“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: 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.
Navajo: Gad | English: Juniper Tree
There are two types of Navajo Juniper trees:
Gad biką‘ígíí – Male juniper tree and Gad ni’eełii, “Drooping juniper”
Both types of Juniper tree are sacred to the Dine’ people as they have many positive and beneficial uses in the Dine’ traditional ceremonies. The juniper seeds are often made into bracelets or necklaces to protect the wearer from evil and negative thoughts or any evil thought to follow or torment the wearer. These bracelets are also made for birthing mothers to aid the mother for a smooth birth and to protect the soul of the newborn. The branches from the juniper tree are boiled as tea and served to the mother after birthing to help her in a quick recovery, for purification and to bless her & her child with all the positive elements of the earth. This tea is often used to cure stomach problems & headaches. The juniper berries are also burned to create juniper ashes used for cooking, medicine and various offerings. The tree bark & berries are used in ceremonial blessings for any new structures/hogans, rites, purification & also consumed as a drink or food.
The Dine’ name for Albuquerque is “the place of buildings with church bells on top.” The early Navajo people gave it that name because they noticed that at the time, it was community with a lot churches and public buildings with bells on the roof. They also could see the bells on top of the church buildings in the distance and used it as a guide to travel to Albuquerque to trade, sell at the market place or to visit a family member in the hospital.
It is now used as a descriptive word to describe a location in conjunction with Albuquerque, such as Old Town, a house or even a hospital in Albuquerque.
Word Breakdown- “Be’eldííl”- ringing bells, “Dah”- high up above, “Sinil”- it is placed or positioned.
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 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.
If you ever find yourself in the new Navajo Division of Transportation Complex (NDOT), you might look at the floor. And you might notice that there’s a row of lights, in the floor. And you might wonder, “what the heck?” No, it’s not a flaw in the design. It’s an intentional representation of a key part of air transportation – a runway. Make sense now? There are other symbolic representations of various types of transportation incorporated into the design of this office, some easily recognizable, others subtle.
Who says the office needs to be a boring place? Could, perhaps, the design of the office be inspirational and anything but boring? Most people are probably familiar with – and envious of – the Google grounds (employee gym? restaurants in-office? yes please). But what makes it so much better than any other office? The plush furniture? Open spaces? The overall design? Why is the stereotypical office full of cramped cubicles?
Okay, we’ll stop asking rhetorical questions. But seriously, all it takes is a little creativity, and a little imagination, and you get places like NDOT, or Google. If you’re not daydreaming about a new office yet, or if you’re not looking around work for design features in your already-inspiring-comfortable-amazing office and thinking “that’s why I like it here” then try reading this article, which highlights some of the most creative office designs out there:
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.
This site offers information about the book UPRIVER (Harvard UP, 2014), other books by Michael F. Brown, issues related to Amazonian peoples, events at the School for Advanced Research--Santa Fe, and occasional meditations on anthropology and human social life in general.
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