The Navajo Indian culture is one of great pride filled with sacred traditions, beliefs and ceremonies that have been handed down from generation to generation. Their cultural background and beliefs have been infused throughout their people and they take pride in making sure that their story and experiences are known throughout all of their cultural members, young and old. The background of the Navajo people, including their primary mode of subsistence, their beliefs and values (including the use of medicines and ceremonies for rituals), gender relations as well as economic and social organizations will all be discussed throughout this paper.
The Navajo culture is now considered to be a pastoralist society. Pastoralism is a subsistence strategy that involves herding and caring for animals. These types of societies depend on the animals for their survival and the majority of their focus is placed on maintaining their herds and producing what is necessary for the herd to remain healthy and plentiful (Nowak & Laird, 2010). Archeologist theorize that the Navajo initially moved south from the Canadian region into the American Southwest sometime between 1300 and 1500 AD (Weisiger, 2004). At this time, the Navajo were hunters and gatherers. The Navajo culture came into contact with the Pueblo Indian culture and adopted their farming techniques for growing mostly beans, squash, corn and similar crops. At this point, they were not considered to be pastoralist since they mostly concentrated on hunting, gathering, and farming as opposed to caring for and herding animals. The Navajos homeland, known as Dinè’tah, had a bountiful supply of elk, mountain sheep, deer, and of course smaller game such as squirrels, rabbits, etc. (Gabriel, 1992). After coming into contact with the Spanish in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the Navajo learned the practice of herding and caring for sheep and goats which resulted in pastoralism to arise within the culture in the arid canyons of the Dine homeland (Weisiger, 2004). The Navajo tribes then began dealing primarily with sheep and used them for all sources of life sustaining materials. Navajo used the wool for clothing and blankets, the meat for food, and even the size of the herds were considered to be their label for social status. Sheep also became their means of currency (Bailey, 1980). With the implementation of herding becoming their primary means of life, their settlement patterns changed and as opposed to living in more permanent settlements near their crops, the Navajo began using separate territories for seasons. These areas were based upon the needs of their herds during the seasons in order to maintain the size and health of their herds (McPherson, 1988). The Navajo culture is full of beliefs and contains a rich cultural background. According to the Official Navajo Nation Visitor Guide (2012), the Diné, or Navajo people, believe that they have passed through three different worlds before becoming a part of this world, known as the “Glittering World.” The Diné believe there are two different classes of beings: the Earth People and the Holy People. The Holy People essentially are believed to watch over the Earth People and have the power to help or harm them. The Earth people must do everything that they can to maintain harmony and balance on earth in order live prosperously. The Diné believe that the Holy People taught them to live the correct way and how to properly conduct life in order to maintain harmony with Mother Earth, Father Sky and all of the elements of the planet, such as mankind, animals, insects, plants, and the other elements. The Official Navajo Nation Visitor Guide (2012) also states that other than believing that there are four worlds, the number four also infiltrates through other customary Navajo philosophy. The Holy People were believed to have placed four sacred mountains in four different directions. Mount Blanca is to...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document