Navajo Word of the Week: “Dootł’izhii”

“Dootł’izhii” is one of the scared stones of the Dine’ people and the word refers to the mixed green/blue color of Turquoise. The Navajo people consider this stone to have spiritual and healing properties. It also represents Mt. Taylor, one of the four sacred mountains of the Navajo Nation. The Navajo ceremonial name is “Dootł’izhii” dził (Turquoise Mountain) and the mountain is said to be spiritually adorned with Turquoise.

Turquoise is worn for good luck, protection from evil, and for identity, so that the Navajo deities can recognize the wearer as one of their cherished earth children. The Navajo believe that the stone absorbs all the negativity or evil wishes intended for the wearer. So when a crack appears in the stone it is said that “The stone took it!” meaning the stone shielded the wearer from any harm, causing it to crack. To wear turquoise is to honor one’s self, family and tradition. And in doing so, his or her prayers and ceremonies can be heard by the deities and in return many blessings will be received.

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.

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.

K’é – Kinship: the basis of the Diné clan system

K’é is the way in which a Diné identifies him or herself to other Diné people. He or she belongs to his or her maternal mother’s clan, and is born for his or her father’s clan. This also includes the maternal and paternal grandfather’s clans. The Diné K’é system is very important because it helps a Navajo to identify himself to others and therefore he knows exactly where he stands in relationship to other Diné. If he is of the same clan as another, he is immediately considered part of the family and addressed as son or daughter, brother, sister, uncle or aunt.

The K’é system serves as a guide for marriage as well. A Diné person belongs to four different clans that are unrelated. He or she is forbidden to marry into any of the related or similar clans. If one is related by marriage (such as an in-law), then the in-law is considered an all-around helper for the wife’s family. And he is usually always teased by the wife’s family – but only light-heartedly – to maintain a peaceful, humorous relationship within the family.

Most importantly this system serves as the basis for Diné relationships, including how to show proper respect, introduce yourself and address others, in order to maintain the balance of a peaceful coexistence. For the Diné people, the K’é system also extends into the spiritual world and deities.

Hózhó “Beauty”

The DMA Dine’ (Navajo) word of the week is Hózhó, meaning “Beauty” or “The positive way.” It is considered the most important cherished word in the Dine’ language because it describes the way a Dine’ should lead his or her life. That is to live a long, happy, healthy life in balance with nature, mother earth & father sky.