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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  3. I want to know how to spell Navajo purity cake

  4. Dahlia Rose says

    So wait, does the ceremony start the night after they hit puberty or or four days after?

  5. Celebrating a girl’s entry into womanhood. What a concept! Instead of segregating her, and considering her impure or unclean, the Dine make it a glorious event to welcome her as a grown up member of the community. It is wonderful and it is full of love and respect for the woman, and for all.

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  7. From having traveled a little through Navajo Country, but mostly from having had the immense privilege of running with some of you in the Canyon de Chelley all the way past Lady Spider, I want to thank you for sharing your wisdom and traditions. I have been profoundly impressed with your People’s attitude and I yearn to learn more about your culture. This site is a great resource. Until next time, Ya’at’eeh, my friends.

  8. Thanks for finally talking about >Kinaalda – Celebrating matudity oof
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  9. did you know the dene people of the Canadian far north /north west territory’s sahtu regon speak the same language and have very similar traditions ? any Navaho speaker can translate sahtu to English it means bear lake the largest lake in Canada

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    I am currently taking an anthropology class and I have a research project that I have to write on Navajo cultures. I would like to get the correct information from someone who knows the culture. I am writing about beliefs, values, sickness and healing, and social change among the Navajo. I would be eternally greatful for any help you can give. Thank you in advance.


  14. this doesn’t help me well it does a little so yeah…that’s my comment. Happy? i love jessie the disney channel show! it’s awesome!

  15. insanelogic says

    i have gone through this ceremony and this is an accurate representation of it. for me it was my grandmother who combed my hair and conducted the entire ceremony. this was a pivotal experience for me, and i wish more young women could go through something 1/2 as meaningful. take care.

  16. I love the way this is all wrote, I remember i went threw all this when i was 13 woaah you people got everything correct, its such a fun experience…But my dad the tied my hair, the running was tireing, staying up all night, boy was i tired…

  17. I love this website it helps me with my school social studies work all of the time. it tells you everything about them

  18. Yes this is still practiced today. To prove it, you are currently viewing the comment of a young navajo woman herself. I had my kinaalda done a few years back. But alas I did not do the same 4 day ceremony as my older sister, I had a shorter version of it that took 2 days. Now though i do sincerely wish i had the traditional 4 day ceremony done.

  19. @Andrea, yes this ceremony is still practiced. The bun is put in the back of the head, wrapped with deerskin or white yarn. The string is called tsii’t?oo? (hairtie) and the bun is called tsii’yeel. The Navajo language uses the ? mark, the same as English. Google Navajo hair bun to see what it looks like.

  20. i luv this site it helps so much

  21. andrea jordan says

    I read that the hair style done at the kinaalda is called a ts?klólh. Is this a typo error, or do you have a word in your language that actually uses a ? in it?? Very interesting ceremony. Is it still practiced? I lived with the Yanomamo of South America in the forest and they have a ceremony for their young girls that is in some ways similar.
    Thank you for responding Andrea Jordan

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  1. […] puberty ceremony for girls — a four-day ritual with food and extended family to celebrate a girl’s entry into womanhood. The girl runs three times daily. “Every day a little further — that tells you to keep going, […]

  2. […] Puberty rituals for girls are still performed by Navajo people until now. The ritual, called kinaalda, lasts for four days where the whole family gathers to celebrate with her. […]

  3. […] it traditionally lasts four days and ends with a ceremony that lasts the entire evening. This website provides a great overview. It was really neat to see such a different cultural take on […]

  4. […] during the summer four years ago, I remember how conflicted I felt. I was 13 and it was time for my Kinaalda, the Navajo ceremony marking a young girl’s coming of age. I was at the mercy of all the […]

  5. […] The ceremony was also used for blessing of the home, and also to enhance good fortune through the kinaalda (girl’s puberty rites).  Native Americans today that wish to connect with their heritage during […]

  6. […] Kinaalda – Celebrating maturity of girls among the NavajoDec 16, 2010 … Share The ceremony celebrating maturity of girls among the Navajo is held generally on the fourth night after the first evidence of the maiden’s … […]

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