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Food

The Navajo were primarily hunters and trappers. They hunted deer, pronghorn antelope, and rabbits. They raided the Pueblo and stole their crops. Later they became farmers and sheep raisers. The grew watermelons, corn, beans, and squash. They also gathered wild plants, seeds, roots, and berries.

Customs

The Navajo believed in many gods. The most powerful god was Sun Bearer and one of his wives, Changing Women. The land of the Navajo was marked off by four sacred mountains: white mountains, turquoise blue mountain, yellow mountain, and jet black mountain.

sandpainting3.jpg (8528 bytes) The sand painting was constructed on the floor of the hogan by sifting various powdered herbs, sand and other powdery material. The sick person was given a special herb to drink and told to sit in the center of the dry painting. The shaman touched the head of the figure then touched the patient’s had and chanted. This was repeated with each part of the body. The sand painting was removed before sundown and buried beneath trees that stood to the north, south, east, and west of the hogan. If the patient died his/her body was taken out a new door broken through the north side of the hogan and burned.

Tools/Weapons

Art

weaving.jpg (6475 bytes) Around 1600 the Navajo women began to spin and weave wool. The sheep belonged to the women and the horses belonged to the men. The women sheared the sheep. Navajo women learned from the Pueblo how to weave. The early rugs they made were usually striped straight across. Later the women learned to weave a stripe on a slant and to make a diamond shaped design. The first rugs the Navajo made were dyed with leaves, berries, and insects. The frame of the loom was made of four long poles and set up outdoors except in the winter. The rug or blanket was never wholly completed or perfect because the Navajos believed it would offend the spirits.

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THE BLANKET WEAVER - NAVAHO    - Photo by E. S. Curtis 1904

Silversmithing

The Navajo started silverwork in the late 1800’s. First they hammered Spanish and Mexican coins into silver buttons. The buttons were sewn onto their clothing and cut off when money was needed. After the Treaty of 1868 the Navajo people were given specialized tools for silver smiting. After this they began making jewelry with turquoise stones.

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