Navajo Clown

FAQ's* About Life on the Navajo Nation  
& Among the Navajo People
(*FAQ's=Frequently Asked Questions)
Section I Updated Sunday, June 9, 2002
Edited by Larry DiLucchio, Chinle, Arizona - Copyright © 1998-2002

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Questions 1-87

The Navajo Nation (Reservation) is larger than the state of West Virginia. It is often referred to as the "Rez" by its 260,000 residents. "Where are all the people?" is a common question from tourists passing through. Except for isolated hogans, or communities such as Chinle, Window Rock, Ganado, Kayenta, Tuba City, Leupp, Dilkon, Tsaile, Lukachukai, Pinon, and others, the Reservation can look uninhabited during the day. A drive along a reservation highway at night however, reveals the lights from the many otherwise unseen homes that have electric lights glowing brightly, like freshly fallen stars across the land and out to the horizon.

  1. What is the correct spelling for the name of the tribe, Navaho or Navajo?
  2. Both spellings have been used in the past. The members of the tribe refer to themselves as the Diné, or the People. The tribe uses "Navajo" as the official spelling. The "j" is pronounced as an "h", as in Spanish. If you are doing research, it is important to understand that much work, especially early records, was done using the "h" spelling. Only by searching both spellings can all references be discovered.

  3. If the tribe's name is the Diné, where did the usage of "Navajo" originate?
  4. An Athabascan speaking people inhabited northern New Mexico. Some turned to farming and a pastoral lifestyle, while others remained raiding nomads who lived off the land. The farmers and herders eventually became the ancestors of today's Navajos while the remainder evolved into the many Apache tribes of Arizona and New Mexico and the Athabascan speaking peoples of northern Mexico.

    When new cultures and peoples are contacted, explorers typically ask someone else what the "new" people are called. Thus, most American Indian tribes have been called by what someone else named them. The word "Navajo" has linguistic roots with the Pueblo Tewa People, who the Spanish encountered first. The earliest Spanish record of the Navajo people in 1583 refers to them as the "Querechos". This is of unknown origin. In 1629, records show the Navajos as the "Apaches de Navaju'." In 1630, Fray Alonso de Benevides wrote of the Navajos as "Great Farmers.";"the Apaches de Navajo." Today, the linguistic roots for "navahu'" has been traced to the Tewa word "nava" for cultivated field and "hu'" for the mouths of canyon(s). The Tewas appear to have identified the Diné to the Spanish as the people farming the canyons to the west.

  5. What is the correct pronunciation for Diné?
  6. Most English speakers initially mispronounce the name because they try to end the word with a long vowel sound, typical to English. "Din-A," or "Din-neigh" is often heard. The pronunciation "Din-Eh" is more correct, which probably accounts for the use of "Dineh" in many texts. The direct translation of "Diné" equates to "The People"

    It is worthy to note that many American Indian tribes have, or are in the process of abandoning their assigned names and are returning to that name by which they know themselves.


  7. While we are speaking of names, How did Canyon DeChelly come to be pronounced "day shay"?
  8. This arose from a corruption of the Navajo word for the canyon "tseyi" (say-ee). The Spanish added "Canyon De" in front of their spelling for tseyi which ended up as "chelly" pronouncing it as "shay ee", with two "L's" sounding like a "y". English speakers retained the Spanish spelling and pronunciation, changing neither to match the phonics of this language. Thus, tourists, newscasters and weather reporters continue to refer to the region as "Canyon de Chelly (rhymes with "jelly") on national radio and television.

    Mis-spellings continue to be perpetrated. "Tsegi" overlook on the canyon's south rim drive is just another corruption of "Tseyi" by early anglo visitors that has been continued out of "tradition" by Park Service staff.

    Note:November 1998. On the way to Spider Rock, I noticed a hand painted sign on the right of the road marking "Tseyi" overlook. At the overlook itself, both the older "Tsegi" spelling and more correct "Tseyi" spelling were used in plaques on the wall. Something is going on, but it is hard to say what. I won't know until I speak with Wilson Hunter at the Park Service. In the worst case, someone stole a sign. In the best, maybe the NPS is starting to make some long needed changes!

  9. Who lives on the Navajo Nation besides the Navajo People?
  10. About 3.9% of the population are estimated by the Tribe to be non-Navajos as of 1995. They work primarily in professional occupations where there are not yet enough qualified Navajos workers to meet the need.

  11. On maps of the West and the Four Corner's states, an area is labeled as the "Navajo Indian Reservation"yet you refer to the "Navajo Nation." When did it change ?
  12. What is now known to be the Four Corners has been Navajo Land with the first written history of the area in the late 1500's. Because of the encroaching European immigrants, much of the land was lost from the American Indian Tribes, eventually a small portion was set aside for them to live on. Laws at the time, prohibited the residents from leaving these areas. In effect, the reservations were little different in many people's minds than large prison camps. When full citizenship was finally granted to all American Indians, the Tribal members gained the right to travel anywhere in the United States. After Tribal government was firmly established, there was a push to gain statehood for the region as the fifty-first state. It was then that the term Navajo Nation came into widespread use. Because of this history, the use of the word "reservation", or "Rez" for short, can evoke images for some, that bring out bitter memories. "Navajo Land", or the "Navajo Nation" are less offensive terms. Not all American Indians resent the use of the word "Rez" or "Reservation." To many, it equates to "home," with no strings attached, but it can be a term some American Indians find offensive when used by others. In the vernacular of this decade, "Navajo Land" and "Navajo Nation" are much more "politically correct" terms than "Rez" and reservation.

  13. What is it like to be a minority on the Navajo Nation?
  14. It is different for different people. After fifteen years, we really don't dwell on the difference: there are too many ways people are alike. It largely depends on how you view yourself and others and how much you are willing to be a part of the community. Some people who cannot see past the color of an individual's skin, the level of formal education, or differences in religious beliefs and language, make their own problems wherever they go. Personally, we enjoy the diversity. We enjoy the people. It may boil down to how willing you are to accept others for who they are and be accepted for who you are. We have grown to have families in the area that we consider as our family. We also have had our children suffer slurs of discrimination in school. Nothing is perfect. Now that they understand what it is to be labeled because of the color of their skin, or a lack of knowledge of who they were and where they came from, they are more tolerant and less likely to judge others in the same manner.

    My oldest daughters have played volleyball for their high school. On occasion they have run into an off-the-reservation team with some very vocal and bigoted players. A trading of insults sometimes results. When it involves slurs, as can and does happen when young tempers flare, both girls were reminded by their teammates that they weren't included in the comments made by teammates to the other team's members, because both were "Navajo", having grown up on the here!

    Along this same vein, team sports can take some mental adjustments for those from out of this area. This last weekend (May 1, 1998), I watched a volleyball team of area girls win the State Regional championships held in Phoenix. Every team they vanquished individually had players who were taller and stronger, however as a team working together, the area team could not be beat. Each of these young ladies, including my daughter had merged themselves into one. Any parent who chose to publicly praise any individual girl by name during a game was either ignored, or asked not to. The girls had managed to change a group of "me's" into one "we". Perhaps, this is easier to do here, as small family groups are tightly bound. Later the same day I attended an award dinner for outstanding State athletes. One of the points that was emphasized was how much community service each of the nominees was involved in. As president of the local Lions Club, we have been seeking local youth who are involved in their communities to the same degree to award in a similar manner. We really haven't been able to find many. Is it perhaps because more emphasis is to the community off Navajo land and centered on the expanded family here? I don't have an answer. I do know, however, that until "Dad" quit praising "his" daughter publicly at games and started praising the team as a whole, there was little peace at home. Note:It must be emphasized that this part of the FAQ's is based upon my experience. Your experience may be different depending not only how open you are to different cultures, but also where on the Navajo Nation you may live.

  15. Where do the Navajo People believe they came from?

  16. The Emergence Story of the Navajo recalls the Dineh's journey from the First World to this world which the Holy People prepared for them. Among the Navajo there are differences of opinion as to which world this is, depending on whom you speak with. I was first told the story of the Emergence in a hogan near Grey Mountain, while in college. There was so much to remember. That was many years ago. I recall the Dineh passing into Four worlds, but have no memory of a Fifth. Returning to Navajo land, I was again a student of the elders, but busy with my own family too. This time I heard of another world, I had not known before. Some talked of five. In preparing this document, I referenced a Tribal publication that again only referred to Four Worlds. While not what I had recently heard, I used this "official" book as gospel. I also checked with a mentor who teaches Navajo Studies at Diné College. "The 4 is a typo," he advised, "There are five worlds." Checking with Medicine Man Mike Mitchell, who has worked for the Chinle Unified School District as a cultural consultant, he responded "Four!" When I asked why I was getting this difference, he paused and talking quietly and slowly, so I would listen, uttered "Too many Story Tellers!" The "old men" he had known as a boy had always said Four Worlds, "The Fifth world," he continued, "would not come for maybe a thousand years. Man does not know of its coming. As long as the plants and animals we know continue to live and grow, we are in the Fourth World. When they are gone, we will be somewhere else."

    Someday I may try to isolate the differences in the two stories, For now, I am able to accept differences in the accounts exist. To some extent, the stories are not precise, but serve as a vehicle for teaching the same lessons. It is the message of these lessons that is important.

    The Dineh cosmos is composed of a series of shell worlds. Escape through the sky of one, leads to the next. The story is populated with many characters and animals and explains their presence in this world. This world and all in it was a gift to the Navajo People by the Holy People. From this journey and experiences, grew a deep respect and stewardship for this world's environment. Father Sky and Mother earth are given the reverence due them as creators and caretakers. This respect survives in different capacities. The Dinetah, an expanse of northwestern New Mexico south of Shiprock holds more answers. The region is rich in rock art which some can read. Unfortunately, this area is largely un patrolled and unprotected. As a result, large panels of rock art have been removed using pneumatic drills and cranes. The panels undoubtedly are now sitting in some familiy's home as a mantle piece, or have been sold for similar use. The next inventory of the region will undoubtedly discover more losses The area involved is immense and the federal funding is inadequate to patrol it thoroughly.

  17. Where do Anthropologists think the Navajo People came from?
  18. No one knows for certain. Most anthropologists believe the Diné to be descendants of people who came over the Bering Strait land bridge during the last Ice Age. This conclusion was arrived at because of facial characteristics and a study of language groups. The Navajo language belongs to the Athabascan group which includes the Eskimo and Apache. A "trail" of tribes with the same Athabascan language roots stretches over 4,000 miles from the states of Sonora and Chihuahua in Northern Mexico to the interior of Alaska, and shores of Hudson Bay,the Bering Sea and the Pacific ocean. This was noted in the forewarn of a recent reprint by the University of Utah of Washington Matthews' 1897 book "Navajo Legends." There are also stories handed down orally, of a lost tribe(s) to the north. Navajo travelers returning from trips to Canada and Alaska have commented that they were able to converse with the peoples there, although minor shifts in pronunciations between the sources were obvious. In the forward to the reprinted Matthews' book, Grace McNeley quotes Hubert Howe Bancroft as describing the Athabascan peoples in general, as the "Tinneh." This is not the same, but is equivalent to the "Dineh" used locally.

    It should be simple enough to confirm or negate where the Navajo originated by comparing the DNA of cells which are passed on by the women alone, but I do not believe such a study has ever been done. A similar study was done in Europe and Africa and used to successfully track human migration patterns there. Until this is done, the real answer may remain conjecture.

    The Tribe officially holds the Bering Strait theory to have been created and used by invading Europeans as a partial justification for the European's claim on North American Lands and the westward expansion by people of the eastern states in the 1800's. Mormons, who you can read more about later, believe through revelation in their sacred books that the Navajo People and others are descendants of ancient peoples who landed in middle America then migrated north.

    There  is cause for thought. A Navajo man from Window Rock was in Mongolia doing missionary work for his church. The day he was to leave the country, that government declared that no foreigners could travel by public transportation for the next several days. His hosts provided him with local dress and escorted him on the rail system to where he needed to go. He fit right in! Milton has a photograph of himself and his comrades. It could have been taken on the Navajo Reservation, except for difference in clothing. Exchange students from the Orient have done the same thing here. A graduating Taiwanese high school senior announced in a commencement address that he would no longer tell people he was Chinese. He was Diné!

    Yurts, which Mongolian nomads use for homes, bear striking similarities to hogans in shape and use... Makes one wonder.

    I have received E-Mail from some who believe they know the origin of the Navajo begin as far away as Tibet and the plains of Mongolia. They tell of having both genetic evidence and quote similarities between the languages. To date, they have not presented a step by step documented history of how this migration occurred, complete with references. Until this is done, although their ideas may have merit, they will be discounted as unproven theories. I have also been told that genetic studies like I specified are underway by others who also saw the information on migrations that they would provide. I wait with high interest, the published findings of these projects.

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  19. What are Clans?
  20. The Navajo people have a kinship system that follows the lineage of the women. After the four original clans were established by Changing Woman , women who came into the tribe's membership either brought a clan name with them, or were assigned a clan on acceptance into the tribe. Some were existing clans from other tribes, while others were created out of circumstance. Today, the total number of clans represented is calculated in to be over one hundred and forty, from twenty-one major groups. The importance of one's clans is hard to over emphasize. Names one is called can and do change, but one's clans are forever. The primary clanship of all a woman's direct descendants through the women, remains the same as her primary clan. In addition to this primary clan, Navajo people who have Navajo parents will have three additional clans; their father's clan and the clans of the mother's and father's father. These are used with the primary clan in determining relationships to others. Each individual must constantly fulfill different roles based on these relationships. A young woman may be a mother to some, sister to others, daughter or grandmother, all at the same time. Clan relationships are important. They can break down social walls, allowing an individual to be a distinct part of almost any group. Since other tribes also have clan systems, these relationships can also link tribes. The Coyote Pass People clan is common among the Navajo people, but it is said to have originated at the Jemez pueblo. On introduction to a new group of people, it is polite and expected to introduce oneself by clan membership first, then give your name. This provides an explanation of where you fit in the fabric of the society. Once this is established, names become important. Except for other American Indians, some Irish, Scots and the Mexican people, all non-Navajos are regarded as Belagaana's, being lumped together. When the Spanish first came to the Southwest, some Navajo and Pueblo People were forced to live together. Others joined in military alliances to drive the Spanish out. Because of intermarriages during this time, both groups now share many clans in common.

    Traditionally, individuals who share a common clan do not marry. This is far more restrictive than prohibitions against incest in other cultures, whose restrictions end beyond second cousins. As younger Navajos begin to choose their own partners, some ignore this limitation, or are not aware of the taboo, or regard it as a relic from the past, yet there are still many who respect this practice. In some cultures, the question "What's your sign? (Astrology), is often an opening question when couples first meet. In and around Navajo Land, it is just as apt to be "What are your clans?, if this was not covered in the initial introductions.

  21. If clans are more important than names, are last names the same as the person's clan?
  22. Traditionally every Navajo person had several names that applied to them. They had the name they were born with, a name they used, which may have been different and a name that others might refer to them by, based on some personal characteristic or experience. Sometimes this name may have been considered derogatory and was never used in their presence. For instance if a child played a lot by the woodpile, he might become referred to a "woodpile". Surnames did not exist. There was no need among the Dineh.

    When the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Agents were first organizing the reservation, they had to submit listings of people who lived there to justify the distribution of supplies and the organization of their book-keeping to meet the demands of the bureaucracy. Often, the agents did not speak the local language and relied on interpreters. The interpreters in turn had to rely on others for their information, because it was considered rude to directly ask a person their name.

    The rest is pure conjecture. It is based on stories from elders and from logically examining names in use today. Many of the surnames today appear to be descriptors given to define someone else. "Benally" equates to " his grandfather", "Tso" means "large or rotund", "Nez" is tall, "Yazzie" is small. "Nizhoni" is "beautiful". "Good luck" is obvious. The examples are many. "Bia" is a common surname, but from a different source. It is not of Navajo origin, but was believed to be a literal assignment of a note on a census sheet that the individual was under the "B.I.A.'so" care. Some last names are clans. "Tsiniginnie", "Kayani", and "Clauschee" are examples. Other names resulted from references to where a person came from. "Kinlichee", meaning "red house" is an example of this. The English translation also is common in some areas. A last name of "Dineh" is obvious, as the recorder, having no knowledge of the language probably did not recognize the individual was being identified as a member of the tribe. "Dine'tso" is similar, being a combination of two previous examples. Some adopted a surname of their own, like past Tribal Chairman Peter MacDonald.

    The pattern continues. With an understanding of the language comes an understanding of culture and history; not just Navajo history, but also our own. It is like looking backwards in time, to the era when our own ancestors were in villages of similar size and the first last names were originated in a similar manner. "Cook", "Sawyer", "Cooper", "Miller", "Hunter", "Weaver", "Fuller", "Smith", "Wright", "Tailor", "Tanner", "Gardener", "Fisher", and "Miner" all were derived from professions. "Walker", "Shorty", "Jumbo", and "Christian" had other sources.

    Once the initial pool of last names was established to fill the needs of the government's bookkeepers, further last names came from better translations of the language and through intermarriages with the others. I can see the results in a clash of cultures where the lessor in number were forced to accommodate the demands of those who did not understand them. Hopefully, we have made progress in the last century, but as computer systems are reducing our identities to a string of numbers, I have to wonder if it is progress, or just a repetition of history on a larger scale - a fitting legacy perhaps.

    There are documents in the University of Virginia's collections that are available over the Internet, that include contemporary accounts of "the Naming of the Indians". One article was written by a BIA Superintendent for one of the monthly magazines in the late 1800's. It provided the missing pieces of solid evidence supporting conclusions I had arrived at by conjecture. A link to this library is included off the page dealing with References from the Navajo and American Indian Culture section on the home page for this site.

  23. Are there any differences between how Navajo families are organized and families in the rest of America?
  24. The Perception of family differs. Navajo families are traditionally strongly matriarchal. Members of the family are defined by terms unfamiliar to outsiders. Children of siblings are considered siblings. Recently, this has given rise to children of school age, who may not be fluent in Navajo, using terms like "cousin-brother" and "cousin-sister" to define relationships in English. The literal translation for your mother's sister is "little Mother." The family members traced through the mother's and father's sides have different terms that describe them. The mother's mother is referred to as "ma'sani'" or "old mother" while the father's parents are the "nallys".

    Compound families where one man will have more than one wife were not unknown in even the recent past. When this occurred, it was most common for two sisters to share a husband. The increasing practice of multiple cycles of marriage-divorce and remarriage without long term commitment that has been introduced from the dominant American culture is far different. It has been very difficult for this family centered society to accommodate the changing relationships of its people. Children often founder in the debris of these failed unions and they are the ones who seem to suffer the worst. Fortunately, there are often other relatives who can help fill this void. Communities truly raise the children and it is not unusual for older children to reside with someone other than their parents. This flexibility in child rearing compensates to some degree for the inability of every parent to be everything for every child. If there is another the child can relate to better, being able to do so seems to strengthen the society as a whole.

    When young people marry, the husband traditionally would go to live with the brides' parents. As more housing becomes available this is less true. Also, most young people are now free to make their own choice of mate. This has not always been the case. Arranged marriages which relied on the experience and judgment of the parents are still spoken about. They often cemented alliances here as just as marriages between nobility were used to stabilize European governments.

    Adoptions are different among American Indians. Usually, the parent or guardian can assign a child to another family's care. If a Navajo mother gives up a child, or is unable to care for it, and no relative is willing to accept the responsibility (rare), the Tribe has legal authority over the child and the responsibility to place him or her with a family of its selection, wherein the child may learn his or her heritage. This authority extends to children of all tribal members, on and off the reservation. Were a Navajo girl in Los Angles to give her child up for adoption to a non-Navajo family, the Tribe has been given the authority to re-place the adoption.

    Division of property is worth mentioning. The hogan of residence is considered the woman's, as are all sheep and goats. The man has his horse, saddle and any cattle. A not too subtle way for a man to discover that he was no longer welcome would be his discovery of his saddle and other personal possessions having been placed outside the door. When I originally wrote this section I used "tossed out" here. Later editors prefered the kinder and gentler "placed", but I still have a mental image of an angry, emotional woman getting a great deal of satisfaction from not merely placing belongings outside.

  25. Why do Navajo people traditionally live so far apart from each other?
  26. With an increase in high density housing to accommodate a rising population, this question is asked less and less. Author Tony Hillerman  has written many  mystery novels based on the Navajo Nation and other area Tribes.  A visitor to Navajo Land in one of his novels, asked a Navajo character this same question. The individual responded that "Navajos live so far apart from each other because 'we can't stand indians'". I don't tell it as well as Hillerman, but the answer expresses some wry local humor at the expense of many gullible tourists by one who may have tired momentarily from what can sometimes seem like an endless bombardment of what can seem like trivial questions.

    Since the Spanish arrived with the sheep, the Navajo people have been shepherds. The extremely poor quality of the range available in the high desert where they lived dictated families live far apart in order to provide sufficient forage for each family group's animals. This is still true now, except where HUD has built high density housing projects to accommodate a growing population. Incidentally, author Hillerman's books can provide some insight into life on the Navajo Nation. I also find them enjoyable reading. Tony Hillerman has several sites on the Web. A Colorado map company, also offers maps of Navajo Land and the surrounding are with the specific locales mentioned by Hillerman all plotted out - for those who want to follow along.

  27. Is the Navajo Language a written or an oral language?
  28. It is both. Historically, it was an oral language, however at the turn of the century an Navajo alphabet evolved. The English based alphabet is different from what most are used to. There are both additions and deletions of characters. It also uses only the first four vowels. The vowels may be given accents, high tones, or nasal renditions or combinations of these that changes their phonetic qualities. True-type fonts are available for both PC's and Mac's that allow composition in Navajo on computers by those who possess the skill.

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  29. Is the language still used.
  30. Yes! Tribal government requires it in council sessions and the language is taught in all Chinle schools. It has been standardized, to minimize differences in dialect between the locales.

  31. Is the language like English?
  32. Yes and No. English and most European languages depend upon an individual having a large vocabulary of unique words to describe individual items. Navajo, is a descriptive language that uses relationships and descriptions to paint a vivid mental picture. English words also commonly end in a long vowel sound, while in Navajo, endings in short vowel sounds are the rule. Words in Navajo are often modified for related meanings.

    Ké is Navajo for shoes. Tires for a car are referred to as "chidi' bi'ké" - the shoes belonging to the car.

    Like English, Navajo has words which were incorporated into it. Spanish is perhaps the single greatest source.

  • For example, "beeso" from "peso", for money (There is no "P" in Navajo, so the spelling had to change. I have wondered if this ever created any problems, since "beso" in Spanish is "kiss".)
  • and "mandigiiyaa", from "mantequilla" means "butter"

  1. Is the Navajo language widely known?
  2. Not by people living elsewhere. Curriculum to teach the language is continually in development. Many people who were severely discouraged from speaking or learning Navajo while they were young and in Bureau of Indian Affairs (B.I.A.) schools are returning to Diné College in Tsailé, or Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, which offer courses. Many younger couples are making a concerted effort to have their children spend as much time as possible with grandparents in hopes the young ones will learn to speak their language.

    Navajo speakers served the United States well during WWII. Groups of young Navajo men were enlisted under a TOP SECRET project to train them as Marine Corps radiomen. They are officially referred to as the "NAVAJO CODE TALKERS." They developed a code using the Navajo language that was indecipherable to the Japanese enemy. American radiomen on South Pacific battlefields had been plagued by Japanese who were fluent in English and posed as Americans. It was difficult to be able to trust that the messages in English came from other Americans, or that commands in English would not be understood by the enemy. Navajo speaking radio operators provided rapid and secure communications at all levels in the American command. The program remained classed as "TOP SECRET" until 1983. The men involved were not recognized for their individual and group contributions to America's success until after their children were grown.

  3. What is a "Song and Dance?"
  4. A "Song and Dance" is a Navajo get-together for couples. Having origins in Na'daa ceremonies, where couples would dance while ceremonies were performed in the hogan, they are now largely social occasions, and often competitive. Prize money for the different categories can be substantial. The primary purpose remains a chance to get together with family and friends and have a good time.

    Visitors are welcome. Admission is usually charged. Cameras may be tolerated, but first get to know the people. Spend some time watching. In many cases you must bring your own seating (lawn chairs) if the song & Dance is outside, Concessions are generally available and families will be selling soda pop, roasted corn, fry bread and possibly Navajo Tacos and Kneel Down Bread. Do not be afraid to try some.

  5. Is a "Pow Wow the same as a "Song and Dance?"
  6. They are similar but not the same. Pow-Wows will include contestants from many different tribes and often many states. They also had origins in ceremonies. There are many pages of information concerning them available on the Internet.

    The pow wow's participant's regalia are much more colorful and elaborate than those seen at a Song and Dance. Many feathers are used. Grass Dancers have long shaggy yarn hanging from the legs and arms. Northern and Southern Plain's Indian's women's attire often have long fringes. Often there is elaborate beadwork on moccasins and leggings. Breastplates made of many hollowed out small bones laced together are worn by some men. Fancy Dancers are just that. Jingle dancers are women with elaborate dresses covered in metal cones that jingle against each other when the wearers dance. Cartridge cases were used on the first jingle dresses, but silver and brass cones are used now. Often the metal is stamped with a border design. The clothing is all handmade and are labors of love. The grand opening is the best opportunity to see everyone at their finest, if you have only a limited amount of time. There are no conventional programs, so a knowledgeable friend is a big help. Just sitting and listening and watching can be a sensory overload. Music is usually provided by drum groups. Better Pow-wows will have several drum groups which are known elsewhere as singers. They alternate providing music for the dancers. One group at each point of the compass is standard, but more may participate. A drum group consists of one large drum two to three feet in diameter, placed face up on the ground. Drummers, who also sing as a chorus, sit around it, facing inward. Unlike western bass drums, which have only one player, a Pow-Wow drum has many players. Raffles are common. Many time young women may be selling the raffle tickets to raise money to pay their own expenses at competitions. Donated prized will be given away that range from handicrafts to cash and jewelry. It is a worth-while chance to take and you may get something you could obtain no other way. Prayers, and respect for elders and those who have given military service are consistent themes in all gatherings. Take your key from others, if someone starts speaking in a language you do not understand and everyone else quiets down and is reverent; do the same. Don't take it as an opportunity to take pictures with your flash! If you absolutely MUST have some photographs, get a very high speed film so that a flash will not be required, even indoors. Be unobtrusive. Get to know people first.

  7. What is a "Squaw Dance?"
  8.  "Squaw Dance", signs are often placed along major reservation roads at junctions with driveways and minor roads, alerting passers-by to the presence of an Enemy Way Ceremony, or Nadaa, that night. While the primary purpose iof a Nadaa' is ceremonial healing, the dances are also social occasions which give people from remote communities a chance to meet. Originally, it was a war dance, held for returning men after battles with an enemy. Some sources have said that originally, young women of marriageable status were the only women permitted to dance. In recent years, the flavor of the occasion has changed. Perhaps this is an adaptation to fewer wars. Men may be expected to pay women they dance with some renumeration, usually a token of pocket change.

    The Enemy Way ceremony is paid for by families. If you attend, it is good manners to bring food. A sack of "Blue Bird" flour, a case of soda, or a can of coffee is very acceptable. The advice that people must be a friend to make a friend, works here too.

    It is probably best if you attend your first "Squaw Dance" with a guide. Recently, emergency room staff in both Chinle and Ganado have commented that their case load increases dramatically, mainly in alcohol related injuries, when some large "Squaw Dances" are held nearby.

    squaw dance sign

  9. If the actual ceremony is the "Enemy Way Ceremony", why is the sign "SQUAW DANCE" posted?
  10. I don't know. The reason seems lost, other than there are women there. Most point out that "Squaw" is not a Navajo word, but it is used none the less, with no apparrent offense. Nadáá is the Navajo term for the event.

  11. The state and national press has carried stories about a movement to eliminate the use of the word "SQUAW" in geographic names. Why?
  12. This has fuzzy origins. Some contend that in the language of some eastern tribe, "SQUAW" may refer to a woman's genitals. Others believe it was equivalent for a woman who sold her body. Either way, it is not a Navajo word, but one whose use was originally introduced by non-Navajos. Some feel the word is as derogatory to all American Indian women as the word "nigger" is to African Americans. Arizona State Representative "Jack" Jackson, who is Navajo, has introduced a bill in the Arizona legislature for several sessions to change the names of Arizona landmarks such as "Squaw Peak", but he has met with little success.

    It seems illogical that he can gain support when "Squaw Dance" remains a term of choice in his homeland, where it is commonly used without disrespect by his constituents!

  13. What is a Yeibechei dance?
  14. After the first frost of the Fall has passed, these nine-day long ceremonies may begin. They generally start late in the evening and last through the small hours of the morning. There may be some dancing in the afternoon, depending on the group. They are healing ceremonies invoking the aid of the Holy Ones and the Talking God. The most common is the Beautyway. These events are funded by extended families. Guests show good manners if they contribute to the host, or bring food to share. Generally, all who come are fed. This is a cost in excess of a hefty fee to the singer. Sometimes Yei dancers, in masks, powered bodies and dress, will come into a community and solicit donations. There is generally no vocalism beyond the "wu tu tu tu" of the character. An outstretched pillowcase prompts a donation. Support is expected and is good manners.

    Respect your hosts. Become a guest that you would welcome back if this ceremony was in your home. Visitors are usually welcome, but be unobtrusive and respectful. These ceremonies do not often draw the non-Dine' in great numbers. Often times the lateness of the hour and bite of the cold air, make it a contest between staying awake and staying warm. If nothing else is gained, you should better appreciate why fellow employees may not be their best on the job when they are helping at one of these ceremonies - and trying to work an eight hour day. Since these are night activities, flash cameras are best left home.

    Some notes jotted down after attending a ceremony may give you an idea of the atmosphere surrounding a Yeibechei:

    It is early morning. We have just returned home from spending the previous afternoon and night out and about. I had the privilege to take my son and daughter to the ninth and final day of a Yeibechei ceremony. What had started out as a late afternoon social visit, ended up lasting all night. By my count there was a good crowd - over one hundred and fifty pickups and cars - mostly pickups, with more arriving all the time. They were parked up to three deep on both sides of the one hundred yard packed earth runway connecting the ceremonial hogan holding the patient and the brush house at the other end, where the dancers dressed. Those who had come early, to watch the ceremonies from their vehicles were pretty much committed to be there until dawn, since with one or more cars parked directly behind them it was impossible to move. Fortunately, I had parked my Expedition facing the only winding road leading to the homestead and when morning came was one of the first to be able to depart. Three evenly spaced fires and two large piles of firewood, holding about a cord of wood each, defined each sideline of the dance area. All of the logs would be burned before sunrise. Friends and families were seated around the fires for warmth and companionship. Some brought aluminum lawn chairs. There was even a chaise lounge or two. Colorful wool Pendelton blankets were folded in the seats to help fight the below twenty-five degree chill coming through webbing on the chairs bottoms and backs. Other spectators made bench seats from three logs, using two as a base, with the third log place across them. Some guests sat on cylinders of tree trunk that had yet to be split, turning them on end for stools. The remainder of the guests mingled with each other, standing around the fires. One continually had to turn to warm oneself evenly and prevent the chill from cooling the side not facing the fire and try to avoid the every changing smoke which seemed to follow, no matter where one moved. The drone of a generator in the background powered the halogen lights illuminating the area in front the hogan. The lights were wired to the top of peeled pine poles especially erected for this purpose. They also illuminated the constant snow of ash falling back to earth, that had been carried aloft in the fire's smoke. Children entertained themselves with imaginations, content to use emptied stryofoam coffee cups as cars, or a blanket-covered log as a bucking bull. Here and there, groups of high school girls huddled together and giggled in the fringes. One family seated by a fire, promoted traditional values by offerring any child who could recite their four clans a free hot-dog, or marshmellows toasted on the glowing coals. In the background, an almost un-ending drone in Navajo blared from a trumpet speaker mounted on the roof of an aging car thanking all who had contributed help in the preparations. Snow from a recent storm remained on the ground in the day-time shadows of the poles and hogan. Across what had become a parking lot, smells of roasting mutton and freshly brewed coffee wafted from a cook house. Framed in small pine logs on one side of a hogan, opened cardboard cartons nailed to the frame passed for walls. five tables and benches jutted out perpendicular to one inside wall, opposite to the kitchen where five women and a couple of young maidens prepared mutton and fry bread. All who entered were seated and served as honored guests. The fare was plates filled with traditional fry-bread and bowls of mutton stew. The stew was different than one finds in diners or in cans. Freshly cooked slices of celery and carrots and chunks of white potato floated with pieces of braised mutton in clear liquid. Steam rose from plastic bowls and one had to let the meal cool before it could be eaten. A Navajo man on the opposite side of the table, dipped his fry-bread into an open container of salt. Speaking in Navajo, through a translator, he teased me by asking if I knew what I was eating. "Dibe', Dibe' atsa'" I responded in broken Navajo. Smiling, I asked a friend seated next to me to tell him I had been raised on it since birth by a grandmother who acquired her taste for lamb while she was raised on a sheep station in Australia. Everyone laughed. A tarp sealed the roof and walls from the cold, except where the black stovepipe, coming up from the four-foot diameter wood stove commanding the center of the room, carried the smoke to the sky. On the stove's flat top, porcelain covered coffee pots and large stainless steel pots full of mutton-stew gently simmered. Large, fifty-gallon, plastic water barrels stood in corners. They were used to refill a 55 gallon metal drum that sat next to the stove. The room's interior was illuminated by a string of 110v bulbs spaced along a wire that ran through the unpeeled pine ceiling beams. Through the open door going into the hogan, one could see sacks of Bluebird flour piled against one wall. Number 10 cans of ground coffee, boxes of lard, sacks of fresh potatoes, celery, onions, carrots and a few wrapped heads of lettuce completed the larder. Numerous twelve-packs of Coke, Mountain Dew, Sprite and Pepsi stacked nearby would help wash the meals down. Outside, the night sky was black. The moon had not yet risen. The lights of Chinle and homes extending north to Many Farms twinkled like fallen stars below the distant horizon. Strings of headlights bobbed along the winding road coming up from the valley's edge to the homesite. In the parking area, several men struggled to slide a large package from the bed of a pickup. They carefully carried it across the parking lot and placed it on the earth about ten feet in front of the ceremonial hogan's door. Carefully unknotting the ropes that bound it, the covering was folded back exposing a brown mass that when unfolded, metamorphosed into a buffalo hide at least eight feet long, and nearly as wide. The hide was spread fur-side up on the packed earth. The patient, an elderly woman, perhaps in her eighties was helped from the hogan to stand, facing the dance area, on the center of the hide. A red patterned wool blanket covered her shoulders and a traditional flat basket filled with corn pollen was slung on a crooked left arm. Openings in the sling allowed her to remove this sacred substance in order to dispense it as appropriate. At the other end of the runway, three shadowy figures appeared before the brush house. As they began dancing toward the hogan, a hush fell over the gathered crowd. Admonitions were spoken to those regarded as outsiders that this was "very sacred" and all should be silent. This evening's ceremonies had begun.

    After the blessing was over, the patient returned to the hogan and the dancers to the brush house. Through the layers of pine branches piled against the sides of the frame, one could see the orange flames of a dancing fire. The buffalo skin was carefully re-wrapped and carried off. Soon, chants from male voices in a rhythm unique to the Dineh, could be heard through the hogan's walls.

    Patience is a virtue. Time comes to a standstill. There are no programs and no schedule. When one section is finished, the next will begin. My daughter asked a woman when the dancers would return. "In a little while", she responded. Suspecting time being a relative commodity. I asked if I could bring the same woman back a cup of coffee from the cook-house. "What time do I need to come back so I don't miss anything?", "Ten thirty", she replied. It was just past seven p.m..

    Long after I returned with the coffee, the singing stopped. Like physicians leaving an operating room, A variety of men stepped through the hogan's door, pushing aside the blanket hung in front of it. They then vanished into the night. Some carried salesman's sample cases packed with jars and tins filled with different shades of sand. The contents had been used to construct a large sandpainting depicting healing tools of the Holy Ones on the hogan's floor. Having served its purpose, the remains of the painting itself, departed in a white, five gallon plastic paint bucket, carried by another man towards the direction of the brush house. In time, a large overstuffed chair was carried to the packed earth in front of the hogan by two younger men. Positioned facing the brush house to the East, a large comforter, perhaps an opened sleeping bag, covered the chair's seat. When the patient returned, she was seated and the corners of the comforter were used to cover her shoulders, head and legs. It would be her place of warmth for the remainder of the night. In time, a line of shadowy figures materialized before the brush house and in single file, began their trip to the patient. Protected only by kilts, boots, masks and ash or flour whitened skin, the dancers seemed oblivious to the 6,000 foot elevation's winter temperatures. All in all, over thirty-five groups would travel from the brush house to the patient to bestow on her the blessings of the Holy Ones. Hours passed. Log by log, the wood piles shrank. As the fires lessened and the temperatures dropped, more and more people took refuge in the warmth of idling vehicles. Children slept on seats, in camper shells, or crawled in sleeping bags and blankets. A cycle developed. When a group of dancers began their journey back to the brush house, their final steps were cadenced by the sound of opening and closing vehicle doors. Likewise a new group's first footsteps were unheard as newly warmed enthusiasts left the vehicles for positions around the sides of the lighted court. Finally, morning prayers began to be offered and soon the turning earth brought light again to the Eastern sky. Bumper to bumper, trucks and cars wound down the mile of rutted road from the homesite leading to a graded two-lane dirt road which, in turn, led to the paved highway. The nine-day ceremony was over, yet for many it was just a beginning. They will remember always what they had experienced here and some of the others who had come to this place to share it with them.

  15. What is a "Sun Dance?"
  16. The Sun Dance is a summer dance of the Plains Indians that marks the summer solstice, or the day the sun reaches the most northern path across the sky. Sometimes it is celebrated here, but not widely.

  17. What is a Shoe Game?
  18. In the winter months, evenings are the times for the telling the Emergence Story, and about Coyote and playing the Shoe Game. Symbolically recalling a time when the animals of the day and the animals of the night agreed upon a contest to gain the winners constant day or night, the two groups took turns hiding a piece of Yucca root or stone, in four boots buried in a pile of clean sand up to about one inch from the boot top. A selected member from the opposite team then goes to the opposite side and tries to guess in which boot the yucca ball is concealed. If they choose right they are given yucca counters. The team with the most counters when the game ends, wins.

    Modern players divide into teams and re-enact the same game. Each side has four boots and a pile of sand in front of them. Before the game a small Yucca is uprooted. One hundred and two of its leaves are used as counters. The remaining root is shaped into the ball. A small disk of root is colored black on one side and tossed in the air to determine which side goes first. With some team members holding up a curtain or blanket to conceal the activity from the players on the opposite side of the hogan, the first team puts the ball in one of the boots and packs all boots full of sand until only an inch of the boot remain uncovered. The curtain is then dropped and the opposite team then sends a member to discover in which boot the root is hidden. This is done by striking the boots with a stick of pinon pine and by asking questions of the other team. Finally, the player who is doing the finding must announce which boot contains the ball. Players may guess up to three times, given the right circumstance. For instance, you can declare "Not here". If you are right you can follow this process of elimination, unless you chose wrong, then the turn is ended. Succeeding the first time gains ten Yucca leaf counters. If correct on the second guess, the player receives eight counters and if the guess is right on the last guess, four counters are awarded. Correct guesses also give the team who has guessed correctly, the opportunity to hide the root for the other team to find in the boots on their side of the hogan. Guesses may be used to either select, or eliminate each of the four boots from holding the yucca. If the root cannot be located in three guesses, the guesser returns to his side. The "defenders" then raise a blanket separating them from the opposite side and re-hide the yucca ball. Games can go quite late into the night, some ending only when the rays of dawn that ended the first Shoe Game, start to streak across the Eastern sky. Betting is not unknown. Emulating the owl in the original Shoe Game who cheated by holding the ball in a claw is not considered fair play, but it still happens. The gopher discovered owl's trickery by tunneling through the earth and up into the bottom of the boots. A sharp rap on the knuckles of a player concealing the ball in a closed fist can serve the same purpose if this same act is suspected. The game reinforces the importance of being a team and at the same time builds self-confidence in the guesser.

    If you have the opportunity, attending a Késitsé can be a highly enjoyable and educational opportunity. Wear comfortable clothes that can get soiled if you are on your knees in the sand. Again, a gift of some refreshments is always appreciated.

    Discussions of Shoe Games and Winter Tales and the activities themselves are not done after early Spring or before November.

    String games, using a loop of string (cat's cradle) to create designs when looped between the fingers of both hands, may be seen at the same time. Some designs like the "Running Coyote" are not simple static designs, but employ motion as well.

  19. Are there any other ceremonies commonly performed?
  20. The Fire Dance and others are common in the Fall and early Winter. Elsewhere, there are many dances on the Hopi Reservation in the late summer, as well as Shalako on the Zuni reservation. Gallup, New Mexico has dances almost any summer evening, including some Aztecs from Mexico on occasion. Unfortunately, because of the manner in which some non-Native Americans have conducted themselves, more and more of the ceremonies on the homelands are closed to outsiders. Reflect for a moment how you might regard some uneducated, undisciplined and irreverent rabble intruding on your Sunday worship services. While not all non-Native Americans have behaved in this manner, enough have done so to earn us a deserved reputation. This is most unfortunate for everyone.

  21. Do Navajo's carve totem poles?
  22. Wrong tribe. However when some pesrsistant tourists pursue this question, creative guides have been known to conduct them to some of the sandstone columns that abound on the northern reservation and simply explain all the figures have eroded away and only the columns remain. For those who would be disappointed without seeing a Navajo Totem pole, this seems to keep them happy

  23. Are there any special ceremonies when a child is born?.
  24. The Blessing Way was usually held in the home. In addition, the placenta would be buried, often in a cornfield, to emphasize the tie of the child to the land. Blessingway ceremonies are usually limited to within the Four Sacred Mountains defining Navajo Land. As a child continues to grow, the individual who coaxes the child's first laugh is honored by holding a party in the child's honor.

  25. Do women still give birth at home?
  26. According to some women in my office, home birth is a rare occurance in this day and age. The availability of free medical care has made even the least complicated births a hospital event. Interestingly, I have had inquiries from off the reservation wondering how the Dineh have coped with this. The concerns were from mid-wives who observed less involement and perhaps bonding by mothers to the child in births that were unnecessarily dominated by technology, primarily, in many cases for the physician's convenience. The convenience of hospital births has also been at the loss of the bonding between the women in the family as they all worked to help bring new life into the world. Nothing is entirely free.

    Around the turn of this previous century, English writer Aldous Huxley predicted a preservation of humanity in the "indian country" of southwest America when he wrote Brave New World. Characters in Brave New World had been overcome with a synthetic existance dominated by man made attempts to better life, yet which in the end, separated man from the randomness and variation of his original environment.Huxley's prediction has started to come true.

  27. Do Navajo people observe "American" holidays like Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Independence Day and Halloween?
  28. At every opportunity! This is something the people here have done well. Residents of BIA, IHS and school housing compounds can expect to see hundreds of costumed children (and infrequently an adult) collecting goodies on Halloween. The only exception is Columbus Day. The celebration of the discovery that led to the decimation of American tribes is not seen as a cause for remembrance. There are even some holidays most Americans don't observe, such as Native American week.

  29. What's so special about Canyon De Chelly?
  30. Everything! First, the Canyon is not one canyon, but several. There are three main branches: Canyon De Chelly, Canyon Del Muerto and Monument Canyon. Each originates near the base of the mountains in the east. The Canyon is unique in the National Park system. It is not owned by the US Park Service. The land remains in use by the Navajo people, some of whom farm and live within its walls. It is also the only park where people are an integral part of the ecosystem and not just visitors coming to share in the Monument's splendor. Many fail to consciously remind themselves that this geographic region called "Navajoland", would not be the same without the people.

    The world became aware of the Canyon's uniqueness when - something the Dineh had know for centuries - when the first Europeans visited the area in the late 1800's. By the turn of the century, the infant Park Service had asked the operator of the trading post that became Thunderbird lodge to watch over the Canyon's many ruins. Unfortunately, this was used as authorization to loot many ruins and sell the proceeds to eastern museums! In the early 1930's, President Herbert Hoover signed legislation creating Canyon De Chelly National Monument. It encompasses the Canyon, side-canyons and all land within one-half mile of the canyon's rim. It is noteworthy that the bill specifically reserved the rights of the Navajo people to use the land without restriction and to have preference in providing visitors transportation into the canyons. Consider this origin, as one looks over the canyon's edge, or takes a tour in the canyon, remember that you are in someone else's backyard! Because the legislation creating the Monument reserved the use of the canyon to its original inhabitants, non-Navajos are not permitted in the canyon without a guide, or chaperone.

    Visitors who want to experience the Canyon's beauty may do so in several ways. Group motor tours are run out of the Thunderbird lodge. Rows of seats are bolted into the beds of large 4x4 and 6x6 trucks equipped with two-way radios. Locally known as "Shake and Bakes" because of the rough ride and hot sun, they are one of the better ways to see the Canyon. Half-day and full-day trips are available at modest prices. Rest stops are frequent and water is always available. Full day trips include a picnic lunch. There are also tours by horseback from stables in Chinle and Del Muerto. Hiking tours may be arranged. These generally start out in the cool of the evening. With a guide, overnight camping is allowed in the Canyon on land of consenting parties.

    Individual guides must be certified by the National Park Service. Certification is a step to ensure anyone you hire under the program has a minimal knowledge about what you came to see. You can contract a guide at the Monument's visitor center. Certified guides are wear a unique shoulder patch identifying themselves as having been certified. Whether you go into the canyon, or stay on the rim drives, a guide can provide you with information and background that you are unlikely to find in books. Only go into the Canyon if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle designed for off-road use. This does NOT include All-Wheel-Drive mini vans, unless you want to substantially enrich the local economy to get you out! These vehicles do not have sufficient ground clearance to be dependable in all areas. Conditions on canyon roads vary with the season. no roads in the canyon are maintained. Dry waterways are usually adapted. High clearance vehicles are mandatory. The phrase "Pick your rut carefully, you will be in it for the next five miles!" is appropriate. Sometimes dry sand makes areas impassable; other times high water levels do the same. Two feet of water in dips on the way to Mummy Cave is not unexpected. Your guide will know. Follow his or her advice. At this time the Thunderbird Lodge charges a minimum of $100 to pull a stuck vehicle to solid ground. The further you are in the Canyon, the more the rate goes up! Vehicle mounted winches afford little security since in the sandy washes used as roads for there is often nothing to tie onto. Peter Thomas reminded me to include mention of the pockets of quicksand that can form in the canyon floor. The canyon walls confine the flow of water through the canyon both above and below the surface. A sub-surface flow of water can be directed upwards toward the surface by an unseen obstruction beneath the surface. When this occurrs, the sand is suspended in the upwelling column of water. There are documented cases of vehicles sinking out of sight in a matter of minutes when driven into one. Generally, should a vehicle be lost in this way, they are not salvaged.

  31. What rates do guides charge?
  32. Rates begin at $10.00/hour. Some individuals who are not members of the guide's association may charge less. There is usually a three-hour minimum whether you are hiking in the Canyon or traveling in your own four-wheel-drive vehicle. Guides may conduct multiple vehicle parties, but there are charges for the added vehicles. Make sure this is agreed upon before you leave on your trip.

    In addition to a guide, you will also need a permit from the Park Service to travel in the canyon. These permits are free. Overnight camping in the canyon is common. Guides are also helpful when viewing the canyon from the rim drives. They will be able to point out features that would otherwise go unrecognized, such as a series of holes in the opposite canyon wall that served the Anasazi as a path up the smooth sandstone.

    WARNING: There are not any auto shops in the Canyon if a breakdown occurs. It is in your best interest to make sure your vehicle is in sound mechanical condition with good tires and a spare. Tire changing equipment and a foot square 3/4" board, to use to keep your jack from sinking in the sand should be included, as should a container of water.

  33. What should I do in case of car trouble?
  34. There are no telephones at overlooks or in the Canyon. In the Canyon, your guide can best advise you. He/She has had training for these unplanned events. If you are along the main routes, tour vehicles from the major concessionaires usually have radios, or can get word out.

    If you are at an overlooks, or on the rim drives, send for help with another visitor, or wait for the Park Service ranger who makes the rounds. Stay with your vehicle. Garage and tow service may be hard to find on weekends, although the Chevron station has mechanics available for most work during the week (674-3241).

    The nearest car rental agencies are in Gallup - they don't deliver. There is a bus that leaves for town in the morning and returns in the evening, if you really have to get to town and your vehicle is down. People have even had Gallup Air Service fly them to town, but that is not cheap! Prevention remains your best defense.

  35. What kind of wild animals live on the National Monument?
  36. Bears, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and foxes are at the top of the food chain after man. Beavers and raccoons can be found near water. Deer live on the mesas and in isolated canyons, as do some wild turkeys. Cottontail rabbits, rock squirrels, prairie dogs. pack rats and mice represent the smaller rodents. Porcupines and skunks are sometimes noticed. Ravens are perhaps the most visible birds and function as scavengers. Small lizards are common, as are some non-poisonous water snakes. Bull snakes may occasionally be seen and rattlesnakes are rare. There are a handful of amphibians, mostly toads and frogs. Some small brown bats can be found roosting in sheltered doorways and crannies as they migrate through. Waterfowl, including blue heron and geese are sometimes spotted. Trout swim in some of the upper creeks, having been washed down from Tsailé or Wheatfield lakes. Crayfish. miniature versions of saltwater lobsters inhabit these same waters.

  37. What are the most unusual animals in the Monument?
  38. My vote would definitely be for the small freshwater shrimp that live in temporary pools of water formed in depressions in the sandstone surface on the canyon's rim. Barely an inch long when mature, the shrimp hatch from eggs that may have been mixed in with the dry sands at the bottom of the depressions since it last rained sufficiently for the shrimp to hatch, grow to adulthood and reproduce. Few know the crustaceans exist. Others who may see them swimming in the pools mistake them for tadpoles or insect larvae. I have only seen them in the late summer, when daily afternoon thunderstorms replenish the pools with water lost through evaporation in the hot mornings.

  39. What's Indian Time?
  40. Originally, it was a derogatory reference by some non-Indians to many American Indian's casual regard for time that often resulted in tardiness to appointments. This is changing. More commonly, it is a reference to the fact that in the entire State of Arizona, only the Navajo Nation observes Daylight Savings Time. Arizona openly advertises that it, as a state, does not, so it comes as a real shock when people discover that much of the area east and north of Flagstaff does. This can get even more confusing to visitors to, and around the Hopi reservation which lies entirely within the Navajo land.

    The Hopi have chosen to keep the same time as the rest of Arizona. In Tuba City (named for Chief Tuba) this can be even more confusing since one side of the main street is Hopi and the opposite side is Navajo! Some families alongside State Route 77, between Keams Canyon and Holbrook set their clocks by the school their child attends. Families with children attending the Holbrook schools stay on Arizona time, while their neighbors may remain on Navajo time! (No, I am not making this up!) There is a logical reason for this action: The Navajo Nation spans three states. Utah and New Mexico observe Daylight Savings Time, so to keep the entire reservation on the same time, the Arizona portion runs on Daylight time too.

  41. Do I have to pay to take a person's photo?
  42. I don't know where this impression originates. It is a continuing subject of interest however for some tourists. Sounds kind of mercenary. Look at the question as if you were the person being photographed and they were the tourist. People taking general scenic photos, where you were incidentally included, probably wouldn't bother you, but if someone stuck a camera in your face, you might consider it good manners to be asked first. If you were dressed in a fine and expensive costume for the benefit of the tourist, you might feel a gratuity was appropriate. Remember the "Golden Rule" to treat others like you want to be treated? If so, you have the answer to your question.

  43. What is traditional Navajo Dress?
  44. Originally, Navajo women wore dresses made from two hand-woven blankets that were laid on top of each other, back to back, and sewn together in places along the top and side edges , leaving the bottom open with a head-hole at the top and places for arms along the top of the sides. They were worn like a sleeveless tee-shirt. Today, everyday dress varies, but for more formal occasions Navajo women often wear a tiered skirt, a woven sash and a crushed velveteen or cotton blouse.

    Navajo Moccasins, sometimes called Navajo Boots are very different from moccasins found elsewhere. They are worn by many southwestern tribes, as well as the Navajo. The sole is generally made from heavy white leather which affords some protection from small rocks, stickers and thorns. A top of deerskin, or more commonly, split cowhide is sewn to this. The top fastens closed at the side of the ankle with buttons or toggles. Some boots have high tops that go almost to the knee. Attached to some women's boots are white leggings. Bessie Yellowhair and Annie Johnson provided me some insight about these. At one time, Bessie related all "proper" women had a set of the leggings and boots. Like Victorian England, it was improper for a Navajo woman to show any skin below the waist, thus a reason for the long skirts.

    Women's hair is worn pulled to the back of the head, fixed in a bun and bound in yarn (usually white.) As much silver and turquoise inlay jewelry as one can get is fashionable. Buttons made from old silver coinage, such as dimes and quarters are common. Where coin buttons are not available, silver button covers are often substituted. Do not expect to see professional women dressed this way. Many wear ready-to-wear available in mall shops.

    More conservative men's dress clothing is a velveteen pullover that is not tucked into the pants, Levi's and Navajo boots. A silver concho belt or woven sash may be worn at the waist. Necklaces of turquoise and/or coral and a headband, along with bracelets or bow guards on the wrists complete the image. Dancers at ceremonies commonly have a pouch, similiar in shape and use to a Scottish sporran. Some men wear a ribboned shirt (a western shirt with a yoke, with ribbons sewn along the seams with free ends hanging), Levi's , a western belt with a large trophy buckle and shined cowboy boots. A necklace made of drilled turquoise and red coral nuggets complements silver or stone set silver bracelets. A silver and stone bolo tie is optional, but often worn for more formal occasions. Some men who keep long hair, also pull it to the rear of the head and tie it in a bun bound with yarn. Rarely seen anymore are colored headbands or the flat-brimmed, high crowned black felt Stetson hats once so common.

  45. How can I know I am buying quality turquoise and silver?
  46. Self-education from many available books is your best defense. Other than that, the best assurance you, as a tourist, can have that you are buying quality jewelry is to deal with a reputable dealer or individual. Dealers such as Navajo Arts and Crafts, the Hopi Silversmith Guild, Thunderbird Lodge, Canyon De Chelly Hotel and Holiday Inn or well established traders such as Tobe Turpin, the Tanners, or Gilbert Ortega's in Gallup, can go a long way toward calming your worries. You will pay more dealing through a trader, since they make money too. Generally, you tend to get exactly what you pay for. Unfortunately, tourists who have consistently sought "something cheaper" have created a market to fulfill these needs. While it is against the law to market anything as made by American Indians if it is not, local newspapers frequently carry stories about arrests for selling as genuine, items from China, Mexico and Asia. One village in the Philippines has even gone so far as to rename itself after a community with a distinctive Indian name just so it could tag its products as "Made in Zuni". Experts acknowledge many of the turquoise stones that are sold may be suspect. Manufacturing processes are getting better and better in their ability to produce fake stones that are nearly undetectable from those created by nature.

    Some Indian silversmiths are choosing innovative marketing techniques to eliminate the middleman. They are dealing directly with their customers. Some have gone so far as to market on the Internet. Do not hesitate to ask for references. In a small town, word travels fast if a customer is not satisfied. Dealing directly with the craftsman can let you order some jewelry by the piece. Use caution if ordering by mail and try to pay by credit card until you completely trust your relationship with the craftsman. If fraud occurs, you may have little recourse beyond your credit card company.

  47. How would I go about purchasing a Navajo rug directly from the weaver?
  48. Unless you know a weaver personally, rug auctions, such as the one at Crownpoint, NM, are good opportunities to do this. They are publicized in local papers and on bulletin boards. There are subtle differences between good and outstanding rugs. A good book on Navajo rugs can help you educate yourself. Many have been written. If you cannot wait for a rug auction, or want a custom rug woven, you might try contacting the Chapter house near where you are visiting for guidance. Recently, enterprising individuals have begun marketing Navajo rugs and tapestries directly from the weaver over the Internet. A link is the RUG section off the homepage for one, and as time goes on, there will be more I am sure.

    When considering the price of a rug, consider the number of hours it took to weave it and divide the purchase price by their number. The hourly rate may end up pitifully low compared to the pay you believe is equitable. Beware cheap imitations rugs that are sold as "Indian Rugs." Most come from northern Mexico, and although they are woven by native peoples there, the rugs severely lack the quality of rugs from the looms of Navajo weavers.

  49. How did the Navajo come to be such excellent weavers?
  50. Early in the 20th century, traders on the Reservation were trying to find something that they could sell elsewhere. Originally the traders, such as Hubbell of Ganado and Cozy McSporran of Chinle, set standards that rugs had to meet. Eventually women realized that rugs made to these standards fetched more money and were in greater demand. Different areas on the reservation were soon known for specific rug patterns, like the Ganado Red, Two Gray Hills and Chinle patterns. All rugs continue to be measured by the same technical qualities including straight borders, tightness of weave and the use of natural or aniline dyes.

    To combat fraud and to help assure that buyers receive the quality they pay for in a Navajo rug, some groups of weavers are considering a certification process wherein a guild-identified "proof of origin" would be either woven into, attached or bonded to the rug. To my knowledge, none of these has been implemented. Now, a photograph of the weaver and the rug, along with her name and address, the date and place of purchase, is the next best thing.

  51. What is the largest Navajo Rug that has been made?

  52. Women of the Chinchilbito Chapter took two years to weave the largest rug ever made. It is thirty-eight feet long and twenty-six feet wide.  From a distance, the design  appears to be a mosaic made by joining  twenty five smaller rugs together by the seams in a grid of five rugs by five rugs. In fact, the rug was woven on one very large loom. The varied designs of the smaller rugs within the large pattern have their own individuality and reflect the team of weavers who completed that section. The value of the rug has been appraised at between one and six million dollars. A second rug, almost as large was woven by the same women. It is in the tribal museum in Window Rock.

  53. Where did the Navajo people get the sheep for the wool that is used in the rugs?
  54. When the Spanish first came into the area, they brought Churra sheep from Europe with them. These are now known as "Churro" sheep. Whether the Navajo's acquired them through trade, or other means is unknown. The rugged animals were well suited to the high desert on northern New Mexico and Arizona and were able to get along on the available feed. They have very long hair that is easily spun and the wool is free of grease (Lanolin.) Coming to America did not make the sheep any more intelligent however. Just as is described in the 23rd psalm of the New Testament, shepherds must go before the flock and pull up any noxious plants. They must protect the flock from predators, and check them daily for cuts and infections which are sometimes treated with oil and salve. Fresh, quiet water is a necessity. Flowing water is preferred, however seeps at the foot of hill, windmills, or hauled water are also used. Rather than being grazing animals that will eat only grasses, the goats and sheep are browsers and can survive on a greater variety of plants. On two occassions other sheep breeds have been introduced onto the reservation. Neither was a success. The tighter coiled, greaser wool of the new breeds could not be spun until it had been cleaned. In the last twenty years, there has been concern that the Churro sheep may be a disappearing breed, but concerted efforts to preserve the species seems to be winning out. Notables including Robert Redford have joined the effort.

  55. How do the Navajo people protect flocks against predators?
  56. The main threats tho the flocks are coyotes, wild dogs, and when in mountain pastures, an occasional bear or puma. Attentive shepherding and enclosing the sheep in their corral for the night seems to work best. During lambing season there is greater risk, for sometimes young lambs will be refused by the mother and either have to be bottle fed, or bonded to another ewe. Recently, llamas have become visible among the flocks. They seem to bond well and their aggressiveness and stature seems to keep the coyotes at a greater distance.

  57. What other domestic animals are common?
  58. Angora goats are frequently seen. They were originally brought to the area when the weavers found they could not easily work with the lanolin laden, kinky wool of other breeds of sheep. The Angora goats have the same coarse overcoat shielding finer wool beneath it as do the Churra s.

    Where there is adequate forage, cattle are sometimes seen. As a cultural sidebar, horses and cattle are considered the property of the men, while the flocks of sheep and goats are considered to belong to the women.

  59. How do Navajo weavers get the colors of wool used in their rugs?
  60. Natural colors, vegetable dyes from native plants and aniline dyes from the chemist's test-tube have all been used by weavers at different times. The Churro sheep provide white, brown, black and gray wool right off the animal. Reds, yellows, blacks, browns,and more are available when the cleaned and spun skeins are dyed by soaking, or boiling them with dye containing plants. The vegetable dyed wools resulted in muted colors as opposed to the brilliant hues produced when aniline dyes are used. When the Federal government "helped" the Navajo by introducing other breeds of sheep which may have produced more wool or meat, the high lanolin content of the wool required it be cleaned before further processing could be considered. Trader Lorenzo Hubbel often shipped tons of bales of wool off the reservation for cleaning. Aniline dyes have fallen out of favor. The higher prices paid by traders and collectors for the all natural product has made it unprofitable to cut corners. If aniline dyes continue to be used for their convenience, the dyes emulate the softer tones of the natural colors.

  61. How did Navajo weavers spin the wool? Did they have spinning wheels?
  62. Navajo women used spinning sticks. The tapered sticks are anywhere from eighteen inches to twenty-four inches long and pass through a three to five inch diameter disk, attached two to four inches from one end. The disk, with the stick passing thru its center, acts like a flywheel, helping to maintain the momentum of the spinning stick. Rested on it's short end, the stick is spun between the thumb and the fingers, or against the leg. Strands of cleaned and carded wool are fed onto the shaft of the stick several inches below the top and emerge from the pointed stick's top as spun yarn. It works on any hard surface and is a skill that is easy to learn, provided the wool used is straight and of sufficient length.

  63. You have mentioned horses & cattle? Is rodeo a popular sport on the Navajo Nation?
  64. Rodeo is a big time sport for some. Because of the need for horses, tack and the vehicles and trailers necessary to transport them from place to place, actual participation is limited to those who have the means. Most communities have at least one arena. The Chinle Valley has three. The Professional Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association (PIRCA) crosses tribal boundaries and holds events across the nation.

    Rodeo is sometimes referred to as a "Chicken Pull". The term comes from contests of horsemanship where a chicken would be buried up to its neck in the ground and riders would gallop past, attempting to reach down and pull the bird from the ground by its neck. Navajo children get acquainted with the concept of rodeo at a young age. Youth start trying to stay on the back of a sheep, before moving to other events. Barrel racing is a favorite of young ladies and women.

  65. Why do designs on Navajo baskets have an opening from the outside to the center of the design?
  66. The design, I am told, represents a hogan and the opening is the doorway to the interior.

  67. What kind of housing is available on the reservation?
  68. Individual homesites are available to Navajo families where they may build the home of their choice, possibly, with assistance from the tribe. Housing developments by the Navajo Housing Authority provide both basic housing needs for families and assistance to families purchasing their own home. Some high density housing has been perceived as a direct attack on the traditional Navajo lifestyle because it breaks apart families. The younger generation moves away and  leaves the older people alone, instead of building housing nearby so they can remain a family unit. Whether is has been a planned attack matters little, the effect has been the same.

    Most public schools and government entities such as public schools, the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (B.I.A.) and the National Park Service, provide some type of housing for their non-Navajo employees, since rentals are not available elsewhere.

  69. Where does one shop for household necessities when living on the Reservation?
  70. At one time, when roads were in poor condition, most people would get almost everything they might need from a local trading post. With the exception of the few remaining stores, the day of the trading post has past. Better roads and more vehicles have changed shopping habits. Larger Four Corner towns may have chain super markets for food stuffs and a limited amount of dry goods. Few families are over forty-five minutes away from one of these stores. This covers the day to day domestic needs. Prices are reasonable. Most families however, also choose to travel to a border town at least once each month. Malls and other stores provide a wide variety of goods. Sometimes families choose to "escape" to the city overnight and take in a movie, visit a museum, fair, or other activity, shop and then return home the following day.

  71. Have you known many people who haven't been able to accept life on the Navajo Nation?
  72. Yes, one journalist stands out above all others. He is Robert Woodward of the Washington Post newspaper and "Watergate" fame.

  73. In your opinion, what was Robert Woodward's error?
  74. He was unwilling to accept that he was a guest. He wanted to believe he had a right to go where he wanted and do what he wanted. He would not accept that the Navajo Nation is not like most places in America. As a non-Navajo he had limits. Woodward behaved as a child and let his disappointment color his visit. The core of the problem was that he could not ride his mountain bike through the Canyon unescorted. Instead of getting a guide, he confined himself to riding his bike on the rim drives where, looking down, he tallied the garbage that periodically collects on the road's shoulder, rather than looking up and enjoying the splendor of the landscape. He later wrote a bitter account of his experience, published in a national magazine, describing it as a visit to the third world. While he made comparisons to slums in Mexico City and India, he didn't consider using his position or wealth to help better the life; he just condemned. Woodward played the role of what was once described as "the Ugly American."

    With few exceptions, Navajo people are accommodating and generous. Sovereignty and respect for their land are seldom compromised. It should not be necessary.

  75. Since Woodward is gone, why bring this up?
  76. Woodward was a good, bad example. Even if he had been able to ride his bicycle into the bottom of the canyon, it is questionable how long he would have wanted to continue. The first two kilometers are nothing but soft, coarse sand. It would have been very difficult riding. Instead of looking for the beauty and taking those memories with him, he lacks these in his life. Where is the profit in that? Too many of us condemn too easily that which appears different, rather than taking the time to learn about, understand and accept life at face value. I always have hope that there are those who are able to learn from other's mistakes.

    Hands of Man

  77. Why are so many rocks in the region colored in shades of red?
  78. Many of the rock layers comprising the Navajo Nation today are thought to be formed from sediment that was carried down a large tropical river system to a delta in the ocean. Some of the rock formed underwater, while at other times, lower sea levels turned the region into one of blowing dunes of sand on a broad flood plain that would occasionally be covered with debris. Molecular iron contained in the soils was oxidized in the tropical environment. This "rust" is the basis for the red color in most of the sandstones and mud stones. The surface of the Redwall Limestone in the Grand Canyon was stained red. Rain flowed over the face of the thick Supai formation above it, washing the red onto the exposed limestone below.

  79. What about the other colors of rock?
  80. There are many factors. Grays and greens are common in deposits of volcanic ash. Flows of lava and cinders are often black. Seams of coal are also black. This shiny stone is most often seen in its natural state in road-cuts. Radioactive ores yielding uranium are often yellow in color. This heavy metal would collect in the beds of drainages. Walls of black rock near Dilkon and Shiprock is lava that was forced into cracks in the ground. The ground has been eroded leaving the walls. Some sandstones like the Coconino and Navajo Sandstone and limestones like the Kaibab Limestone are white.

  81. Are there many fossils in the area?
  82. Rock formations here are the same as those forming the "Painted Desert" and Petrified Forest. Petrified wood litters some valley floors. It is of a lesser quality than that of the Petrified Forest and tends toward a muddy tan in color rather than the brighter colors. Shark teeth are not unusual finds. A slope-forming sandstone on the sides of Black Mesa and the Chuska mountains contains fossils of ancient nautilus like ammoniate. Strata at Coal Canyon, near Tuba City are well known for the fossils seen there. The most well known fossils are probably the dinosaur tracks adjacent to US 160 near Tuba City.

    It is against tribal regulations to remove any rock, fossil or antiquity (like pottery shards). This is a good opportunity to remind visitors that permits are required to visit ruins (such as Little White House) that are on the Navajo Nation and outside the National Monument. Contact the Navajo Tribal Ranger office in Chinle or Window Rock for more information.

  83. Describe what the typical weather is in Chinle.
  84. With most of the Navajo Nation above 5,000 feet in elevation, days are cool compared to the rest of Arizona, but temperatures run to extremes. It will approach one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, while plunging to below zero in the winters. We average six to ten inches of moisture per year. Much of it comes as rain in the late summer, while the rest can be snow. Blue sky dotted with white clouds covers the land for most of the year. The weather pattern for the western United States is west to east, so storms one sees off the Pacific coast will pass over the region in a matter of days. The swiftness of changes in the weather amazes many. Summer storms often provide afternoon rains that clear before sunset to reveal the blessing of a Rainbow. It is unusual for snow to remain on the ground for any more than one week in the winter. Generally, a day later, all roads are clear. We have seasons that are clearly defined, but not so harsh in the winter as the Eastern states endure, or as hot as southern Arizona.

  85. Do All Navajo families have sheep, goats, horses and cattle?
  86. No, there are only 2,600 grazing permits for the Arizona portion of the reservation. Five percent of the families control over ninety-five percent of the land. What others who quote this data do not go on to tell you is that often if one family in a group holds the permit, often many members from the extended family contribute their time and effort in caring for the animals. It is not as lopsided as it may first sound. Due to our arid climate, the land cannot sustain many animals compared to regions with greater rainfall. Federal Grazing surveys done from 1933-35 concluded the reservation could not support more than 500,000 sheep units per year. (Cattle are equivalent to three sheep) In other parts of Arizona, in National Forest Land administered by the USDA, as well as in southern Utah, range similar to that on the Navajo nation is limited to one cow unit for every 325 to 625 acres! Land use is a topic that can split communities.

    At one time, livestock was the core of family activity. Even the youngest family member had an animal in the flock. With a rapidly growing population, many new families have been left without land available to graze livestock. Original grazing leases issued in the early part of this century, will soon expire. The leases are criticized as unfairly favoring a few. There is no yearly charge for the land's use, unlike other Federal lands. None of the profit earned from the land's use is used to manage it, improve it, or reimburse the tribe for its use. Limits on the number of animals a family grazes are seldom enforced, either by the tribe, or by the B.I.A. George Abe, the B.I.A.'s Western Agency Natural Resource Manager, concedes that some years ago, both the tribe and the B.I.A. lost control over grazing land management on the reservation.

    This is an unfortunate turn because caring for the family's livestock enriches and builds family unity, independence and wealth.

  87. Is any effort being made to equalize use of the land to benefit all Navajos?
  88. Chapter officials are recognizing that more land needs to be set aside for the public good. Officials are beginning to want to use land to this end, but many families are unwilling to donate any in their control. (They may have heard Mark Twain's advice to invest in land"cause they don't make it no more.") Speaking in Chinle several years ago, then Tribal President Peterson Zah expressed his opinion that eventually condemnations of family leased holdings may become a necessity. This appears to be starting at the local levels. Chinle lost funding for an improved, all weather airstrip because the land was not available. Because the airstrip is necessary to evacuate critical medical cases to better equipped hospitals, it is needed for the benefit of all. Now in wet weather, when the airstrip is too muddy, a straight section of highway must be blocked off as a temporary runway. As new money become available, expectations are that the land will be also.

    At one time the United States Congress passed the Dawes act. Some reservations (like the Utes in central Utah) were subdivided out as parcels of private land. Indian owners who were not experienced in dealing with such ownership eventually lost much of the properties to pay their bills. The reservation became a thing of the past. This was a noble experiment to integrate the members of those tribes completely into American life. The only thing wrong with the program was that it failed the members. Unfortunately, this same story was repeated recently when Navajo families were forcibly removed from the land shared with the Hopi tribe. Some families with homes there were given new homes in a nearby city. Never having had real property, a few lost the houses because they did not understand how to handle their finances. Some returned to the reservation penniless.

    Some reservation communities have grown large enough to want to incorporate. Local leaders want to establish townships with a tax base. Some have stated that they even want to make land available to non-Navajos, so that families who have spent a lifetime in the community do not have to leave when they no longer have a job. These may be dreams, as the population of Navajos grows faster the than land and moneys can provide. Kayenta has started down this path. It will not be long before other communities do the same.

  89. How have Navajo families adjusted to the loss of the flocks each extended family once depended upon and cared for?
  90. High density housing has been built in most communities to house the landless. It has be a massive change in lifestyles. Without the livestock to care for, many who are not employed find time hanging heavy on their hands. Television often fills this vacuum. Children raised with it often know the latest advertising slogans and fads better than their own culture. English becomes the dominant language. Schools are often more regarded as baby tenders and sources for employment, than educational institutions.

    Dependence on welfare checks has been debilitating. Schools appear to have taken over for many families as far as the responsibility for teaching children who they are and where they came from. Many are caught between cultures. Young people that grew up off the reservation are often ignored by older community members because the younger people can't understand, or speak the language. Gangs, at first wannabes then the real thing have shown up in many Navajo communities as a way to bind the younger generation together. The problem is serious enough that the Police formed several Gang Units.

  91. Have any steps been made to try and remedy some of the problems you have mentioned?
  92. Marjorie Thomas, known as "Grandma Marjorie" in the Chinle community,  has taken it upon herself to get a youth center constructed for the youth of the central Navajo Nation. "Grandma Marjorie" is a retired school administrator. In Navajo fashion she sees all the children in her area as her responsibility. She began fund raising by holding telethons on Navajo cable television and over the tribe's radio station. She would ask for pledges for every mile she would walk. She walked the seventy miles to Window Rock, the Navajo capital, for four years in a row. She raised a total of sixty thousand dollars. This was enough money to incorporate a committee and get architectural plans. She secured eleven acres of land from the school district and now is seeking donors in order to begin construction. Construction is divided into phases and includes a central building with a recreation center and offices. A gym, swimming pool, weight room, auditorium, bowling alley, courts and band shell follow. Each stage needs about four million dollars to complete. Consideration has been made to provide day-to-day operating costs by leasing some space to concessionaires. This summer, she toured part of the nation seeking corporate sponsors. She appeared on the Today Show in NYC. The community should be recognized and supported in this effort. Rather than waiting for someone else to do this, they have had the initiative to start it themselves.

    Most people are not aware that the nearest place central Navajo Nation youth can learn to swim is over ninety miles distant! Area lakes are both cold and dangerous, since the bottom near the shore is often littered with the sharp edges of broken bottles buried halfway in the mud. Lakes providing irrigation water are rumored to have dangerous currents when water is being released. Motel pools are only available to paying guests.

    Individuals interested in assisting "Grandma" Marjorie Thomas and her center, may contact her through Dineh Cooperatives at (928) 674-3411.

  93. There seem to be houses almost anywhere, can Navajo families build homes wherever they want?
  94. No. Permission for home site leases is difficult to secure. Not only does an individual have to get family and tribal government permission to use the land, the local Chapter must approve the persons to reside within that community!

  95. Chapter? What's that?
  96. The Navajo Nation is divided into political entities called Chapters. The first Chapter meeting was held in Leupp in 1927. They serve the same purpose as counties, or parishes. They are a forum for solving community issues and problems. Leaders are elected. In addition, Chapters elect delegates to the Tribal Council. The Tribal Council first met in 1923 after being defined by Bureau of Indian Affairs regulations. Delegates are based on population, so the more populous chapters may have several delegates, while smaller Chapters may share a delegate with other Chapters. Chapter meetings are usually conducted in Navajo. They can be lengthy if topics of high community interest are involved, since everyone is usually given an opportunity to state his/her view. They are similar to "town hall" meetings elsewhere. There must be a minimum of 25 people in attendance and the rules governing Chapters are contained in the Navajo Tribal Code.

    At this time, much of the control of what happens at the Chapter level remains in the hands of officials in Window Rock, under the provisions of Title II which defines Navajo Government.

     Past Tribal President Albert Hale saw a need to distribute control of local matters to the Chapters, but met with little success in executing the transition. The lack of trained staff at local levels to assume the responsibilities and tribal members in Window Rock who may fear that their positions may be eliminated have been identified as two stumbling blocks in the plan in local newspaper articles.

  97.  Does the Navajo Nation have its own constitution?
  98. Not at this time. Three separate constitutions have been drafted by the Navajo People and submitted to the Secretary of the Interior for approval. After the third was refused in 1968, another was created but never submitted. While provisions of the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Act in 1950 that authorized the Tribe to adopt a constitution, are still in effect, council members have refused to do so because many of them believe that a constitution would limit their authority and require some decisions now made by the council to be taken to the people. Many believe this would not be a wise expenditure and that it would also be too costly and time consuming to involve every person in deciding some resolutions.

    Outside observers also realize that a constitution could reduce the number of council members. Since each member now earns about sixty thousand dollars per year, few, if any council members are willing to risk losing their jobs, so a constitution remains an unpopular issue.

  99. How many Chapters exist?
  100. There are presently 110 Chapters, although there could be more in the future. Navajo Tribal Code allows new Chapters to form if the existing Chapters exceed 1,000 members, if the people in an area have been working together for many years and if poor roads or geographic location make it very hard for people to attend other Chapter meetings. Any new chapter must be approved by the Tribal Council.

  101. What is the average size of existing Chapters?
  102. Chinle, Tuba City and Shiprock Chapters have a membership exceeding 6700 members. Ft Defiance and St. Micheals Chapters each have more than 5,000 members. Kayenta has over 4.000 members. There are 26 Chapters between 1500 and 2800 members in size, while the majority (78) have a membership of between 193 and 1511 members.

  103. What is an Agency then?
  104. An Agency is a collection of Chapters grouped together for administrative purposes by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (B.I.A.).

  105. What does the B.I.A. do?
  106. The B.I.A. administrates Federal Programs on the Navajo Nation. It also maintains roads and some schools. Functions of the B.I.A. are slowly being turned over to the control of the Tribe.

  107. Are there taxes in Navajo Land?
  108. This is a complex question. All residents of the Navajo Nation are subject to Federal Income Tax if they qualify. States may not levy taxes against American Indians on their land, so most do not pay State Income Tax. States currently can require taxes to be charged to non-American Indians while they are on Indian lands, but this differentiation is seldom made and State or County sales tax is not collected. The tribe has a ten percent business tax that is assessed of all businesses operating on the reservation. Some companies choose to include the cost of this tax in their price, while other companies treat it as an add on. I have seen the "add-on" version most frequently in the communications and tourist businesses - motels & restaurants - as well as in construction bids. The tax is added in as a separate line item.

  109. Then there is no property tax?
  110. Since the Navajo land is held in trust by the Federal government, it is all public land. The use of parcels of it are leased to individuals various ends, but it is all trust land and cannot be owned. The only tax base for property taxes as may be used to fund schools are numerous power transmission lines, a major cross country gas pipeline, mining operations near Window Rock and in Kayenta, telephone networks, radio broadcast and communications towers and some tourist facilities on National Monuments. Eventually, I see the day when the Tribe will be forced to create other taxes to replace funds lost to decreasing Federal revenues. How it will be done would be conjecture.This is a task for the council. A lack of sources for bond issues and taxes results in some creative financing. It also results in some difficult times. Almost half of Apache and Navajo counties in the Navajo Nation. Most taxes raised in these counties come from off the reservation, yet voters on the reservation have a vote as to where this money will be spent. Services are being delivered where the people do not contribute to the money expended. Voters off the reservation once had a referendum to divide the county(s). All that was not Indian land would be one half, while the Indian lands would form a new county. The proposal was denied at the State level. Taxes remain a complex issue.

  111. What percentage of the Navajo people are on Welfare?
  112. According to a PBS documentary aired the week of October 6, 1998 by KNAU radio from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, only 13% of tribal members depend on welfare. Unfortunately, it was not designated exactly what constitutes "welfare". It may include General Assistance payments only, or it may have included any form of welfare, such as Food Stamps, Aid to Dependant Children(ADC) and HUD reduced rent housing. I was not able to catch the remainder of the series which focused on "Welfare and the Navajo". Several interview, such as Mailboy Begay, of Shonto and his son, Shonto Begay were not pleased with the effects of welfare. Before welfare, stated Mailboy, subsistence farming enabled the Navajo to live off the land. With the advent of surplus commodities being distributed, people had to adapt to a diet that was foreign to them. The high sugar in these new foods revealed the Dine's predilection for diabetes.The convenience of the stores also led many to cease farming. In the elder Begay's opinion, so few Navajo know how to farm anymore that they could not again live off the land should welfare payments cease. Still, a 13% welfare rate is remarkably low, considering unemployment that ranges from 50% to 70% in most areas.


  113. With such high unemployment what do people do to earn a living?
  114. Arts and crafts, such as silversmithing and weaving supplement incomes. Grandparent's on social security support others. As is discussed later, the economy is different here. Once people have a home, the daily expenses are less that one expects. One paycheck may go a long way to support many individuals.
  115. Are all schools in Navajo Land B.I.A. schools?
  116. No, once this was almost true, but there are many different kinds of schools on the reservation. Check out this list

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  • Public Schools
  • Just like any other local public school district. Funding is from local taxes, Federal Impact Aid, and State funds. Districts are responsible to the Arizona Department of Education and pay State taxes.
  • Charter Schools
  • These schools are also funded by the State and have local boards, but may serve a narrower purpose than regular public schools.
  • Parochial & Private Schools
  • This includes church affiliated schools of a variety of denominations, as well as private academies.
  • B.I.A. Boarding Schools
  • At one time roads were so poor that students had to remain at school in dormitories. People lived to far from each other to make day schools feasible. With better roads and the growth of public schools, fewer families part with their children for long periods. In order to stay in business, boarding schools now often operate as day schools as well. They compete with other school districts for the same students, even sending their busses over the same routes used by public school busses!
  • Contract Schools
  • These are community, or B.I.A. schools contracted to be operated by a contractor.

  1. How does the quality of education available to students on the Navajo Nation compare to other areas?
  2. Like schools elsewhere, quality varies from excellent to poor. It often varies within a school. We have schools on the Navajo Nation that receive awards for the best school in Arizona. At the risk of offending many, and most might think the opposite is true, the quality of the teacher seems less important than the drive of the students and the degree of support that their families give them. The best students excel even when they do not have the best teachers. Even the most gifted teachers can seldom help an unmotivated student, although they have an opportunity to boost students who want to advance.

  3. How well have schools come to cope with the task of delivering a cross cultural education?
  4. Parent groups are beginning to ask this same question. The problems go further than just measuring the quality of education. Parents and schools are beginning to look at everything that affects our students. A recent multi-year study of kindergarten students indicates entering children average two years or more below national norms in language and dexterity skills. The saying "the more they go ahead, the more behinder they get" infers that few of these students ever compensate in achievement for this handicap. Discussions with elders as to how this evolved is most interesting. It has its origins when public day schools first came to Navajoland after World War II. Apparently, parents were told "Trust Us, we will educate your children." Unfortunately, many believed this promise and abandoned their role in their children's education. By the late 1960's when children of children educated in this system began attending school, people noticed that few new parents involved themselves with their children's education. Efforts to reverse the trend began. Social workers and educators stressed the need for parents to be involved in teaching their sons and daughters. The work continues to this day. Without older generations in close proximity to new parents, each generation now must learn what is expected of them on their own. It is proving to be a very ineffective process.

    With the lack of parental support, many students also lack understanding of why they attend school and few have an appreciation of how they could personally benefit in the long term. When unemployment hovers between 70%-90% for different age groups, relevance of education to employment is not accepted. Teams have begun looking for some solutions to this from a community-wide approach.

    The Tribe supports education. Scholarships are available to those who are willing to earn them. unfortunately, the limited economic growth tarnishes the allure of college degrees. Few want to earn a MS in engineering from Stanford when the only opportunity at home is working at a gas station.

    Educational opportunities beyond the classroom are much more limited on the here. We are four to seven hours away from educational resources in metropolitan areas; field trips made within a day in most cities, turn into overnight or three-day trips. With the increased costs due to travel expenses, field trips are few in number. The rural locations also sees a greater percentage of a District's costs eaten up by operating costs. Almost every telephone call to suppliers and resources is a long distance call. Hundreds of miles of dirt roads are brutal to the fleet of school busses. We have much higher fuel and maintenance costs than districts which have all streets paved and students concentrated in relatively compact residential areas. Because of the large area the district encompasses and the poor quality of many of the roads, it is not unusual for many students to spend one to four hours each day in transit to and from school. This exacts a price in student achievement.

    Additional complications present in reservation school districts demand administrative time and expenses not dealt with in municipal districts. Most reservation school districts must provide housing for their staff. Teacherage construction and maintenance costs are significant. Managing housing assignments, cleaning and preparing the units as staff members and their families come and go is a business by itself. One of the quickest ways to get school staff up in arms is to give the perception of poorly managing the housing. The effect of this on the schools' administration is that less time is left to address academic needs. Better administrators are required to deliver the same quality of educational services, because more is demanded of them than for a similar job that lacks these extra responsibilities elsewhere.

  5. Has technology been applied to solve educational challenges?
  6. Northern Arizona University has extended a two-way television network to many towns. This enables students to receive both graduate and undergraduate courses without having to travel long distances. With changes made in teacher recertification recently, this may be how many of our teachers continue their education. The network also links schools that may "share" teachers, or offer advanced classes that would be otherwise unavailable.The system is expected to begin in the Fall of 1998.

  7. When examining a map of the Four Corners, there are no large towns on the reservation, but many along its borders. Why haven't reservation towns shown more economic development and growth?
  8. There are some obvious reasons and perhaps many others. The difficulties in getting both a business license and the land on which to build a business are discouraging. Some contractors and businesses object to the manner in which Navajo preference laws are currently enforced. The laws require hiring of a Navajo employee if he/she is qualified. The objections are rooted in the fact that Navajo preference is not used only to favor a Navajo applicant when there is another equally qualified applicant. It favors any Navajo applicant. Because of this interpretation, businesses cannot always hire the most qualified candidates that can make them successful. A Navajo applicant who was not hired for a position can appeal and if the local board decides he/she was even minimally qualified, then the employer may be liable for a penalty.

    Retail sales and service businesses on the Navajo Nation have a tough time offering low enough prices to be competitive with off-reservation counterparts. Unless part of a large chain, stores cannot maintain the diversity and depth of inventory that makes them attractive. Many residents avoid the local store's higher prices, knowing they will be driving to nearby towns some weekend. Distance is meaningless. Driving to Phoenix (six hours one way) or Albuquerque (four hours one-way) is not unusual on a weekend. Driving the one to two hours to a border town is commonplace. Until the shopping pattern can be changed, or until large stores can come here and last out the time it takes people to change shopping habits, no major economic development is predicted.

    It seems that it would be in the best interest of the Tribe to permit some larger retailers like Walmart to build stores. Navajo money then could be recycled among more Navajo people, who would be employed. Some local business might suffer, however, the total economic and social welfare of the region would probably gain a great deal from the influx of money. It seems more beneficial to local people than spending money in a distant town where it now benefits other economies.

  9. What kind of medical services are available in Navajo Land?

  10. The Indian Health Service (IHS), a branch of the Public Health Service (PHS) has established clinics and hospitals across the reservation. Critical and emergency services are available to everyone from these centers and emergency medical care ambulances are on first call for emergencies. Routine day-to-day care is available to Navajo Families and their dependents at no fee. Non-emergency medical transports are available by appointment for Navajo families. Dialysis centers are being built to take the load off of the hospitals and minimize the travel time of those who need this service. Diabetes is more prevalent here. Doctors often refer to their patients with this condition as being "too sweet." This may partly stem from the availability of foods high in concentrated sugars introduced from the outside.

    With few exceptions, non-Navajos must seek routine medical care from off the reservation and/or from private concerns. Often this may mean driving ninety miles or more to see a doctor, or get a prescription. Sage Memorial Hospital at Ganado is an exception. It has a clinic open to all, Monday through Saturday. Even though the Indian Health Service normally cannot serve non-indians by virtue of its funding, some schools have requested that all of their employees be able to be served at the local IHS facility on a fee basis. When backed by the local governmental bodies, then the Tribe, exceptions are allowed. Hopefully, more school districts will do this too. A lack of convenient routine medical care has caused many to choose not to come to the Rez to teach.

  11. What quality of medical care can people expect on the Navajo Nation?
    Because most health care facilities are underfunded, the time it takes to get non-emergency medical care can be burdensome. The quality of health care is comparable with facilities elsewhere. Many of the doctors and their families choose to live here. The pay is not lucrative, but it is good. Some physicians entering the job market are doing time with the Public Health Service in exchange for decreased or eliminated educational costs in the form of federal loans that are forgiven. When doctors take leave, other doctors from across the Nation often take advantage of a temporary posting at a clinic as a vacation from their regular practice.
  12. Advances in technology have been implemented. Transmission of x-rays for reading by an "expert" in Farmington, Gallup, or Albuquerque is now common. Live two-way video allows specialists to view cases is in progress. Many nurses and support staff live in the local area.

  13. Do the Navajo People have to pay for health care?
  14. Under the terms of the Treaty of 1868, the United Stated Government has agreed to provided any needed health care at no expense. Some Navajos choose to get health care off the reservation. Eyeglasses are a good example, as is dental work.

  15. What is a Hogan?
  16. "Hogan" is the Navajo word for home. It applies to a group of structures which have changed over time. Photographs of hogans on the Internet range include those that at first may appear like a pile of dirt with a doorway, to modern solar-powered structures marketed by a Colorado firm. Just as other Americans vary their home construction based on the available resources and needs, the Navajo people have done the same. In the United States, tents, sod houses, log cabins, converted railway boxcars, caves, even cardboard refrigerator boxes, sky-scrapers, and house-boats serve as shelter, in addition to "conventional" residences. Where materials and funds are available one can see a large variety of building styles. Cape Cod Salt Boxes, condominiums, mansions, sprawling ranch homes, rows of identical tract housing, and factory built mobile homes exist. Construction materials include dirt, wood, stone, brick, adobe mud, plastics and even hay. In Navajoland, hogan construction almost equally diverse.

    Classification of hogan structure is often framed in terms of the Navajo's contact with the western world. The first hogans shared much in common with the early Anasazi pit houses. These buildings had an internal log frame covered with a lattice of smaller logs. Bundles of willow tied to the framework formed the foundation for a layer of clay that was applied like plaster to the outside. The clay provided insulation and was waterproof. The inside of the hogan was excavated up to twenty-four inches below the surrounding grade, providing a place to sit and a shelf for storage. It also provided headroom so even the tallest could stand up straight. A smoke hole in the roof allowed in light to illuminate the interior as well as providing a way out for the smoke from the hearth, and a point of entry for the "Holy Ones." A blanket was used to cover the door.

    As better tools became available, hogans evolved to be predominately single room, eight-sided structures. The log walls supported a log lattice-work that supported a domed roof sealed by a thick layer of clay mud. The smoke hole remained in the roof. While there were no walls, the room had specific areas used for specific tasks. After the Second World War, hogans underwent a major change. Dr. Anne Wauneka crusaded to rid the reservation of tuberculosis. Although the hogans of the time were warm in the winter and cool in the summer, they also provided a environment favorable to this malady. Sanitariums were opened in the dry climates of the southern Arizona deserts, like the Oshkin Sanitorium in Tucson. Navajo men and women would stay there until they "dried out." In order to improve the housing of her people, Dr. Wauneka promoted the log homes with windows in the southern, and western walls. The hogan's door faced East to greet the morning sun and the start of a new day. Hogan floors were packed clay. Few westerners have realized that dirt floors are not necessarily dirty! They are easily cleaned by sweeping and a new layer of clay can be added as required.

    Older Log Hogan As one looks about Navajoland today, hogans have been constructed of many materials. Asphalt shingles and tar paper have replaced the mud roof. Log walls chinked with mud have been replaced by plywood, T-111 paneling or flake board. Some log cabin companies provide logs sawn flat on the top and bottom. Hogans constructed with them look like they have been built with toy "Lincoln Logs". Central fireplaces have been replaced by wood stoves with a length of stovepipe protruding through the smoke hole. Often as not, these will be made from converted 55 gallon steel drums set on end and equipped with doors on the sides to feed logs and remove ash. The barrel's end provides both a cooking surface, or a place for a coffee pot.

    Culturally, the single room of the hogan reinforces the idea of the family group. The lack of internal walls also emphasizes that everyone is part of the family. There is no running off to one's room to play Nintendo. When it comes time to sleep, sheep skins and bedding are rolled out on the earthen floor. Privacy is a limited commodity.

    New log hogans are still built using commercially available peeled logs , or from trees felled in the mountain forests. Dirt covered hogans are rarely built anymore. Most use tar paper, or asphalt shingles to cover the roof. While some prefer the hogan to modern housing, many hogans are kept for ceremonial purposes. A typical log hogan is about sixteen feet in diameter. It requires from thirty-five to seventy trees to build, if each tree is long enough produce two logs. Where caulking between the logs once was done with clay mixed with grass or hay, concrete mortar is often substituted today.

    NOTE:During the Summer of 1998, many new hogans using traditional construction were being built. There were two in the Many Farms area, one in Chinle, and one in Window Rock that were visible from the highway. Not everybody knows what hogans look like. Once, I was at a lesson about Navajo Indians that was presented by a woman from one of the Pueblos near Sante Fe. She put a chimney on one side of a domed-roof hogan, in the fashion of her people. The Navajo people present did their best not to giggle: It just didn't look right to them. (Finally, someone tactfully questioned her about it.) Hogan design has its roots in Navajo religion. Traditional hogans are built with the one door facing the east. When young children wake up in the morning they take a run East to the morning sun and go around a post, or tree or rock, then run home. This helps wake them up! Traditional earth floored hogans generally lack plumbing. Everything the plumbing is used for is done outside. It is reasonable to expect hogan design to change to accommodate plumbing and electricity, which it has, as the two become more widely available. The arid nature of the region, combined with the geology, limits where water is available. Many families in out-lying still rely on hauled water.

    As there are books on American architecture listing different type of homes, visitors should understand that there are many styles of hogans as well. Some, like the forked stick hogan are not octagonal. The "many legged hogan" uses many smaller logs placed vertically for the walls, instead of logs laid horizontally. It is found where large logs are not available. During the time when the Navajos were banished to Ft.Sumner, people used whatever they could to provide shelter. Some photographs show structures that appear like the brush wikki-ups of the Apaches. One uses what is available when they are given no other options. Hogans also come in male and female flavors. Log sweat-houses are referred to as male hogans. (This male/female significance is prevalent throughout Navajo culture.)

    Families are discovering that mobile homes and prefabricated housing offers many advantages (such as more space, running water, electricity and indoor plumbing!) This is especially true as utilities become more universally available. Still, the openness of the hogan is preferred to a maze of smaller rooms and many new homes retain the hogan's distinctive shape. The primary concept to grasp is that the word "hogan" refers to most places of residence that are a refuge from the elements and provide safety. The corral behind many hogans is often referred to as the "sheep's hogan". How a hogan is constructed and orientated to the cardinal directions is a reminder of teachings about who the Dineh are and where they came from. The tassel of corn pollen that remains in a niche in the logs, even in the oldest hogan, is a reminder that the home has been blessed.

    An excellent nine-page discussions of the hogan, its origin and its history is available on the Internet at ""

  17. Sometimes there are hogans that seem abandoned. In a land where resources are so scarce, why are not the logs recycled for other uses.
  18. The Navajo people have a deep aversion to death. If a person dies within a hogan, it is traditionally abandoned and left to decay. No part of it is re-used. Sometimes, a hole would be knocked in the north wall.

    It is this same respect for the dead that has allowed the many ruins in Navajoland to go unmolested for so many centuries.

  19. If the Navajo people have such an aversion to death, who cares for the deceased?
  20. Hospitals, medical workers and morticians from neighboring towns are left with this task. It is rare that death occurs at home. A mortician from Gallup is kept very busy, often with services in several places on the same day. Most communities have their own cemeteries and those that do not have designated burial places. Deaths bring families together to offer support. Sometimes it will be the first time in many years that some have come into a church. Ceremonies are usually direct and to the point. After the ceremony, sometimes the grave may not have been properly prepared and the hole may need enlarging. Shovels are waiting in the pile of earth already excavated. Once ready, the family lowers the casket into the ground using ropes, then everyone present tosses in a hand full of dirt after the prayers. The remainder of the soil is then shoveled in by the family. It is a far cry from the funerals I have attended in larger cities, where families have little "hands-on" involvement with the last rites. I do not believe this is something that families would want to hire out: It is a very personal and final "Good Bye".

  21. If hogans are traditional Navajo homes, why are there sometimes teepees here?
  22. Teepees are not native to the area. Originating with the tribes of the Great Plains, they are almost universally a sign of the presence of the Native American Church which holds services in them. The NAC is just one of many religions here.

  23. Sometimes one sees mobile homes or buildings that have old tires arranged on the roof. Why is this done?
  24. The tires help interrupt the airflow over the roof and this prevents the smooth surface from acting like an airplane's wing in strong winds and developing lift. It is not the tire's weight that does the work. The tires break up the smooth surface. They work like spoilers on an airplane wing. The result is the same, the tires help prevent the roof from being lifted off. When storms pass through, sometimes they can bring high winds. Without the tires, sheet metal covering mobile homes and galvanized steel rattles continuously. Just how the tires help is not immediately obvious, still they work just the same.

  25. There are near vertical piles of wood in some backyards. They are cone shaped and seem to have an entry to the center between the logs. Do these have any special purpose?
  26. It sounds as though you are describing a male hogan. They are used by men for sweat baths. Hot stones are dropped in water to create the steam and the outside is covered to keep the heat in, while they are in use.

    They do resemble wood that is stacked for the winter if you don't look too closely. Local tradition stacks long branches vertically, instead of forming level rows of logs that are common elsewhere. In time of snow, the wood stays drier and is easier to locate. It rises above all but the deepest drifts. I doubt if this was a conscious consideration, but it works!

  27. Are there any special problems when constructing buildings in this area?
  28. In many of the valleys there is no bedrock to build upon. In the Chinle Valley, supports, or piles, for some buildings have been driven down 160 feet without hitting anything substantial. It is all fill. Much of the valley floor has lenses of bentonite clay. When this gets wet, it expands and soils move. In dry times the clays contract. Cracks up to one half inch wide lace the ground and can extend feet below the surface. This causes major problems when building large structures. Buildings are sometimes "floated" on concrete pads, but if the soil gets wet under them, they will begin to tilt. Buildings with rigid walls do not give as long a service in this area as they do elsewhere, When cracks develop in the walls, it will only be a few decades more before the building will have to be razed. The phrase "the living earth" takes on a whole new meaning for architects and builders in this area. The only certain solution is to avoid the soils completely and build on the harder outcroppings along the valley's rim. Unfortunately, there is not enough room there for all. The next best solution seems to be prefabricated buildings supported by pylons that are regularly leveled to accommodate soil movement.


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