The Navajo Four Sacred Colors

Color In Navajo Life And Beliefs

Color has many symbolic meanings in Navajo culture; in fact, a single color can mean several different things depending on the context in which it is used. Four colors in particular black, white, blue, and yellow have important connections to Navajo cultural and spiritual beliefs. These colors represent the four cardinal directions.

Color Navajo Symbolic Associations Chart copy

The Navajos define their homeland as the area between four sacred mountains in each direction, so each color represents a sacred mountain as well. Thus, among their myriad other meanings, the colors black, white, blue, and yellow link the Navajos to their ancestral homeland and the story of its creation.

The Navajos define their homeland as the area between four sacred mountains in each direction, so each color represents a sacred mountain as well.

Thus, among their myriad other meanings, the colors black, white, blue, and yellow link the Navajos to their ancestral homeland and the story of its creation.

  • Black, which associated with north, also symbolizes Dibé Ntsaa (Hesperus Peak), in what is now southwestern Colorado.
  • White, which represents east, is connected to Sisnaajini (Blanca Peak), in what is now south-central Colorado.
  • Blue, is connected with south and Tsoodzil (Mount Taylor), northeast of Grants, New Mexico.
  • Yellow,  is associated with west and Dook’o’oosliid (the San Francisco Peaks), near Flagstaff, Arizona

The Navajo Sacred Mountains Poster
















In the Emergence, the Navajo creation story, First Man took four stones.

  • jet, which represents black;
  • white shell, which symbolizes white;
  • turquoise, which is tied to blue; and
  • abalone, which represents yellow

—and placed them at the four directions.

He blew on the stones four times and they grew into a hogan. For the Navajos, the hogan is more than simply their traditional form of shelter; it has sacred meanings and still plays a vital role in Navajo spiritual and community life. In the story of the Emergence, First Man’s hogan became the world. First Man also created the four sacred mountains in this world.

These are just two examples of the four colors in the Navajo creation story; myriad other references to color appear throughout this and other Navajo traditions. Given their many connections to Navajo tradition, these four colors are an important part of the way culture and spirituality is passed from one generation to the next. One venue for the transmission of culture is art, and the four colors appear frequently in Navajo spiritual objects and works of art.

Navajo silversmiths, for example, can use the four precious stones and shells to connect their work to Navajo beliefs. Navajo sand paintings are both an art form and a means of a spiritual communication that makes use of the sacred colors to transmit information about culture. For example, in sand paintings depicting the Place of Whirling Logs, the white guard watches over the corn, the blue guard watches over the beans, the yellow guard watches over the squash, and the black guard watches over the tobacco.

Weaving is another important Navajo art form, and Navajo weavers choose colors based on both aesthetic appeal and cultural symbolism.

The Navajos use the four colors in ways too numerous to list, and their meanings are frequently subtle and complex. The colors’ symbolism connects the past, present, and the future of the Navajo people. It interweaves geography, spirituality, and art and encodes deep meanings into the material culture of the Navajo people. Using these colors and teaching their meanings to younger generations is one important way the Navajos are preserving their traditional culture.

San Francisco Peaks – Navajo Sacred Mountain

Humphrey Peak (Doko’o’osliid)

Part of the San Francisco Peaks

San Francisco Peaks - Navajo Sacred Mountain

Abalone Shell Mountain

Direction: West ( E’e’aah)
Color: Yellow (Litzo)
Protector: Wolf (Ma’íí Tsoh)

In the west, Doko’oosliid San Francisco Peaks was made on a abalone blanket, soil from Doko’oosliid and pieces of abalone brought from the Third World .

They dressed and decorated this mountain with abalone shell to create understanding of our social unity and life (Iina).

San Francisco peaks was anchored with sunbeams and the mountain was covered with a blanket of yellow cloud.

It also was decorated with black clouds and male rain.

Abalone shell boy made his home on the mountain of the West

These are the Holy People that were told to live in this mountain:
1. Yellow Evening Boy and Girl
2. Abalone Shell Boy and Girl
3. Yellow Corn Boy and Girl
4. All kinds of yellow birds
5. Mixture of water and plants
6. Yellow wind was made to give life to this mountain

The San Francisco Peaks, is where the sun sets.

When you watch the sun set behind the San Francisco Peaks from a certain location, the setting sun creates this bright hue into the sky making a certain kind of light reflect down to earth.

This reflected light is what gives the San Francisco Peaks its literally translated name,

The Mountain that Reflects. As the sun sets, you have carried out your plans.

From day to day, these carried out plans eventually equates to your life.

The western mountain, the San Francisco Peaks, represents life.

The Navajo Sacred Mountains Poster

The Navajo Sacred Mountains Poster

Available in three sizes:
23” x 35” – $10.00
18” x 24” – $6.00
11” x 14” – $2.00
Illustrates the Six Scared Mountains,
their characteristics, and contributions in
Navajo culture and history.

Online order at this Website:

San Juan School District
Heritage Language Resource Center
Phone: 435-678-1230

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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