from Lower Worlds— Twelfth or Present World—Creation of Visible World—Creation of Stars—Vegetable Life—Bearers of Sun and Moon— Sex of the Peoples — The Changing Woman—Creation of Man.

NAVAHO (pronounced Ná-va-ho, from Tewa Navahú, the name referring to a large area of cultivated lands, applied to a former Tewa pueblo, and, by extension, to the Navaho, known to the Spaniards of the 17th century as Apaches de Navajo, who intruded on the Tewa domain or who lived in the vicinity, to distinguish them from other “Apache” bands. Fray Alonso Benavides, in his Memorial of 1630, gives the earliest translation of the tribal name, in the form Nauajo, “sementeras grandes”—“great seed sowings,” or “great fields.” The Navaho themselves do not use this name, except when trying to speak English. All do not know it, and none of the older generation pronounces it correctly,

NAVAHO.


[page 37]

as v is a sound unknown in their language. They call themselves “Dīńe,” which means simply “people.” This word, in various forms, is used as a tribal name by nearly every people of the Athapascan stock).

An important Athapascan tribe occupying a reservation of 9,503,763 acres in northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah. Here they are supposed to remain, but many isolated families live beyond the reservation boundaries in all directions. Their land has an average elevation of about 6,000 feet above sea level. The highest point in it is Pastora Peak, in the Carrizo mountains, 9,420 feet high. It is an arid region and not well adapted to agriculture, but it affords fair pasturage. For this reason the Navaho have devoted their attention less to agriculture than to stock raising. There were formerly few places on the reservation, away from the borders of the Rio San Juan, where the soil could be irrigated, but there were many spots, apparently desert, where water gathered close to the surface and where, by deep planting, crops of corn, beans, squashes, and melons were raised. Within the last few years the Government has built storage reservoirs on the reservation and increased the facilities for irrigation.

It may be that under the loosely applied name Apache, there is a record of the Navaho by Oñate as early as 1598, but the first to mention them by name was Zarate-Salmeron, about 1629. They had Christian missionaries among them in the middle of the 18th century, but their teachings did not prevail against paganism.


[page 38]

For many years previous to the occupancy of their country by the United States they kept up an almost constant predatory war with the Pueblos and the white settlers of New Mexico, in which they were usually the victors. When the United States took possession of New Mexico in 1849 these depredations were at their height. As stated in a former volume, the first military expedition into their country was that of Col. Alex W. Doniphan, of the First Missouri Volunteers, in the fall of 1846. On behalf of the United States, Doniphan made the first treaty of peace with the Navaho November 22nd of that year, but the peace was not lasting. In 1849, another military force, under the command of Col. John M. Washington, penetrated the Navaho land as far as Chelly Canyon, and made another treaty of peace on September 9th, but this treaty was also soon broken. To put a stop to their wars, Col. “Kit” Carson invaded their territory in 1863, killed so many of their sheep as to leave them without means of support, and took the greater part of the tribe prisoners to Fort Sumner at the Bosque Redondo on the Rio Pecos, New Mexico. Here they were kept in captivity until 1867, when they were restored to their original country and given a new supply of sheep. Since that time they have remained at peace and greatly prospered.

There is no doubt that the Navaho have increased in number since they first became known to the United States, and are still increasing. In 1867, while they were prisoners and could be counted accurately, 7,300 of them were held in


[page 39]

captivity at one time; but, owing to escapes and additional surrenders, the number varied. All were not captured by Carson. Perhaps the most accurate census was taken in 1869, when the Government called them to receive a gift of 30,000 sheep and 2,000 goats. The Indians were put in a large corral and counted as they went in; only a few herders were absent. The result showed that there were less than 9,000, making due allowance for absentees. According to the census of 1890, which was taken on a faulty system, the tribe numbered 17,204. The census of 1900 places the population at more than 20,000, and in 1906 they were roughly estimated by the Indian Office to number 28,500.

According to the best recorded version of their origin legend, the first or nuclear clan of the Navaho was created by the gods in Arizona or Utah about five hundred years ago. People had lived on the earth before this, but most of them had been destroyed by giants or demons. When, the myth says, the gods created the first pair of this clan, it is equivalent to saying that they knew not whence they came and had no antecedent tradition of themselves. It is thus with many other Navaho clans. The story gives the impression that these Indians wandered into New Mexico and Arizona in small groups, probably in single families. In the course of time other groups joined them until, in the 17th century, they felt strong enough to go to war. Some of the accessions were evidently of Athapascan origin, as are most of the tribe, but others were derived from different stocks, including Keresan, Shoshonean, Tanoan, Yuman and


[page 40]

Aryan, consequently, the Navaho are a very composite people. A notable accession was made to their numbers, probably in the 16th century, when the Thkha-paha-dinnay joined them. These were a people of another linguistic stock—Hodge says “doubtless Tanoan”— for they wrought a change in the Navaho language. A later very numerous accession of several clans came from the Pacific coast; these were Athapascan. Some of the various clans joined the Navaho willingly, others were the descendants of captives. Hodge has shown that this Navaho origin legend, omitting a few obviously mythic elements, can be substantiated by recorded history, but he places the beginning at less than five hundred years.

The Navaho are classed as belonging to the widespread Athapascan linguistic family, and a vocabulary of their language shows that the majority of their words have counterparts in dialects of Alaska, British America, and California. The grammatical structure is like that of Athapascan tongues in general, but many words have been inherited from other sources. The grammar is intricate and the vocabulary copious, abounding especially in local names.

The appearance of the Navaho strengthens the traditional evidence of their very composite origin. It is impossible to describe a prevailing type; they vary in size from stalwart men of six feet or more to some who are diminutive in stature. In features they vary from the strong faces with aquiline noses and prominent chins common with the Dakota and other northern tribes to the subdued features of the


[page 41]

Pueblos. Their faces are a little more hirsute than those of Indians farther east. Many have occiputs so flattened that the skulls are brachycephalic or hyperbrachycephalic, a feature resulting from the hard cradle board on which the head rests in infancy. According to Hrdlicka they approach the Pueblos physically much more closely than the Apache, notwithstanding their linguistic connection with the latter. In general their faces are intelligent and pleasing. They are celebrated for intelligence and good order. There is nothing somber or stoic in their character. Among themselves they are merry and jovial, much given to jest and banter. They are very industrious, and the proudest among them scorn no remunerative labor. They do not bear pain with the fortitude displayed among the militant forces of the north, nor do they inflict upon themselves equal tortures. They are, on the whole, a progressive people. Descent is in the female line; a man belongs to the clan of his mother, and when he marries must take a woman of some other clan. The social position of the women is high, and their influence great. They often possess much property in their own right, which marriage does not alienate from them.

The ordinary Navaho dwelling, or hogan, is a very simple structure, although erected with much ceremony. It is usually conical in form, built of sticks set on end, covered with branches, grass and earth, and often so low that a man of ordinary stature cannot stand erect in it. One must stoop to enter the doorway, which is usually provided with a short passage or storm


[page 42]

door. There is no chimney; a hole in the apex lets out the smoke. Some hogans are rude, polygonal structures of logs laid horizontally; others are partly of stone. In summer, “leanto” sheds and small inclosures of branches are often used for habitations. Sweat houses are small, conical hogans without the hole in the apex, for fires are not lighted in them; the temperature is increased by means of stones heated in fires outside. Medicine lodges, when built in localities where trees of sufficient size grow, are conical structures like the ordinary hogans, but much larger. When built in regions of low-sized trees, they have flat roofs. Of late, substantial stone structures, with doors, windows, and chimneys are replacing the rude hogans. One reason they built such houses is that custom and superstition constrained them to destroy or desert a house in which death had occurred. Such a place was called chindihogan, meaning “devil-house.” Those who now occupy good, stone houses, carry out the dying and let them expire outside, thus saving their dwellings, and indeed the same custom is sometimes practiced in connection with the hogan. No people have greater dread of ghosts and mortuary remains.

The most important art of the Navaho is that of weaving. They are especially celebrated for their blankets, which are in high demand among the white people on account of their beauty and utility; but they also weave belts, garters, and saddle girths—all with rude, simple looms. Their legends declare that in the early days they knew not the art of weaving by means of a loom.


[page 43]

The use of the loom was probably taught to them by the Pueblo women who were incorporated into the tribe. They dressed in skins and rude mats constructed by hand, of cedar bark and other vegetal fibers. The few basket makers among them are said to be Ute or Paiute girls, or their descendants, and these do not do much work. What they make, though of excellent quality, is confined almost exclusively to two forms required for ceremonial purposes. The Navaho make very little pottery, and this of a very ordinary variety, being designed merely for cooking purposes; but formerly they made a fine red ware decorated in black with characteristic designs. They grind corn and other grains by hand on the metate. For ceremonial purposes they still bake food in the ground and in other aboriginal ways. For many years they have had among them silversmiths who fabricate handsome ornaments with very rude appliances, and who undoubtedly learned their art from the Mexicans, adapting it to their own environment. Of late years many of those who have been taught in training schools have learned civilized trades, and civilized methods of cooking.

By treaty of Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, September 9th, 1849, the Navaho acknowledged the sovereignty of the United States. By treaty of Fort Sumner, New Mexico, June 1st, 1868, a reservation was set apart for them in Arizona and New Mexico, and they ceded to the United States their claim to other lands. Their reservation has been modified by subsequent Executive orders.


[page 44]

In reference to the religion of the Navahos, I quote from “A Little History of the Navajos,” by Oscar H. Lipps, 1909:

“Navajo mythology is replete with legends handed down from father to son telling the origin of every good and evil thing known to his simple life. While he does not contemplate a First Great Cause or its attendant effect, yet his legends contain the story of the creation of his present world—the sun, moon, stars, sky, rivers, mountains, cliffs and canyons. He has a legend of a flood which destroyed all the wicked people. There is also the Wind god, Rain god, War god, etc., to whom he attributes omnipotent powers.

“While the Navajo has produced no literature and has no great epics or pyrics, still he has created elaborate dramas. All of his dreams are founded on myths. Many of these myths are very long so that perhaps few Navajos know thoroughly more than two or three of the great myths. Like the myths of most all other people, they may be either explanatory, such as attempts to explain the mysteries of existence and universal life; aesthetic, those designed to elicit emotion and give pleasure; or the romantic myth, which displays the character of some favorite hero. In Navajo mythology may be found all of these classes of myths.”

I insert a few of these myths and legends, taken from recognized authorities:


[page 45]

CREATION OF THE FIRST MAN AND WOMAN. (By Dr. Matthews.)

“The gods laid a buckskin on the ground with the head to the west; on this they placed two ears of corn, one yellow, one white, with their tips to the east; and over the corn they spread another buckskin with its head to the east; under the white ear they put the feather of a white eagle, under the yellow ear the feather of a yellow eagle. Then the white wind blew from the east and the yellow wind blew from the west, between the skins. While the wind was blowing, eight of the Mirage people came and walked around the objects on the ground four times, and as they walked the eagle feathers, whose tips protruded from between the buckskins, were seen to move. When the Mirage people had finished their walk, the upper buckskin was lifted,—the ears of corn had disappeared; a man and a woman lay there in their stead. The white ear of corn had been changed into a man, the yellow ear into a woman. The pair thus created were First Man and First Woman.”

MYTH OF THE OLD MAN AND WOMAN OF THE FIRST WORLD. (By Stevenson.)

“In the lower world four gods were created by Etseastin and Etseasun. These gods were so annoyed by the ants that they said: ‘Let us go to the four points of the World.’ A spring was found at each of the cardinal points, and each god took possession of a spring, which he jealously guarded.


[page 46]

“Etseastin and Etseasun were jealous because they had no water, and they needed some to produce nourishment. The old man finally obtained a little water from each of the gods and planted it, and from it he raised a spring such as the gods had. From this spring came corn and other vegetation. Etseastin and Etseasun sat on opposite sides of the spring facing each other, and sang and prayed and talked to somebody about themselves, and thus they originated worship. One day the old man saw some kind of fruit in the middle of the spring. He tried to reach it but he could not, and asked the spider woman, (a member of his family), to get it for him. She spun a web across the water and by its use procured the fruit, which proved to be a large white shell, quite as large as a Tusayan basket. The following day Etseastin discovered another kind of fruit in the spring, which the spider woman also brought him; this fruit was the turquoise. The third day still another kind of fruit was discovered by him and obtained by the spider woman; this was the abalone shell. The fourth day produced the black stone bead, which was also procured.

“After ascending into the upper world Etseastin visited the four corners to see what he could find. (They had brought a bit of everything from the lower world with them.) From the east he brought eagle feathers; from the south feathers from the blue jay; in the west he found hawk feathers, and in the north speckled nightbird (whippoorwill) feathers. Etseastin and Etseasun carried these to a spring, placing them towards the cardinal points. The eagle plumes


[page 47]

were laid to the east and near by them white corn and white shell; the blue feathers were laid to the south with blue corn and turquoise; the hawk feathers were laid to the west with yellow corn and abalone shell; and to the north were laid the whippoorwill feathers with black beads and corn of all the several colors. The old man and woman sang and prayed as they had done at the spring in the lower world. They prayed to the east and the white wolf was created; to the south, and the otter appeared; to the west, and the mountain lion came; and to the north, the beaver. Etseastin made these animals rulers over the several points from which they came.

“When the white of daylight met the yellow of sunset in midheavens, they embraced, and white gave birth to the coyote; yellow to the yellow fox. Blue of the south and black of the north similarly met, giving birth, blue to blue fox, and black to badger.

“Blue and yellow foxes were given to the Pueblos; coyote and badgers remain with the Navajo; but Great Wolf is ruler over them all. Great Wolf was the chief who counselled separation of the sexes.”

THE CREATION OF THE SUN. (By Stevenson.)

“The first three worlds were neither good nor healthful. They moved all the time and made the people dizzy. Upon ascending into this world the Navajos found only darkness and they said, ‘We must have light.’


[page 48]

“In the Ure mountains lived two women, Ahsonnutli, the turquoise hermaphrodite, and Yolaikaiason, the white shell woman. These two women were sent for by the Navajo, who told them they wished light. The Navajo had already partially separated light into its several colors. Next to the floor was white, indicating dawn, upon the white, blue was spread for morning, and on the blue, yellow for sunset, and next was black, representing night. They had prayed long and continuously over these, but their prayers had availed nothing. The two women on arriving told the people to have patience and their prayers would eventually be answered.

“Night had a familiar, who was always at his ear. This person said, ‘send for the youth at the great falls.’ Night sent as his messenger a shooting star. The youth soon appeared and said: ‘Ahsonnutli, the hermaphrodite, had white beads in her right breast, and turquoise in her left. We will tell her to lay them on darkness and see what she can do with her prayers.’ This she did. The youth from the great falls said to Ahsonnutli, ‘You have carried the white shell beads and turquoise a long time; you should know what to say.’ Then with a crystal dipped in pollen she marked eyes and mouth on the turquoise and on the white-shell beads, and forming a circle around these with the crystal, she produced a slight light from the white shell bead, and a greater light from the turquoise, but the light was insufficient.

“Twelve men lived at each of the cardinal points. The forty-eight men were sent for.


[page 49]

After their arrival Ahsonnutli sang a song, the men sitting opposite to her, yet even with their presence the song failed to secure the needed light. Two eagle plumes were placed upon each cheek of the turquoise and two upon the cheeks of the white-shell beads and one at each of the cardinal points. The twelve men of the east placed twelve white-shell beads at that point. Then with the crystal dipped in corn pollen they made a circle embracing the whole. The wish still remained unrealized. Then Ahsonnutli held the crystal over the turquoise face, whereupon it lighted into a blaze. The people retreated far back on account of the great heat, which continued increasing. The men from the four points found the heat so intense that they arose, but they could hardly stand, as the heavens were so close to them. They looked up and saw two rainbows, one across the other, from east to west, and from north to south. The heads and feet of the rainbows almost touched the men's heads. The men tried to raise the great light but each time they failed. Finally a man and woman appeared, whence they knew not. The man's name was Atseatsine and the woman's name was Atseatsan. They were asked, ‘How can this sun be got up?’ They replied, ‘We know; we heard the people down here trying to raise it, and this is why we came.’ ‘Chanteen’ (sun's rays), exclaimed the man, ‘I have the chanteen; I have a crystal from which I can light the chanteen, and I have the rainbow; with these three I can raise the sun.’ The people said, ‘Go ahead and raise it.’ When


[page 50]

he had elevated the sun a short distance it tipped a little and burned vegetation and scorched the people, for it was still too near. Then the people said to Atseatsine and Atseatsan, ‘Raise the sun higher,’ and they continued to elevate it, and yet it continued to burn everything. They were then called upon to ‘lift it higher still, as high as possible,’ but after a certain height was reached their power failed; it would go no farther.

“The couple then made four poles, two of turquoise and two of white-shell beads, and each was put under the sun, and with these poles the twelve men at each of the cardinal points raised it. They could not get it high enough to prevent the people and grass from burning. The people then said, ‘Let us stretch the world’; so the twelve men at each point expanded the world. The sun continued to rise as the world expanded, and began to shine with less heat, but when it reached the meridian the heat became great and the people suffered much. They crawled everywhere to find shade. Then the voice of Darkness went four times around the world telling the men at the cardinal points to go on expanding the world. ‘I want all this suffering stopped,’ said Darkness; ‘the people are suffering and all is burning; you must continue stretching.’ And the men blew and stretched, and after a time they saw the sun rise beautifully, and when the sun again reached the meridian it was only tropical. It was then just right, and as far as the eye could reach, the earth was encircled, first with the white dawn of day, then with the blue of early morning, and


[page 51]

all things were perfect. And Ahsonnutli commanded the twelve men to go to the east, south, west and north, to hold up the heavens, which office they are supposed to perform to this day.”

In “An Ethnologic Dictionary of the Navaho Language,” published by The Franciscan Fathers in 1910, appears the following in regard to the religion, legends, etc., of the Navahos:

“The elaborate system of religious worship among the Navaho lets them appear as a very religious people. Their anthropomorphous deities are numerous and strikingly democratic, each excelling in his peculiar sphere of independent activity and power. They are described as kind, hospitable, and industrious; on the other hand as fraudulent, treacherous, unmerciful, and, in general, subject to passion and human weaknesses. Their lives, to a great extent, are reflected in the social condition of the Navaho as, for instance, in the subordination to local headmen, in the manner of farming, hunting, ceremony, etc., all of which find an explanation in previous occurrences in the lives of the holy ones. This is especially true of the ceremonies or chants, most of which have been established by the diyíni, or Holy ones, for removing evil.

“The existence of evil is attributed to the wrath of the dināéé, or Peoples, such as the Animals, Winds, Lightnings, etc. Much evil, disease, and bodily injury is due also to secret agents of evil, in consequence of which the belief in witchcraft, spells, dreams and shooting of evil is widely spread. Accordingly, too, of the


[page 52]

two forms of worship, one against evil, the other for blessing, the former is presumably in greater demand, but is subordinate to, and always accompanied by, the latter.

“The idea of a creator of all things is unknown to the Navaho, as also that of heaven or hell. The belief in a life hereafter, exists, however, and is a life of happiness with the peoples of the lower worlds among whom the deceased are numbered. The deceased, in turn, may injure the living.

“The average Navaho is loath to study the intricate fabric of his religion and knows little of it beyond ceremonial performance. The singer or shaman, usually a man of excellent memory, is entrusted with whatever pertains to subjects of worship, though probably no single one is versed in all of its branches. Moreover, the knowledge of the legend which attaches to every chant is not a material requisite for properly conducting a ceremony, though the legend furnishes the clue for corrections.

“The following synopsis, taken from unpublished legends in our possession, presents the most salient features of Navaho worship, together with other subjects of a religious character:

“THE LOWER WORLDS.

“The legends speak of twelve lower worlds, the homes of various Peoples. These worlds were small in size and are referred to as chambers, which are numbered as the people pass through and stand on the several vaults. Their speech in the several worlds is recorded also


[page 53]

from one to twelve, the roofs or vaults of the twelve worlds being the speeches, and the twelfth speech being the one we now occupy.

“Furthermore, these twelve worlds are subdivided into three divisions of four, the first four being referred to as the dark world, the subsequent four as the red world, and the upper four as the blue world. Some of the chant legends begin with events in one of these three groups of worlds. In this manner some speak of five, others of eight worlds, etc.

THE PEOPLES OF THE DARK WORLD.

“The above mentioned worlds are not spoken of as having been created, but as already existing. The first world is inhabited by the Ant People, who are subordinate to chiefs or spokesmen in the east, south, west and north. In the second world they find the Locust Man and Woman. The third world, being uninhabited, all of these peoples travel to the fourth world, where the following persons are found:

First Man and his eight companions are the first witches, and the cause. of sickness and fatal diseases. He who originated with the earth, is applied to First Man. The name corresponds with the sacred name of the kit-fox.

THE PEOPLES OF THE RED WORLD.

“The Peoples of the four preceding worlds ascend to the fifth world, where they are joined by the Grub Man and Woman. The sixth world


[page 54]

is uninhabited. The seventh world they found inhabited by the Cat People. They also met the Spider Man and Woman. The Cat People were evil shooters, (witches), who filled the bodies of their neighbors with evil shooting. First Man removes this power from them, and makes it his own property.

“The eighth world is the home of the Salt Man and Salt Woman, and also of the Firegod. (In the legend of witchcraft the latter is introduced with First Man and his companions in the fourth world.) The Ant People, of whom mention was made first, also find another colony of Ant People with whom they immediately associate. The Snake People are also introduced here, together with the Yucca People, and Cactus People, the Big Fly, a beautiful bird (Owl), and the Kit-fox. First Man erects the first hogan here, the type for the present hogan. He then displays all the material for the future sacred mountains, for the dawn, the sky-blue, the twilight and darkness, the future winds, rains, lightnings, and so on. To each and every one he presents some of his evil power, so that all are possessed of witchcraft. But he also designates various herbs as a remedy for all evils, poisons and diseases, which he has distributed, and designates the prayersticks and sacrifices necessary to remove them. All of the above mentioned peoples, therefore, require a sacrifice.

THE PEOPLE OF THE BLUE WORLD.

“When First Man and his now numerous companions entered the ninth world, they found


[page 55]

it in possession of the very small Yellow Ants, who were in communication with the small Black Ants of the tenth world. By fraudulent means First Man and the Salt Man deprive them of their various juices or grease, their only possession and sustenance.

THE ELEVENTH WORLD.

“The place of emergence in the eleventh world is called Whitish Earth. The peoples of this world are very numerous, counting among their numbers a group of Cat People, the Bear and Deer Families, Foxes, Badgers, Skunks, Birds, Fishes, and finally Water Monsters. The people of the land are subordinate to the Big Wolf chiefs in the east and west, while the Wildcat chiefs are spokesmen in the northern and southern villages. These direct their subordinates in farming and the chase. The domestic labors and functions are assigned to the female portion, and all spare time is devoted to various sports, as the bouncing stick game, dice, hoop and pole, football, etc.

“This happy and innocent life undergoes a change when First Man introduces generation, which until then had been unknown to these peoples. An altercation between the chief of the east, Big Wolf and his wife, over the neglect of her duties, is the cause of the separation of all men from the women. Accordingly, at the place where the waters flow in various directions, the men cross to the opposite shore in boats.

“The men now set about their duties of farming and hunting. The domestic duties of cooking


[page 56]

and grinding corn are supervised by one of their number, an hermaphrodite. The ceremonial method of planting is observed here for the first time. Thus they had the circle, the square, the border, and additional forms. Hunting, too, is accompanied by various ceremonial observances. Venereal excess is punished instantly in mysterious ways, though it is always removed by the power of some ceremony. Respect for these is also drastically inculcated by making an example of a stray coyote.

“The women neglect their duties, while the men are thrifty. Their passions wax strong, and they become guilty of many immoralities. In seeking suicide, many drown themselves without having the hope of resuscitation by ceremony. From want and starvation they are finally driven to plead for mercy, after a period of about nine seasons of separation.

“The reunion is the occasion for a ceremony of purification, including sweat baths. The routine of labor is again harmoniously followed out as before the separation, the women assisting their husbands in planting and harvesting. Incest is pointed out as the cause of mental derangement. Witchcraft is deftly punished by First Man, and checked in this manner. Diseases of various kinds, such as blood-spitting, etc., are cured by the rites. Dreams are invariably considered as portending evil. Presently, too, it occurred that the Holy Girl, a virgin, who has been impregnated by some unknown stranger, gave birth to a shapeless mass, a gourd, from which sprang two male children.


[page 57]

These gourd children rapidly attain maturity and develop a love for retirement and roaming.

THE EMERGENCE FROM THE LOWER WORLDS.

“The coyote of the west, who joined the people below, was an inquisitive fellow. It happened that one of the children of the Water Ox was discovered one day floating on the waters near their camp. The Coyote unobservedly took possession of it, hiding it in his garments. Presently the waters from all directions threatened the People with destruction, which is averted by First Man, who hurriedly created four mountains for them, which he bids them ascend. The Turkey is charged with checking the rise of the waters, which he does by placing his tail in them. But when the waters had risen to the summit of these mountains, the Gourd children were asked to assist. (They had entered the camp shortly before the flood, each carrying a reed in his hand, one taken from the west, the other from the east.) The elder of the two boys then placed his reed on the summit of the mountains, and when the People entered, the twelve joints of the reed increased in size as they ascended, allowing them to gain a considerable height. The waters, however, still continued to pursue them, so that the reed of the younger brother was placed just over the other. But when, after travelling through the twelve joints of this reed also, the waters continued to rise, their suspicions are finally turned toward the indifferent Coyote. He is searched by the Locust, and the discovered


[page 58]

child is replaced on the turbulent waters, which immediately become stationary. The hard roof or vault which they had reached is successfully pierced by the Wolf, the Bear, the Badger, and finally by the Locust, who is then sent to investigate this upper world.

“Here the Locust encounters a monster from the east who challenges him to pierce his mouth and rear with arrows. The Locust, however, pierces his sides, afterwards removing his vitals, and obtains possession of the land. He is forced, in turn, to meet a similar challenge from monsters in the south, west and north, whom he defrauds in a like manner.

“Upon his return to his companions they dispatch Hunch-Eye, and the Bighorn, to remove the waters and make the earth inhabitable. The former discharges zigzag lightnings east and west, the latter straight lightnings north and south. The ensuing rush and uproar of waters force them to a hasty retreat into the opening, which is covered by the webs of the Spider Man and Woman. And when the tumult has finally subsided, the Wind People are dispatched to dry up the surface of the earth. Thereupon, the exit is made by means of ladders which had been made by First Man for the occasion. The emergence is called moving upward.

THE TWELFTH OR PRESENT WORLD.

“The earth was small in size, and here and there small bodies of water were observed. Some of the people camped at the shores or banks of these lakes, and were known as ‘the


[page 59]

people at the edge of the water’; others made huts of mud, and were known as mud people; others camped below a ledge of rock, and so on, each being designated by a peculiarity of this kind. And when it developed that one of their number was missing, a search was made for him. He was finally located in the place of emergence, but refused to leave, saying that the future people of the earth would return there. Therefore, the people of this earth return to the place of emergence after death. The person remaining there sallies forth at times to collect food and pieces of broken pottery which have been left at the habitat of the deceased, for he promised his companion to do this.

THE CREATION OF THE VISIBLE WORLD.

“The events after the emergence, as embodied in the legends, are supposed to have happened in the holy way, or to be holy events. The Holy People then decided to make the earth a suitable dwelling for its future inhabitants. Accordingly, after First Man had built the hogan, he created the sky, earth, sun and moon. As a material he used various precious stones, giving to each the shape of man, and breathed the spirit of life into them. He also created summer and winter, which he assigned to the earth and sky respectively.

CREATION OF THE STARS.

“The Firegod placed the various constellations in their respective positions. He is also accredited with blowing the stars of the milky


[page 60]

way across the sky. Such other stars as he wished to keep in reserve were scattered by the Coyote over the heavens. The Navaho, therefore, have no names for many constellations. The Coyote planted but one star permanently in the heavens, which is, therefore, called a ‘coyote's star.’

VEGETABLE LIFE.

“The sacred mountains had been given their positions by First Man when he invited the various Peoples to contribute to the completion and beauty of the earth. Accordingly, the various animals planted the seeds of trees, shrubs, plants and grasses, which they had brought with them from the lower worlds. Thereupon, First Man breathed upon them so that they, too, might see and live. The clouds, winds and thunder were placed in the sky so that moisture might be supplied and vegetation secured.

THE BEARERS OF THE SUN AND MOON.s

“When First Man had made all things for the earth and sky, and given them stability, he selected the Gourd children, of whom mention was made above, to carry the sun and the moon. These he placed on their left shoulders, leaving their right hand free to enable them to eat when travelling. Thirty-two trails were assigned to the sun for his daily travels. To compensate themselves, both the sun and the moon carriers stipulated one human life for every journey as their pay.

“First Man also placed pillars in the east, south, west, north and center of the earth, resting


[page 61]

the sky upon them, and they are known as the pillars of the earth and sky.

“He then blew the sun and the moon beyond the horizon; and breathing over the earth and sky, he caused them to expand; and breathing the dawn toward the east, the sun rose there; wherefore, the dawn is always seen in the east. Since the earth was small, however, the heat of the sun at its zenith became unbearable. After four unsuccessful trials the present dimensions of the earth and the distance of the sun were retained.

THE SEX OF THE PEOPLES.

“The various Peoples of the lower worlds are considered male and female. The sun and moon are both male, as also the sky, (the Sky Man). The earth is feminine, (the Earth Woman). The earth may also be considered as mother of all, insomuch as all peoples proceeded from it, and planted the various seeds there. The Earth Woman, however, as wife of the Sky Man, is located in the blue world.

“Sex is also assigned to the dawn, the Dawn Man and Woman, (east) also to the Southern Blue, the Azure Man and Woman, (south); and to the twilight, Twilight Man and Woman, (west); and to darkness, Darkness Man and Woman (north).

THE CHANGING WOMAN.

“The Changing Woman, a goddess, is held in universal esteem by the Navaho. She is not tainted with crime, though by mistake this is done in some legends.


[page 62]

“The Dawn Man, and the Darkness Woman, gave birth to a daughter, which was found and carried home by First Man. When the girl was of fair growth she was found to be very beautiful and of good sense, and when her foster parents called to her in jest, calling her by the equivalent for ‘changed into a woman,’ she readily answered the call, and she was, thereafter, called the Changing Woman.

“At the age of nubility a ceremony was performed for her, and her nuptials with the sun were then celebrated. (This ceremony of nubility is, today, celebrated with such alterations as were decided upon on that occasion.) Benediction songs alone were used, and the songs of other chants barred. (The vigil which must accompany every ceremony in use by the Navaho, consists of prayers and songs of benedictions.)

“The society of the First Man was ever a burden to her, so that soon after this ceremony she left him and traveled to the west. Here, the holy people of the cardinal points, (Dawn Man and Woman, etc.), had prepared a house for her, which in every respect was like to that of the sun in the east. And when she visited the various compartments in the east, south, west and north, she reappeared dressed in the colors of these directions. And returning again from the eastern compartment she reappeared dressed in white-shell, wherefore she is also called the white-shell woman. As the wife of the sun, then, the white-shell woman is also called Sun Woman, and the sun, her husband,


[page 63]

the Sun Man, by whom she has two children, a boy and a girl.

THE CREATION OF MAN.

“The creation of the various people on the earth is attributed to the Sun Woman, and took place at her dwelling in the west. The Navaho clans were created from parts of her body. With the skin which she removed from her breast she formed one clan; from the skin of her back she formed another clan, and removing a particle of skin from below her right arm, she made still another clan, and from a particle of skin below her left arm, still another clan. To each of these particles of skin she added some of the skin taken from her hands, making of each the image of a man, and quickening it by chanting, and when they spoke, they spoke the language of the Sun. The animals, such as horses, burros, sheep and cows, which she made for them, were given to the Navaho.

“She also created the Pueblos, the Mexicans and the Americans, as also their domestic animals, but dispatched them all across the oceans —for when they spoke they had a different language.

“She was extremely kind to her children, promised them variegated corn, seeds and plants of all kinds, medicines in case of sickness, precious stones, and her protection in general. Therefore, all good things, the mild rains, the growth of the corn, etc., all are due to her beneficient influence, and come from the west. Finally she presented each with a pet, a bear,


[page 64]

wildcat, bullsnake, and porcupine, for their journey to their present habitat.

“They arrived on the summit of the San Francisco Mountains, accompanied by certain genii, who deprived them of the valued treasures given them by the Sun Woman. They made the first sacrifice of precious stones on that summit. They then continued their journey, visited the various sacred places, and affiliated new members to their tribe, until finally they lived in perfect harmony with the Pueblos. The traces of this early history are to be found in the numerous ruins of the Navaho country.”

Up: Contents Previous: CHAPTER II. THE APACHE (Continued). Next: CHAPTER IV. THE NAVAHO (Continued).




© Arizona Board of Regents