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Dinéjí Na`natin

Navajo Traditional Teachings and History

By Robert S. McPherson

Publication Year: 2012

Traditional teachings derived from stories and practices passed through generations lie at the core of a well-balanced Navajo life. These teachings are based on a very different perspective on the physical and spiritual world than that found in general American culture. Dinéjí Na`nitin is an introduction to traditional Navajo teachings and history for a non-Navajo audience, providing a glimpse into this unfamiliar world and illuminating the power and experience of the Navajo worldview.

Historian Robert McPherson discusses basic Navajo concepts such as divination, good and evil, prophecy, and metaphorical thought, as well as these topics’ relevance in daily life, making these far-ranging ideas accessible to the contemporary reader. He also considers the toll of cultural loss on modern Navajo culture as many traditional values and institutions are confronted by those of dominant society. Using both historical and modern examples, he shows how cultural change has shifted established views and practices and illustrates the challenge younger generations face in maintaining the beliefs and customs their parents and grandparents have shared over generations.

This intimate look at Navajo values and customs will appeal not only to students and scholars of Native American studies, ethnic studies, and anthropology but to any reader interested in Navajo culture or changing traditional lifeways.

Published by: University Press of Colorado

Contents

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pp. vii-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

No book is written in a vacuum, and this one is no exception—especially when one considers the large number of Navajo elders who have contributed their understanding to it. I have tried to listen carefully to their thoughts and express them in such a way that future generations can benefit from their knowledge...

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Intro: Entering the Táchééh

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pp. 1-12

As I completed this manuscript in mid-July 2011, two seemingly unrelated items to most people came to my attention. The first was the containment of Arizona’s largest fire in the history of the state, recently burning in the White Mountains...

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1: Wind, Hand, and Stars

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pp. 13-43

Americans, as with many other cultures, have always had a penchant for figuring out the past and prying into the future. Where facts are lacking, assumptions abound. Even in the most technologically advanced, scientifically based communities where sequential logic reigns supreme, the human element...

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2: The 1918–1919 Influenza Epidemic

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pp. 44-71

As the last cold months of 1918 drew to a close, the bloody annals of World War I became a part of history and a prelude to hopes for peace. Another enemy, however, was stalking the living to spread death and sadness throughout the world. Even in countries that were technologically advanced in healthcare, such...

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3: Sacred Evil

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pp. 72-99

Navajo Oshley came over the hill just in time to find Old Teacher, a medicine man, beating his new wife, formerly Old Teacher’s spouse. The ex-husband was angry that she had left him and was delivering a sound drubbing when Oshley arrived. The two tussled before Oshley tossed the man to the ground an...

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4: “Too Much Noise in That Bunch across the River”

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pp. 100-132

Moonlight turned the yellow cottonwood leaves silver as they drifted in the gentle current of the San Juan River. The black turbid water, low against the drought-parched banks, was easily fordable along this stretch of river near Aneth, Utah. Known as Old Age River (S3 Bitooh) and One with a Long Body (Bits’íísnineezí), the...

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5: Traditional Teachingsand Thought

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pp. 133-158

“Cartoons. Did my grandpa tell you any of those cartoons he has running around in his head?” I winced. The young teenage boy gazed into my eyes without a ripple of a smile. He was serious. I looked over in the corner where, sitting beside a small wood-burning stove, rested an older Navajo man—silver hair cropped close, his eyes...

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6: “He Stood for Us Strongly”

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pp. 159-186

The San Juan River was still running deep that July 1943. The cottonwood leaves trembled slightly in the midday heat, with an occasional breeze snaking its way along the dirt road that ran beside the red rock bluffs north of the river. Ada Benally remembers shading her eyes and looking across the brown, roiling...

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7: Seeing Is Believing

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pp. 187-212

Sparks from the piñon and juniper fire rose into the black night sky. Shadows danced on the low alcove’s walls, flames flickering with wind currents. Nine figures crowded beneath or stood outside a low overhanging ledge, as some bent forward digging and peering into a hole in the sandy-bottomed cave. There was...

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8: Of Stars, Goats, and Wind

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pp. 213-236

Laughter, ranging between mirthful chortles and desk-pounding guffaws, escaped out of the room and skipped down the hall. Inside, the half-dozen middle-aged Navajo people sat around a table exchanging words like kids swapping baseball cards—each one anxious to share but keenly interested in what others had to offer...

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9: Gambling on the Future

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pp. 237-264

Laughter, ranging between mirthful chortles and desk-pounding guffaws, escaped out of the room and skipped down the hall. Inside, the half-dozen middle-aged Navajo people sat around a table exchanging words like kids swapping baseball cards—each one anxious to share but keenly interested in what others had to offer...

Bibliography

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pp. 265-274

Index

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pp. 275-287


E-ISBN-13: 9781607322177
E-ISBN-10: 160732217X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607322160
Print-ISBN-10: 1607322161

Page Count: 220
Illustrations: 34 B&W photos
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Navajo Indians -- History.
  • Navajo philosophy.
  • Navajo Indians -- Social life and customs.
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