Gobernador Knob – Navajo Sacred Mountain

Gobernador Knob (Ch’óol’í’í – Fir Mountain)


Gobernador Knob the site where the Navajo’s Divine Goddess, Changing Woman (‘Asdzáá Nadleehe), was found by Talking God (Haashch’eelti’i) .

The Navajo have many traditions relating to Gobernador Knob. Navajo beliefs say that it represents the “Heart” of Navajo Country

Gobernador Knob also represents the outward look of the Male Hogan.

The traditional Navajo ancestral home is the area encompassed by the four sacred mountains but it’s “heart” is at Gobernador Knob, located near the north-east corner of the enlarged area of the map, where
Gobernador Knob - Navajo Sacred Mountain

Gobernador Knob is a small hump on Spruce Mountain (or Fir Mountain), that rises about 90 to 100 feet from Spruce Hill, having an overall elevation of 8,000 feet. Gobernardor Knob rises above the high broken mesa countryside sloping west from the Continental Divide to the Largo Canyon,

There are a number of identified Navajo remains in the vicinity of the Knob itself and the region is a part of the Dinétah (The original or old Navajo Country). At about 1921, Dr. Alfred V. Kidder of the Phillips-Andover Academy investigated what he believed to have been refugee sites of Puebloans fleeing Spanish vengeance during the troubled years during and following the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680.


The Four Navajo Sacred Mountains

Mount Blanca (Tsisnaasjini’ – Dawn or White Shell Mountain – East
Mount Taylor (Tsoodzil – Blue Bead or Turquoise Mountain) – South
San Francisco Peaks (Doko’oosliid – Abalone Shell Mountain) – West
Mount Hesperus Dibé Nitsaa (Big Mountain Sheep) – Obsidian Mountain – North

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Haschélti – Talking God Mask – Yebichai Ceremony



The mask of Haschélti is the only white one seen in the ceremony. It is the caplike or baglike mask common to all male characters.


The circular holes for mouth and eyes are each surrounded with a peculiar symbol.

Haschelti - Talking God - MaskMask representing Haashch?éé?ti?í, Talking God, used in Night Chant Ceremony, recorded by Matthews in 1902

This is said to represent a mist arising from the ground and a rain-cloud hanging above. Ascending from the mouth toward the top of the mask is the symbol of a corn-stalk with two ears on it.

At the bottom of the mask is a transverse band of yellow, to represent the yellow evening light, crossed by eight vertical black strokes to represent rain.

When worn in the dance, it has a fringe of hair from side to side over the top; two tails of the black-tailed deer hanging over the forehead; at the back a fanlike ornament of many (6 to 12) eagle-plumes, and, at the base of this, a bunch of owl feathers. A large collar of spruce conceals the yellow band under the chin.

Navajo creation story – Ni’hodootl’izh – Second World (Blue World)

Because of the strife in the First World, First Man (Atse Hastin), First Woman  (Atse Estsan)  , and the Coyote called First Angry, followed by all the others, climbed up from the World of Darkness and Dampness to the Second or Blue World.

Nihodootlizh – Second World (Blue World)

Creation Story Poster
Illustrations by Theresa Breznau.
© 2013 Heritage Language Resource Center. All rights reserved
To purchase see bottom of page.

In the Blue World
Blue Bird
Blue Hawk
Blue Jay

Holy People
Zigzag Lightening
Stright Lighting

Kit Foxes
Mountain Lion

Many beings lived in the Blue World. There was Blue Bird, Blue Hawk, Blue Jay and Blue Heron. Big insects also lived there. Wolves lived in a white house in the east. Wildcats lived in a blue house in the south. Kit foxes lived in a yellow house to the west. Mountain lions lived in a black house in the north.
The powerful swallow people lived there also, and these people made the Second World unpleasant for those who had come from the First World. There was fighting and killing.

The animals of the Blue World were at war with each other. First Man knew this, and he killed some of them. For doing this, First Man received certain songs and prayers. He said the prayers and sang the songs. When he did, the animals came to life again.
Coyote also lived in the Blue World. Coyote traveled all over. He went to all four directions. On his trips, he saw that the beings were not happy. They wanted to leave the Blue World.
When First Man heard this, he tried to help them leave. He smoked some sacred tobacco. He blew the smoke in the four directions. This made the insects feel better, but all the beings still wanted to leave. First Man tried again to help them. He tried many things, but he could not find a way for them to leave.

Finally, First Man found a black stone, called jet. He made a wand with the jet. He made three other wands. One was made of turquoise, One was made of abalone, and one was made of shell. Then First Man carved four footprints on the wands.

The beings climbed on the wands. The wands took them through an opening in the south. Before they left they made an offering. This was their way of thanking the Holy People for helping them leave. Today, people still make offerings like this.

The First Four found an opening in the World of Blue Haze  and they climbed through this and led the people up into the Third or Yellow world.

The First World “Nihodilhil” (Black World)

 Ni’hodootl’izh – Second World (Blue World)

 Nihaltsoh -The third World (Yellow World)

 Nihalgai – The Fourth, Glittering or White World


Creation Story Poster Set of Four

4-creation posters

This poster set illustrates and explains the Creation Narrative in simple, design and text.
Each poster depicts the beings and landmarks associated with that World.
Illustrations by Theresa Breznau.
17” x 22” laminated on heavy cardstock.
Sold as a set for $24.00
Also available individually for $6.00 each

To Purchase:
Heritage Language Resource Center
Navajo and Ute Language Resources
28 West 20 North
Blanding, Utah 8451
435 -678 -1230
Website: media.sjsd.org



Navajo Home – Hogans or Hohrahn

EIGHT kinds of houses are built by the Navajos, not counting the circles of boughs which in summer often serve the purpose. All except the adopted houses of the white men are well ventilated by a smoke-hole in the roof and a blanket-covered door, facing the east. They have dirt roofs and dirt floors, easily swept, with sheepskins along the walls for seats or sleeping, and a fire in the middle for cooking.

Navajo Woman and Child by Hogan

Navajo Woman and Child by Hogan

It takes only one day to erect a hohrahn, for the neighbors all come to help; and the logs from which it is built are generally found close at hand. Almost without exception it is made of piñon logs, boughs, and cedar bark, with a liberal roofing of damp earth and all the cracks chinked with mud. So it might be said that the new house costs nothing but the labor of assembling the material and the expense of feeding the helpers, a sum of forty or fifty dollars at the most.

Navajo Home - Hogan inside with woman weaving child watching

Navajo Home – Hogan inside with woman weaving child watching

In his paper on “Navaho Houses”, published in 1895-96, Cosmos Mindeleff describes the country as it was some ten years before, much of the material being gathered by A. M. Stephen. While all the types of houses which he observed still exist, the past forty-five years have seen many changes, wrought mostly by sharp axes and saws. On the Reservation to-day there are many fine big hohrahns, fully twice the sizes he recorded. And with a fireplace instead of a smokehole — and the addition of a board floor — they make a very comfortable dwelling for a white man.

But for the Indians, still living in their primitive way, a dirt floor often swept is much more sanitary than the filth of  dusty boards. The smoke-hole and blanket-door give the needed ventilation, while the fire in the center purifies the air and keeps the hohrahn warm. The stone and lumber houses often seen have been built for the most part by educated Indians, who have learned white men’s ways at school. But for the average Navajo, living thewandering life of a shepherd, the old hohrahn is probably best.

The evolution of the Navajo Hogan

The evolution of the Navajo Hogan, Left to right. The very old hogan. A later style, a few of which are still in use. The hogan of today, with log walls and dirt roof. Many Navajos live in modern log and stone houses, similar to the one pictured above. Southern Navajo Agency, 1933.  (NARA – 298586)

The different types of houses are as follows:
1, SQUARE-CORNERED HOHRAHN (Yah-dah Ahz-kah’ni Hohrahn’)

The first Hohrahn, which is mentioned in the House Songs, was first built in the Underworld. It is a square roof, covered with bark and earth and supported by four corner posts -the same shelter often seen in Arizona and New Mexico and called by the Mexicans a temporal. In its original form it is a temporary shade, but poles are often leaned against the roof, making walls, and a smoke-hole is left in the roof. The door, as in all houses, faces the east, where the gods assemble at dawn. When the hohrahn is built, a white shell is put in the bottom of the southeast post-hole, a turquoise in the southwest, an abalone shell in the northwest, and cannel-coal in the northeast hole, to bring good luck.

2. SWEAT-HOHRAHN (Tah’tsay)

The first sweat-house was built at the Place of Emergence, when the Dineh’ came up from the Underworld. It was used then, as now, not only for a sweat-bath, but to purify the body after a journey. It is made of three sticks with forked ends, which are fastened together in a tripod. Two straight sticks are leaned against the apex from the east to make the sides of the door. Then other sticks and boughs are thrown against the low framework and the whole is covered over with cedar bark and earth until it is practically airtight.

After the person has entered, heated rocks are brought in and the door is closed with several blankets. Four verses of  the Sweat-Bath Song must then be sung before he can come out, to plunge into cold water or dry himself in the sand. He goes in again and sings four more, until the entire song is sung. After an invocation to the War God and his brother, the song describes the building of the first Sweat-House which is called the Son of the She-Dark — that is, a small enclosure of semi-darkness. The song is given in part on the title-page of Part II.

Forked-Together Navajo Home - Hogan

Forked-Together Navajo Home – Hogan

3. FORKED-TOGETHER HOUSE (Ahl-chin’ ah-des-ah’ Hohrahn’)

For many years this was the characteristic Navajo hohrahn, its form and structure having been laid down by Hastseyalti, the Talking God, the greatest of the Yeibitchai. After the Slayer had destroyed all the man-eating monsters, there were only a few people left on earth, and in a great ceremonial, which is described in Chapter XVIII, thirty mortals and two gods were created.

This ceremony was performed in a Square-Cornered Hohrahn, but when the time came for the Hozonji Ceremony the Talking God called all the people together and had them build a new Medicine-Hohrahn. As in the tiny SweatHouse, only on a larger scale, three logs were leaned together from the south, north, and west, and two straight poles stretched to the east to rest on the frame of the door. A smoke-hole was left between the peak and these two poles and the walls were formed by sticks leaned against the framework and covered with cedar bark and earth.

The floor of the hohrahn is dug out a foot or more, leaving a bench all around the wall to support the poles and make a place for putting things away. On the windswept plains east of the Chuska Mountains, where both fuel and building materials are scarce, these houses are often sunk deep down into the ground, and so buried in earth on the roof and sides as to make them look like mounds.

The god and goddess for whom this first Holy Hohrahn  was built were Everlasting and Peaceful, whose names are spoken last in nearly all the great ceremonial songs. They are considered by some to be the greatest of the gods, speaking a spiritual language of their own, and dwell in the west with Estsan’ Ad’le-hi, the Woman-Who-Changes.

The Holy Hohrahn was built for the Good Luck or Hozonji Songs, which were sung over them for the first time. There are 373 of these songs, all of which were sung in one night, but now perhaps four are taken from each group and the singing always ends with the dawn. In order to bring good luck to the house, the feathers of bluebirds and yellow warblers are put in the fork of the three poles, for that was the wish of the Talking God when the first Holy Hohrahn was built.
4. Two-LEGGED HOHRAHN (Bee-jahd’ nah-kith’ Hohrahn’)

This is a Summer House, or lean-to, built of two forked posts with a pole along the top and sticks leaned against it from the west in order to have the front face east. Other sticks are often leaned against the sides, making a partly closed shelter, and such houses are commonly built in the fields. The Horned Toad built the first Two-Legged Hohrahn to sit in while he watched his corn.
5. LOGS-STACKED-UP HOUSE (Tzin-yah’dee klin’ Hohrahn’)

This is a new departure in the art of house-building and the first one was built somewhat over a hundred years ago by Ah-thit’ee-kish’nih — Draws-an-Arrow-All-the-Time. As his name indicates he was a warrior and kept his arms strong by drawing the bow. He lived among the rocks on the east side of Navajo Mountain, in the extreme northwest corner of the Reservation, where he was surrounded by implacable enemies.

It was to protect himself from them that he constructed this new type of house, with the logs piled up level with the ground. At that time the Navajos had no iron axes, except a few which they had got from the Mexicans. They just broke the limbs off of fallen logs and piled the logs across each other in a circle, which was drawn in to make the roof. Then they put smaller sticks in the spaces between the logs and chinked the cracks with cedar bark and mud.

Cedar bark was also laid over the cob-house roof, after which they carried up damp earth in a blanket and pounded the surface down hard. There was a smoke-hole in the middle and the door faced the east. It was built for warmth as well as protection and had a door-blanket made of strips of stiff yucca-stalks, woven closely in and out. In the daytime the door-blanket hung free, but at night they tied the four corners to the frame so that their enemies could not push in or jerk it open. In those days they always kept a lookout on some hilltop, and at sight of enemies coming they would all run and hide in the rocks.

Shortly after Draws-an-Arrow had built his new fort, which had loopholes along the walls, two Navajos came over to look at it and they said:

‘We will make one like that.’

This, according to Long Mustache of Klag-e-toh, is the origin of the modern hohrahn. Many others came to see it and they built more just like it. This is the kind of hohrahn that the five crippled warriors occupied, in the story of the Cub Mountain Chant, to defend themselves against the Utes. A man came clear over from the San Juan country to see what the fort was like, and, since the Navajos were at war with all their neighbors, the Logs-Stacked-up Houses filled a long-felt want.

About forty years ago, when the Navajos got sharp axes and good saws, they began to make bigger houses, and especially for their Yeibitchai Ceremonies. Before this time the big Medicine-Hohrahns had been built with four posts for supports, a flat, square roof, and leaning-pole walls, all com pletely covered with earth. But these posts were in the way for the sand-paintings and dances and a new form of house was devised. In this, six to twelve big posts were set in a circle, with poles leaned against the connecting supports for a wall and a cob-house roof ascending to a high smoke-hole in the center. These Medicine-Hohrahns are often built fifty feet in diameter to make room for the great Yeibitchai sandpaintings, in one of which fifty-six dancing figures are represented.

But expert builders can make a Logs-Stacked-up House almost as large, and in appearance it is much more symmetrical. It is a curious fact that, though invented only a hundred years ago, this cob-house type hohrahn has exactly the same structure as the roofs of the temples in northern China. Looked at from the inside it seems nothing more than an inverted cone, made of logs laid one on the other; but though several white men have tried they have not been able to build one that would stand. These failures have demonstrated that if one timber is laid wrong, the whole structure will weaken and crawl.

The final development of the Logs-Laid-Down House is a six-sided structure, made of closely fitted and joined logs with a cob-house roof covered with earth. This form is often used for the big Medicine-Hohrahns, as it gives a firm support for the roof, and the walls can be built straight up and quite high. Such houses are rapidly supplanting the older forms wherever timber is plentiful, but the roofs almost invariably leak.

Modern Navajo Hogan - Sheep Springs New Mexico

Modern Navajo Hogan – Sheep Springs New Mexico

To a white man the smoke-hole is a nuisance, allowing the rain to beat in with the shiftings of the winds until no part of the floor is dry. But with the passing of that smoke-hole the old-time religion will pass, for it is through it that the evil spirits are blown away by the medicine-man when he sings his ghost-chasing chant. That is why the older Indians still  cling to it, for they have no other religion. And the sad fate of some who have adopted the white man’s houses, keeping the doors and windows tightly closed, have convinced them that the old hohrahn is best. For there is no place for the coughs and colds to be blown out by the Hatali and tuberculosis often results.


Only the richer among the Navajos can afford to build a white man’s house. Some are made of stone by young stonemasons trained in the schools, and others of boards and timbers from the Government sawmills near Fort Defiance. But as the roads are always rough and the distances often great, the transportation of this lumber adds greatly to its cost. The doors and windows are now made at the Fort and sold on part payments to the Indians, but the prices of nails and hardware, and especially of modern plumbing, would bankrupt an ordinary Navajo. Even the model houses built at the Government schools cost two or three thousand dollars, so for many years to come the Indians are destined to live in some form of hohrahn.

Modern Navajo Home - Sheep Springs New Mexico

Modern Navajo Home – Sheep Springs New Mexico


When the new house is finished, the Hosteen or male head of the family rubs a handful of white corn meal on the principal supporting timbers, beginning with the south post of the door and circling the wall to the left. He then sprinkles a circle of meal around the inside of the house and repeats the following prayer:

May my house be blessed.
From my head to my feet,
Where I lie and all above me,
All around me, may it be holy.

Then a blanket is hung over the door, the Hosteen makes a poker of green wood, and his wife builds the first fire, which she feeds with a fragment of food in order to make it happy.  A feast which has been prepared outside is then served to all who have helped. This is similar to our old-fashioned housewarming and is called a salutation to the house.

But if sickness and misfortune visit the new home, some hatali whose Lucky Songs are known to be beneficent is engaged to bless the house. The more he is paid the better their luck will be, so his fee is often munificent. He sings only his best songs, which have not been used for long and so have grown in power, and after he has started their endless repetitions the men of the assembly carry them on. None of the gods are omitted, lest they take offense, and so they sing all night. Then as the dawn appears and the Yeibitchai assemble in the east, they bow to them and sing a solemn invocation to bring good luck to all.

Source: The Navajo Indians. Contributors: Dane Coolidge – author, Mary Roberts Coolidge – author.

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Navajo creation story – the Talking God

In the world below there was no sun and no moon, and therefore no light, yet vegetation in innumerable forms and the animal people thrived. Among the latter were Gray Wolf people, Mountain Lion,  Badger, Locust,  Pine Squirrel, and  Blue Fox,  Yellow Fox,  Owl,Crow, Buzzard,  four different varieties of the Hawk people, and many others.

Their world was small. At its eastern rim stood a large white mountain, and at the south a blue one. These formed the home of  First Man. A yellow mountain in the west and a black one in the north harbored  First Woman. Near the mountain in the east a large river had its source and flowed toward the south. Along its western bank the people lived in peace and plenty. There was game in abundance, much corn, and many edible fruits and nuts. All were happy. The younger women ground corn while the boys sang songs and played on flutes of the sunflower stalk. The men and the women had each eight chiefs, four living toward each cardinal point; the chiefs of the men lived in the east and south, those of the women in the west and north. The chiefs of the east took precedence over those of the south, as did those of the west over those of the north.

 Navaho Talking God

Navaho Talking God

This, the Talking God, is the chief character in Navaho mythology. In the rites in which personated deities minister to a suffering patient this character invariably leads, carrying a four-piece folding wand, balíl, and uttering a peculiar cry.

As yet there was neither sun nor moon to shed light, only dawn, circling the horizon in the four colors ”white in the east, blue in the south, yellow in the west, and black in the north. Deeming it necessary that they should have light to brighten the world, and warmth for the corn and the grass, on their return to the earth’s center one of the chiefs made a speech advocating the creation of a sun and a moon.

First Man and First Woman placed two sacred deerskin’s on the ground as before. On the buckskin a shell of abalone was placed, on the doeskin a bowl made of pearl. The shell contained a piece of clear quartz crystal, and the bowl a moss agate. The objects were dressed respectively in garments of white, blue, yellow, and black wind, and were carried to the end of the land in the east by First Man and First Woman. With their spirit power and  sent both the shell and the bowl far out over the ocean, giving life to the crystal and the agate as they did so, directing that the one who would be known as  the Sun, should journey homeward through the sky by day, shedding light and warmth as he passed; the other,  the Moon, must travel the same course by night. To each were given homes of turquoise in the east and west, and none but the Winds and the gods, and were to visit them.