Navajo Word of the Week – “Gad”

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.

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.