A Navajo Horse Race Story

A Navajo Horse Race Story

A Navajo Horse Race Story - Betting


The men go for horses that have walked away to find grass to eat. The women put blankets and food in the wagons.

My uncle tells ‘my father to wait awhile because my uncle says he knows a man who has a horse that can win a race

All the men stand around. They talk together about this horse.

My father gets the things out of the wagon that my mother has put in it. He is going to bet them on this horse that my uncle says can win a race.

The Trader comes. He does not like the horse my uncle knows. He puts up a hundred dollars against the horse.

With another man my father bets his bowguard against a concho belt on that horse my uncle knows.

The men choose o flat place to run the race.

They say, “We will run to that place and back.” They mount their horses. They line them up. One man stands by the pool of things that are being bet against the hundred dollars.

They say, “We will run to that place and back.” They mount their horses. They line them up. One man stands by the pool of things that are being bet against the hundred do1 lars.


A Navajo Horse Race Story - The Race
The starter takes his hat off.

He lifts it up. He lifts it up.

He holds it there. He drops it.

They are off.

They are running together. No horse is in front. No horse is is behind. They are together.

Together. Running, running.

The black one that the Trader likes stretches out, running, running, gets in front, running, running. Sand flies. People shout.

The People shout. Now comes the horse my uncle knows. There he is, there he is, in front, in front, away in front. He has won the race. The horse my uncle knows has won the race.

Source : “Little Herder in the Winter” by Ann Clark 1940
Illustrated by:

Hoke Denetsosie
Linguistics by:
John P. Harrington
Robert W. Young

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Coyote Tales – Coyote And Rabbit

*Please remember that the telling of Coyote Stories is restricted to the winter storytelling months, October through February.

Coyote And Rabbit-1


One day ‘ Coyote was out walking.
He was walking in the forest.
He saw Rabbit.
He started to chase Rabbit.
Rabbit ran in a hole.
Coyote said,
” I’ll get you out of that hole,
Let me think,”.
Coyote sat down to think.
Now I know: I’ll get you out.
I’ ll get weeds.
I’ll put them in the hole.
I’ll set fire to them.
Then you will come out,” said Coyote




Coyote And Rabbit-2

Rabbit laughed.
No, I will not come out my cousin .
I like weeds. I’ ll eat the weeds.”
“Do you eat milkweeds ” asked Coyote.
I’ll get milkweeds.”
“Yes, I like milkweeds.
I’ll eat the milkweeds,” said Rabbit.
” Do you eat foxtail gross”asked Coyote .
” I’ll get foxtail gross
“Yes, I like foxtail gross”.
I’ll eat the foxtail gross,” said Rabbit.
“Do you eat rabbit brush” asked Coyote.
“I’ll get rabbit brush,” I like rabbit brush best of all.
I’ll eat the rabbit brush too, said Rabbit.
. “I know,” said Coyote. “Pinyon pitch. ”
Rabbit looked sad. Coyote And Rabbit-3

” You will kill me. I do not eat pinyon pitch,” said Rabbit .
Coyote was happy.
He ran from pinyon tree to pinyon tree .
He gathered pinyon pitch . .
He put the pinyon pitch in the hole .
He set the . pinyon pitch on fire.
He bent low. He blew on the fire.
” Come closer,” said Rabbit .
“Blow harder.”
Coyote come closer.
He blew harder. Coyote And Rabbit-4




“I’m nearly dead,” said Rabbit ..
“Came closer’

Blow a little harder'”
Coyote come closer.
He blew harder.

He shut his eyes.
He blew harder.
Rabbit turned.
He kicked hard .
The fire flew in Coyote’s’ face .
Rabbit ran away.
He was laughing very hard.

Harry Walters – Navajo Historian (Video)

Harry Walters is an archaeologist, teacher and was the Diné College historical museum director.

Much of his life’s work and is going to preserve the Navajo Culture.

Source: Tom Grier’s YouTube Channel – Navajo Oral History Project

One of his greatest achievements was the creation of the Navajo Community College
Historical Museum. He also created the artefacts collection, audio visual and education program.
Harry also helped design the curriculum for the center of Diné studies.

This documentary film was researched, photographed, edited and produced by students of Winona State University (Winona, Minnesota) and Diné College (Tsaile, Arizona, Navajo Nation) during summer 2009.

It contains stories Harry Walters of Cove, Arizona, told the students during several hours of interviews about his life.

This documentary film is archived at the Navajo Nation Museum, Navajo Nation Library, Winona State University Library, and Diné College Library, and will be archived at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.

The film is part of the Navajo Oral History project, a multi-year collaboration between the Winona State University Mass Communication Department and Diné College— The official Tribal College of the Navajo Nation


Navajo People Website Links:

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Learn How To Make A Snowman – Navajo Language

This tutorial shows how to build a snow man (yas hastiin).

by: Daybreak Warrior

Though it is a simple thing to build a snowman, the purpose of this video is to explain how to build one in the Navajo language. Hearing instructions is another way to learn a language.

The footage was shot in northeastern Arizona, on the Navajo reservation. Yes, parts of Arizona do get snow! Enjoy! 🙂


Navajo People Website Links:
Navajo Culture – Navajo History – Navajo Art – Navajo Clothing Navajo Pictures – Navajo Rugs – Navajo Language– Navajo Jewelry – Navajo Code Talker – Navajo Pottery – Navajo Legends – Hogan’s – Sand Painting – Navajo Food – Navajo News – Navajo Nation


Navajo Medicine Men Treating Patient

Navajo Medicine Men Treating PatientSummary: Native American (Navajo) men pose near an earthen hogan treating sick Navajo man.
Some of the men wear bead necklaces with naja pendants.
One man wears a metal bead bandolier, another wears a concho belt.
Date: between 1880 and 1910
Copyright: Estern History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library.

Navajo People Website Links:
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Yei Bi Chei (Yébîchai) Night Chant-First Day

A description of the ritual and form of the Yébîchai ceremony,—Kléjê Hatál, or Night Chant,—covering its nine days of performance, will give a comprehensive idea of all Navaho nine-day ceremonies, which combine both religious and medical observances. The myth characters personified in this rite are termed Yébîchai, Grandfather or Paternal Gods. Similar personifications appear in other ceremonies, but they figure less prominently

Note: The use of the word “Navaho”, and , “Navajo” are used in the writings about the Diné,  their history, and culture. See  this article: Use and spelling Navaho or Navajo

Each morning during the first four days of the Navaho Yébîchai healing ceremony, or Night Chant, the patient is sweated—sometimes inside a small sweat-lodge, oftener by being placed upon a spot previously heated by a fire and covered with heavy blankets.

Yei Bi Chei Sweat Lodge- Navaho

The three figures are medicine-men, or singers, chanting. The patient lies under the blankets surrounded by a line of sacred meal in which turkey-feather prayer-sticks, kadán, are implanted.

First Day:

The ceremonial, or medicine, hogán is built some days in advance of the rite. The first day’s ceremony is brief, with few participants. Well after dark the singer, assisted by two men, makes nine little splint hoops entwined with slip-cords, and places them on the sacred meal in the meal basket.


These objects, called by the various but nearly synonymous names of Ye’b’tsai-tsa’pas, ye’ts-ida-V’lpas, ye’bapas and tsapasiazi-olia’l, are twelve in number. Each circle is made of a twig of ts’i’lts’ln or aromatic sumac two spans long.Navajo Kethawn

The ends are tied together by means of a yucca fiber exactly two spans long. The butt end of the fiber is applied to the. butt end of the twig, underneath it, and at first parallel to it, the fiber is’ then wound around the spliced extremities of the twig, so that its tip end shall approximate the tip end of the’ twig

Following this, three men remove their everyday clothing, take Yébîchai masks, and leave the hogán. These three masked figures are to represent the gods Haschéltî, Talking God, Haschbaád, Goddess, and Haschélapai, Gray God.

When they have gone and passed to the rear of the hogán, the patient comes in, disrobes at the left of the center, passes around the small fire burning near the entrance of the hogán, and takes his seat in the center, immediately after which the singing begins.

During the third song Hasché?lt? enters with his cross-sticks—Hasché?lt? balíl—and opens and places them over the patient’s body, forcing them down as far toward the ground as possible. The second time he places them not so far over the body; the third, not lower than the shoulders; the fourth time, over the head only, each time giving his peculiar call, Wu-hu-hu-hu-u!

Then Hasché?lt? takes up a shell with medicine and with it touches the patient’s feet, hands, chest, back, right shoulder, left shoulder, and top of head, this being the prescribed ceremonial order, uttering his cry at each placing of the medicine.

He next places the shell of medicine to the patient’s lips four times and goes out, after which Hasch?baád comes in, takes one of the circle k?dán, touches the patient’s body in the same ceremonial order, and finally the lips, at the same time giving the slip-cord a quick pull.

Next comes Hasché?lapai, who performs the same incantations with the k?dán. Again Hasché?lt? enters with the cross-sticks, repeating the former order, after which he gives the patient four swallows of medicine,—a potion different from that first given, the medicine-man himself drinking what remains in the shell. This closes the ceremony of the first day.

There will, perhaps, be considerable dancing outside the hogán, but that is merely practice for the public dance to be given on the ninth night. The singer and the patient sleep in the hogán each night until the nine days are passed, keeping the masks and medicine paraphernalia between them when they sleep.


The songs sung on this evening, called Aga’hoa’gis-in or Summit Songs, are 26 in number; but not all are sung on this occasion; more of them are heard later during the nine-days’ ceremony. The whole set is sung on the third night. When there is no dance of the naakhai’ to be held on the last night, only three songs of the set -are repeated.

God of Harvest, Fringe Mouth, and Talking God

The personated deities pictured in this plate appear together in acts of succor in the Night Chant in the order seen, the Talking God in the lead. From left to right they are, respectively, the God of Harvest, Fringe Mouth, and Talking God.

Sources of Information for the Article:

The Night Chant, A Navaho Ceremony. By Washington Matthews – May, 1902.
Legend Of The Night Chant- The North American Indian By Edward S. Curtis 1907
The Nightway:A History and a History of Documentation of a Navajo Ceremonial by: James C. Faris – 1990.
Earth is My Mother, Sky is my Father, by Trudy Griffin-Pierce, 1992


Use and spelling Navaho or Navajo

This is a response to many inquiries I have been receiving about word “Navaho” as used in articles on this website.

I have just came back from my trip to the Navajo Nation Museum and library doing research for my articles on this website.

I also visited Saint Michael’s Historical Museum near Window Rock, AZ where the Franciscan Fathers wrote ” An ethnologic dictionary of the Navaho language (1910).

Navajo Museum 1

Navajo Nation Museum – Photo by Harold Carey Jr.

Saint Michael’s Historical Museum

Saint Michael’s Historical Museum – Photo by Harold Carey Jr.

From Research on literature of the Southwest I have come up with the following:

Its origin is described in the “Ethnologic Dictionary of the Navaho Language”.

“The word Navaho, or originally, Navajo, is first mentioned and applied to this tribe of Indians by Fray Alonzo Benavides O. F. M., in his “Memorial to the King of Spain” written in 1630. After describing the Gila Apaches, Benavides says that more than fifty leagues north of these “one encounters the Province of the Apaches of Navajo.

Although they are the same Apache nation as the foregoing, they are subject and subordinate to another Chief Captain, and have a distinct mode of living. For those of back yonder did not use to plant, but sustained themselves by the chase; today we have broken land for them and taught them to plant.

But these of Navajo are very great farmers, for that is what Navajo signifies—great planted fields.”
1. Franciscan Fathers. Ethnologic Dictionary of the Navaho Language.

The Navahos call themselves: “Dine” which means men or people and in conversing with them they will tell you that “Dine” simply means “The People”.

The list below is from a search of works published by various authors interested in Southwestern archaeology and ethnology by writers using “ho” or “jo”.

Hosteen Klah: Navaho Medicine Man and Sand Painter by Franc Johnson Newcomb (May 28, 2012)
The Enduring Navaho [Paperback]Laura Gilpin (Author) Publication Date: 1987
The Navaho by Clyde & lLighton, Dorothea Kluckhohn (1974)
Navaho Witchcraft by Clyde Kluckhohn (1995)
Navaho Indian Myths (Native American) by Aileen O’Bryan (Jun 14, 1993)
The Dine: Origin Myths of the Navaho Indians (Forgotten Books) by Aileen Warner O’Bryan (May 7, 2008)
Origin Myths of the Navaho Indians by Aileen O’Bryan; BAEB 163 [1956]
Navaho Myths, Prayers, and Songs by Washington Matthews; UCPAAE 5:2 [1906]

Navajo Texts. by Pliny Earle Goddard (Jan 1, 1933)
Navajo Indians by Dane Coolidge and R. Mary (Jun 1930)
Navajo gambling songs – Matthews, Washington, 1843-1905
A study of Navajo symbolism (Volume v. 32 no. 3) – Newcomb, Franc Johnson
The Navajo and his blanket – Hollister, Uriah S., 1838-1929
The Navajo Indians; a statement of facts – Weber, Anselm, Father, 1862-1921
The making of a Navajo blanket – Pepper, George H. (George Hubbard), 1873-1924
The gentile system of the Navajo Indians – Matthews, Washington, 1843-1905

George Wharton James has an explanation for the use of NAVAHO and we quote the paragraph. “It will be observed that I follow the Americanized and rational form of spelling the name NAVAHO. Why people should consent to use the misleading and unnecessary form of the name NAVAJO, is beyond me.

Every stranger to the Spanish tongue—and there are millions who are thus strange—naturally pronounce this Na-va-joe, and cannot be blamed. Yet it does give the One-who-knows the opportunity to laugh at him, and perhaps this is the reason the Spanish form is retained.

Were the name one of Spanish origin we might be reconciled to that form of spelling, but as it is a name belonging to a tribe of Amerinds who were here and had been here for centuries when the Spaniards came, there is no reason why they should have fixed upon them forever a European method of spelling their name”.

2. James, George Wharton. “Indian Blankets and their Makers.” A. O. McClurg and Co., Chicago. 1920.

For justifying the use of Navaho in the Dictionary of the English Language and find in Funk and Wagnalls: “Navaho, an important and rapidly increasing branch of Athapascan Indians dwelling in New Mexico and Arizona; employed in herding blanket making, silver smithing, and as laborers in railroad and ether public works.
“Navajo” is the preference shown in Websters New International Dictionary.

A Navajo tour of Monument Valley (Video)

by TheGuardian
“Monument Valley in Utah is one of the most iconic natural wonders of the world, its vast sandstone buttes familiar from countless Westerns, but few visitors explore its cultural life. Here Navajo guide Larry Holiday talks about life on the reservation and the challenges families face, as well as the beauty of the landscape”

Kinaalda – Celebrating maturity of girls among the Navajo

The Navajo Puberty Ceremony  celebrating maturity of girls among the Navajo is held generally on the fourth night after the first evidence of the maiden’s entrance into womanhood. On the first morning following the moment of this change in life the girl bathes and dresses in her finest clothes.

Kinaalda - Celebrating maturity of girls among the Navajo

Kinaalda – Maturity ceremony for Navajo Girls

Later she stretches herself face downward on a blanket just outside the hogán, with her head toward the door. A sister, aunt, or other female relation, if any happen to be close at hand, or if not, a male relative other than her father, then proceeds symbolically to remould her.

Her arms and legs are straightened, her joints smoothed, and muscles pressed to make her truly shapely. After that the most industrious and energetic of the comely women in the immediate neighborhood is called in to dress the girl’s hair in a particular form of knot and wrap it with deerskin strings, called tsklólh.

Should there be any babies or little tots about the home, the girl goes to them, and, placing a hand under each ear, successively lifts them by the neck, to make them grow faster. Then she darts off toward the east, running out for about a quarter of a mile and back. This she does each morning until after the public ceremony. By so doing she is assured of continuing strong, lithe, and active throughout womanhood.

Grinding Corn at Kinaalda, Navajo Puberty Ceremony

Grinding Corn at Kinaalda, Navajo Puberty Ceremony

The four days preceding the night of the ceremony are days of abstinence; only such foods as mush and bread made from  may be eaten, nor may they contain any salt. To indulge in viands of a richer nature would be to invite laziness and an ugly form at a comparatively early age. The girl must also refrain from scratching her head or body, for marks made by her nails during this period would surely become ill-looking scars.

All the women folk in the hogán begin grinding corn on the first day and continue at irregular intervals until the night of the third, when the meal is mixed into batter for a large corn-cake, which the mother bakes in a sort of bean-hole outside the hogán.

Navajo Girl Molding at Kinaalda

Molding at Kinaalda

Molding – Photo courtesy of Gary Witherspoon

The ceremony proper consists of little more than songs. A medicine-man is called upon to take charge, being compensated for his services with blankets, robes, grain, or other articles of value. Friends and neighbors having been notified, they assemble at the girl’s hogán fairly early in the evening.

Navajo Girl Running at Kinaalda

Navajo Girl Running

Navajo Girl Running at Kinaalda – Photo courtesy of Gary Witherspoon

When dusk has settled, the medicine-man begins his songs, singing first the twelve “hogán songs” of the Bahózhonchi. After he has finished, anyone present who so desires may sing songs taken from the ritual of the same order. This motley singing and hilarity continue until well toward sunrise, when the mother brings in a bowl of yucca suds and washes the girl’s hair.

Her head and hair are dried with corn-meal, after which the girl takes her last run toward the east, this time followed by many young children, symbolically attesting that she will be a kind mother, whom her children will always follow.

Pouring Corn Batter for the ceremony cake (alkaan) Kinaaldá, the Navajo Puberty Ceremony

Pouring Corn Batter for the ceremony cake (alkaan) – Kinaaldá, the Navajo Puberty Ceremony

The hatál, or medicine singer, during her absence sings eight songs, generally termed the Racing songs. On her return the great corn-cake is brought in, cut, and divided among the assemblage, when all disperse, and the girl may once more loosen her hair and partake of any food she pleases.


Day Ritual Activities

First Day
Grind Corn
Put pot of wheat near outdoor cooking fire (after the molding).

Second Day
Grind Corn
Spread wheat in the sun to dry (after digging the pit).
Soak cornhusks (while working on the batter).
Third Day
Grind Corn
Dig pit; build fire
Make mush
Put batter in pit; bless it
Cover pit
Gather soapweed root and white clay for morning (during the singing).
Fourth Day
Run to east while four songs are sung.
One Twelve Word song, unless the ceremony is the first Kinaalda,
when this song is omitted.
Make offering to Mother Earth.
Prepare white-clay basket (during the Racing Songs).
Lift children (after the molding).
Girl goes back into hogan (after returning goods).
Retie girl’s hair.

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Navajo Tourism Etiquette HD Video