Navajo Word of the Week: “Kélchí”

Navajo: Kélchí  |  English:  “Navajo Moccasin”

Word Breakdown “Ké” = shoes, “lchí” = red. Ké + lchí =red shoe

Kélchí is the name of the traditional moccasin worn by the Dine’ people. To own and wear a pair of Kélchí as a Dine’ shows that you have a deep respect for one’s kinship, life, culture, earth, the cosmos and all the creatures on the planet. It is also a way for the holy ones (Navajo deities) to identify the wearer as one of their own to bestow many blessings and offer protection.

The moccasins come in two styles, men’s and women’s. The men’s moccasin is made with thick deer skin soles and a thin, soft leather top which is made to come up and over about ankle high. The women’s style is also made with thick deerskin rawhide soles, with a soft leather top and long leg wraps knee high. These moccasins were often made with a tie on the side and two to three buttons below it. These moccasins are made to be durable for all weather conditions and long lasting.

All Navajo traditional ceremonies require traditional Navajo attire including Kélchí. The purpose of the Kélchí in Dine’ culture is to provide the wearer with many blessings, protection, and a good long life as long as she or he follows the path of beauty. To wear Kélchí is to honor one’s self and walk/lead a long positive life.

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Sisnaajini – Navajo Word of the Week

Sisnaajini’- translates to Black Belt Mountain. Though the actual Navajo traditional meaning is “white shell mountain.”

The mountain itself is defined in the traditional Navajo culture as “white shell” and “early dawn” mountain. But when you break down the words, “Sis” = belt, “Naajini” = Black Streak. Because from far away, just looking at the mountain itself, it appears to have a black belt around the bottom. So for description purposes if was labeled Sisnaajini’. But the actually representation in the Navajo Culture is different.

The Dine’ people consider Sisnaajini’ the holy mountain of the East, and it is one of the four sacred directional mountains that mark the South boundaries of the Dine’ Land. It is told in the Dine’ creation stories that the Holy People placed this mountain in the South and adorned it with white shell & white beads to keep the Navajo people safe from evil and danger and to promote a positive direction in life.  It also marks the beginning of the circle of life and is the mountain of Spring/Sunrise. Sisnaajini’ is depicted in drawings/sand paintings in the color white to represent purity, dawn, white shell, the beginning and strength. The Dine’ people pray to this mountain for guidance, to create a better understanding within themselves to embrace positive thoughts, strength, courage and to lead a positive lifestyle in achieving goals and overcoming obstacles in daily life. They also offer thanks in prayer & song to Sisnaajini’ for all that it is sanctified.

Chʼil gohwéhí – Navajo Wild Tea

The Chʼil gohwéhí is a soothing orange-yellow tea plant that the Dine’ people harvest in early June to late August. Before the herbal tea is harvested, a prayer is done to give thanks for its usage and to explain to the plant/mother earth why it is being taken. After the prayers are done, the plant is picked and tied into small bundles to be left to dry for later use or it can be used right after picking. One bundle of Chʼil gohwéhí makes 10-12 cups of tea after boiling for 5 minutes. This tea can be served with honey & sugar to sweeten the taste. It is also used as a medical tea to treat toothaches, remedy colds and stomach aches and can even be used to dye wool.

Chʼil gohwéhí is enjoyed by Dine’ families as a form of warm greeting to visitors,  as a beverage with a meal or as a ceremonial drink during winter story telling. Chʼil gohwéhí is an important part of Dine’ hospitality because it reunites the current with the past and it is said to be the blessing plant to reunite families with loved ones.