Traditional Navajo women’s clothing often includes a pleated velvet or cotton skirt with a matching long-sleeve blouse, a shawl, foot or knee -high moccasins, jewelry and a concho or sash belt. Men’s traditional dress also includes jewelry, moccasins and velveteen shirts.
The Navajo did not wear Indian headdresses. Men would wear cloth headbands. Mostly, men and women would wear ponchos or cloaks made from deerskin or rabbit fur.
For the Navajos, four colors have special meaning: black, white, blue, and yellow. These colors can symbolize many different things, including spiritual beings and important places in Navajo cul- ture.
The Navajo traditionally farmed squash, corn and beans and hunted animals such as deer and prairie dogs. Corn is a staple Navajo food and is eaten fresh, ground or dried. Other popular corn – and wheat-based foods include frybread, hominy, blue bread, roast corn and wheat sprouts.
Navajo metalsmiths make buckles, bridles, buttons, rings, canteens, hollow beads, earrings, crescent-shaped pendants (called “najas”), bracelets, crosses, powder chargers, tobacco canteens, and disks, known as “conchas” or conchos” – typically used to decorate belts – made from copper, steel, iron, and most commonly,
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.
The interrelatedness of the universe is recognized by religious ceremonies and prayer offerings. Navajo people view the earth as a spiritual mother, with family comprising a network of Holy People and livestock as well as human relatives.
The word Indian came to be used because Christopher Columbus repeatedly expressed the mistaken belief that he had reached the shores of South Asia. Convinced he was correct, Columbus fostered the use of the term Indios (originally, “person from the Indus valley”) to refer to the peoples of the so- called New World.
The Navajo people call themselves Dine’, literally meaning “The People.” The Dine’ speak about their arrival on the earth as a part of their story on the creation.
The Diné believe there are two classes of beings: the Earth People and the Holy People. The Holy People are believed to have the power to aid or harm the Earth People. Since Earth People of the Diné are an integral part of the universe, they must do everything they can to maintain harmony or balance on Mother Earth.
The Navajo and the Apache are closely related tribes, descended from a single group that scholars believe migrated from Canada. Both Navajo and Apache languages belong to a language family called “Athabaskan,” which is also spoken by native peoples in Alaska and west-central Canada.
Pronounced “di-nay,” the term derives from the group’s traditional Athabaskan language and can mean both “people of the Earth” and “man.” The term Navajo has no clear meaning and was bestowed by the Spanish when they claimed control over the 17 million acres that is now Navajo land.
As the Navajo evolved under the influence of first the Pueblo Indians and then the Spanish, they came also to be shepherds and farmers. Mutton and goat became staple foods, as did corn, beans, squash, and some fruits from orchards.
Known to its speakers as Diné, Navajo is an Athabaskan language spoken by 150,000 people. Although Navajo is the most-spoken Native American language in the U.S., it is rarely spoken outside of the Navajo reservation.
Within the Navajo Nation, 35.8% of households have incomes below the federal poverty threshold. This is in comparison to 12.7% of all households nationally. The lack of basic infrastructure support for the Navajo Nation has left this community uniquely vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.