By Kristy McCaffrey
The Navajo have been located in the Four Corners region of the American Southwest since the 12th century. Primarily hunters and gatherers, they were forced to fight—along with many other Indian tribes—the progression of the white population during the early 1800’s, which eventually led to the Long Walk. This arduous journey, which encompassed well over 50 separate treks led by the U.S. Army to the Bosque Redondo in New Mexico Territory, occurred from 1863 to 1866.
The accounts of death by starvation, sickness, or violence left an indelible trauma on the people. Although they were allowed to return to their land in 1868, they would never forget this painful period of their history.
Navajo lore states that a skinwalker is a man (occasionally a woman) who has gained supernatural powers that allow them to assume an animal form, usually a coyote, wolf, owl, fox, or crow. Such individuals practice evil over good, choosing to curse others rather than heal. It is believed that skinwalkers have the ability to steal the “skin” or body of another person. Because of this, most Navajo avoid the use of bear, coyote, wolf and cougar pelts, instead preferring sheepskin or buckskin.
For illnesses and other maladies, it is customary to consult a Navajo medicine man. A typical ceremony lasts for four days, and involves chants and specific herbs that have been collected for the patient. Sometimes a sand painting is utilized, which is later destroyed. The premise of the work of the medicine man is to restore balance to an individual’s spirit.
Known for their weavings, Navajo textiles are highly regarded and have been traded for over 150 years. Initially, weavings were used for cloaks, saddle blankets, sashes and other similar items, but after the 1880’s the Navajo began making them for tourists. Strong geometric patterns are an earmark of their work.
During World War II, Navajo Code Talkers were employed to confuse the enemy. Navajos were inducted and trained in the U.S. Marine Corp and placed on the front lines. The code was never broken.
Today, the Navajo are the largest federally recognized tribe of the United States.
|The traditional Navajo home is a hogan, an 8-sided|
dwelling with a doorway always facing east toward
Don't miss Kristy's historical western romance novel, Into The Land Of Shadows, which features several Navajo characters.
In the land of the Navajo, spirits and desire draw Ethan and Kate close, leading them deeper into the shadows and to each other.
For more info, visit Kristy's website.
Iverson, Peter. Diné: A History of the Navajos. University of New Mexico Press, 2002.