Diné Bahane (Navajo Creation Story)

The Navajo creation story involves three underworlds where important events happened to shape the Fourth World where we now live.

The Navajo (pronounced Na'-va-ho) were given the name Nihokáá Diyin Diné ("Holy Earth People" or "Lords of the Earth") by their creators, the "Holy People" (Diné Diyinii). Navajos today simply call themselves "Diné" meaning "The People" or the "five-fingered". The Tewa Indians were the first to call them "Navahú", which means "the large area of cultivated land" because of their dominance over the Tewa domain. The Mexicans knew them as "Apaches Du Nabahú" (Apaches of the Cultivated Fields), where the word "Apache", meaning "Enemy", was picked up from the Zuni Indian language. The "Apaches Du Nabahú" were known as a special group somewhat distinct from the rest of the Apaches because of their beautiful and unique rugs, blankets, weaved belts, saddle girths, and jewelry. Fray (Spaniard Priest or Monk of the 17th Century) Alonso de Benavides changed the name to "Navaho" in a book written in 1630. The American word for the Diné officially used was "Navaho" from the early 1900s until 1969 when the Navajo Tribe officially changed their tribal name from "Navajo Tribe" to "Navajo Nation", and the word "Navaho" was discarded for the word "Navajo". The word Diné is now mostly used on the Navajo Nation, and the word "Navajo" almost exclusively used outside the Navajo Nation. The word "Navaho" is the older term used by older Americans.

According to the Diné, they emerged from three previous underworlds into this, the Fourth, or "Glittering World", through a magic reed. The first people from the other three worlds were not like the people of today. They were animals, insects or masked spirits as depicted in Navajo ceremonies. First Man (Altsé Hastiin), and First Woman (Altsé Asdzą́ą́), were two of the beings from the First or Black World. First Man was made in the East from the meeting of the White and Black Clouds. First Woman was made in the West from the joining of the Yellow and Blue Clouds. Spider Woman (Naashjéii Asdzą́ą́), who taught Navajo women how to weave, was also from the First World.

Once in the Glittering World, the first thing the people did was build a sweat house and sing the Blessing Song. Then they met in the first house ("hogan" in English, "hooghan" in Diné) made exactly as Talking God (Haashchééłti) had prescribed. In this hooghan, the people began to arrange their world, naming the four sacred mountains surrounding the land and designating the four sacred stones that would become the boundaries of their homeland. In actuality, these mountains do not contain the symbolic sacred stones. The San Francisco Peaks (Dookooosłííd) represents the Abalone and Coral stones. It is located just north of Flagstaff and is the Navajo’s religious western boundary. Mt. Blanca (Tsisnaajiní or Sisnaajiní) in Colorado represents the White Shell stone, and represents the Navajo’s religious eastern boundary. Mt. Taylor (Tsoodził) east of Grants, New Mexico, represents the Turquoise stone, and represents the Navajo’s religious southern boundary. Mt. Hesperus (Dibé Ntsaa or Dibé Nitsaa) in Colorado represents the Black Jet stone, and represents the Navajo’s religious northern boundary. Pictures of these sacred mountains can be found by going to http://www.lapahie.com/Sacred_Mts.cfm.

After setting the mountains down where they should go, the Navajo deities, or "Holy People", put the sun and the moon into the sky and were in the process of carefully placing the stars in an orderly way. But the Coyote, known as the trickster, grew impatient from the long deliberations being held, and seized the corner of the blanket where it lay and flung the remaining stars into the sky.

The Holy People continued to make the necessities of life, like clouds, trees and rain. Everything was as it should be when the evil monsters appeared and began to kill the new Earth People. But a miracle happened to save them by the birth of ever Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) at Gobernador Knob (Chóolį́), New Mexico.

Changing Woman grew up around El Huerfano Mesa (Dził Náoodiłii) in northern New Mexico. She married the Sun and bore two son, twins, and heroes to the Navajo people. They were known as "Monster Slayer" or "Killer of Monsters" (Naayéé Neizghání) and "Child-Born-of-Water" or "Born for Water" (Tóbájíshchíní). The twins traveled to their father the Sun (Jóhonaaéí) who gave them weapons of lighting bolts to fight the dreaded monsters. Every place the Hero Twins killed a monster it turned to stone. An example of this is the lave flows (Yéiitsoh Bidił Niníyęęzh, literally "where the giant's blood stopped flowing") at Anzac near Mt. Taylor in New Mexico, believed to be the blood from the death of Yéiitsoh (Giant), who sucked in people. All of the angular rock formations on the reservation, such as the immense Black Mesa (Dziłíjiin) are seen as the turned-to-stone bodies of the monsters.

With all of the monsters dead, Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) went to live in the western sea on an island made of rock crystal, for her husband, the Sun (Jóhonaaéí), to visit her every evening. Her home was made of the four sacred stones: Abalone, White Shell, Turquoise, and Black Jet. During the day Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) became lonely and decided to make her own people by the making of the four original clans. She made four clans from the flakes of her skin. Kiiyaaáanii (Towering House People) was the first clan. They were made of yellow and white corn. The other three original clans followed: Honágháahnii (One-Walks-Around Clan), Tódíchíínii (Bitter Water Clan), and Hashtłishnii (Mud Clan). When these newly formed clans heard that there were humans to the east who shared their heritage, they wanted to go meet them. Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) gave her permission for them to travel from the western sea to the San Francisco Peaks (Dookooosłííd). They then traveled through the Hopi mesas where they left porcupine, still commonly found there today. Then they traveled toward the Chuska Mountains (Chóshgai) and on to Mt. Taylor (Tsoodził). Finally, the people arrived at Dinétah, the Diné traditional homeland, and joined the other clans already living there.

As time passed, more clans traveled to the area round the San Juan River, bringing their important contributions to the tribe. Some were Paiutes who brought their beautiful baskets. Others were Pueblos who shared their farming and weaving skills. Still others were Utes and Apaches. Dinétah is located in northern New Mexico, in the general area of Navajo Dam to Gobernador Canyon, that drain the San Juan River, about 30 miles east of Farmington, New Mexico, and was occupied by Diné at the time of the advent of the Spaniards.

 

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