Navajo Sacred Mountains
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---- Saturday - November 1, 2014 - 4:01:50 AM - Navajo Nation Time ----

The Navajos belief is that their Creator placed them on the land between the following 4 mountains representing the 4 cardinal directions:

The following inner mountains within the borders formed by the 4 sacred mountains are also held as sacred because of their importance in Navajo mythology:

  • Huerfano Mesa
    Dzil Na'oodilii - Holy People (Navajo Deities) Encircling Mountain
    Sacred Mountain of the Center
    60 miles southeast of Bloomfield, New Mexico. This is where Changing Woman received her puberty, gave birth to her warrior twins, and lived in the first hogan. It is considered to be the "lungs" of Navajo country.
  • Governador Knob (Ch'oolii)
    Sacred Mountain East of Center
    in Old Navajoland (Dinetah), near and southeast of the Navajo Dam. This is where Changing Woman was found. It is considered to be the "heart" of Navajo country.
  • Navajo Mountain
    Naatsis'n - Head of the Earth
    southeast Utah

These mountains represent the major parts of the traditional Navajo religious beliefs, helping them to live in harmony with both nature and their Creator.

In the Blessingway, we can see numerous references to such sacred places that are still identifiable today:

Blanca Peak, Now Gobernador Knob, gazing upon one another, appear.
Now Gobernador Knob, Blanca peak, regularly speaking to one another by means of rock
crystal rainbow, appear,
Long life appears, happiness appears, that one appears holaghi.
Mount Taylor, now Yucca Mountain, gazing upon one another, appear.
Now Yucca Mountain, Mount Taylor, regularly speaking to one another by means of rock
crystal rainbow, appear,
Long life appears, happiness appears, that one appears holaghi.
San Francisco Peak, Huerfano Mountain, gazing upon one another, appear.
Now Huerfano Mountain, now San Francisco Peak, regularly speaking to one another by
means of rock crystal rainbow, appear,
Long life appears, happiness appears, that one appears holaghi.
Below are the 4 directional sacred mountains and the 3 inner sacred mountains.


Mount Blanca, near the town of Alamosa, in southern Colorado. This is known to the Navajo as the Sacred Mountain of the East.


Mount Blanca, the tallest mountain in the Sangre de Cristos, in San Luis Valley, in southern Colorado, rises 14,317 feet at the center of a towering trio.


Mount Taylor, New Mexico. This is known to the Navajo as the Sacred Mountain of the South.


San Francisco Peak, Arizona. This is known to the Navajo as the Sacred Mountain of the West.


Another picture of San Francisco Peak.


Mount Hesperus, La Plata Mountains, Colorado. This is known to the Navajo as the Sacred Mountain of the North.


Dzil N'oodilii (Holy People (Navajo Deities) Encircling Mountain), in northwest New Mexico is about 50 miles west of Gobernador Knob. This is the location where Navajo mythology says that the first hogan was built, where the 2nd ceremony was performed on earth after Changing Woman had her first and second menstral periods of flow, where the hogan was consecrated with the Leaders' House Songs (12 of them with the help of Coyote), and where her warrior twins would leave to kill (cleanse the earth of) the Monsters. Dzil N'oodilii is located in a very sparsely populated and isolated location about 60 miles from the nearest towns of Bloomfield to the west and Cuba to the east. It also lies about 60 miles north of Chaco Canyon National Park and about 60 miles south-east of Mesa Verde National Park. This mesa is considered to be the lungs of Navajo country, and its shape is identified with the perpendicular sides and round roof of the 6 or 8 sided hogan. Dzil N'oodilii is also the location where mom Lillie Todychini, and her son, Harrison Lapahie Jr. were born.


After Changing Woman's initiation to womanhood was complete, the form of the Navajo girls' ceremony was established at Dzil N'oodilii for all time. Traditional Navajo families hold this same ceremonial celebration for a girl's 1st and 2nd menses today. The usual practice is to consecrate the hogan with the Leaders' hogan songs for the 1st, and Talking God's hogan songs for the 2nd. There is a story that Coyote, who had attended the puberty ceremony uninvited, objected to Talking God's plan to sing only 4 house songs. Coyote said, "Now there on the east side Talking God had set 12 white tail-feathers in a row, at the south side he set 12 turquoise tail-feathers, at the west side he had set 12 abalone shell tail-feather figures, at the north side he had set 12 jet tail-feathers figures in a row." Coyote pointed out that the inner forms of the 4 sacred mountains of the 4 cardinal directions also had the same number of tail feathers and said that these powerful deities already knew that there should likewise be 12 songs. So it was decided that there should be 12 songs in Talking God's set of house songs. Dzil N'oodilii is shown dark above because of the many clouds above it at the time the photograph was taken. The photo was taken about 20 miles from Dzil N'oodilii.


"Dzil N'oodilii" is also referred to as "El Huerfano" (Spanish) or Huerfano Mountain (English). On documents that ask for Harry's birthplace, he always says "El Huerfano", because "Dzil N'oodilii" is usually not acceptable or too many questions are raised, and "Huerfano Mountain" is too simple a name. This mountain is actually a Mesa, which means, a mountain that is flat or level on top, looking somewhat like a table. In Spanish, the English word for Mesa is "Table". Since the death of grandma (Julia Armstrong), Harry's mom (Lillie Lapahie), and four of Julia's surviving children have equal share of the land around "Dzil N'oodilii".


Julia Armstrong, mom of Lillie Todychini, and grandmother of Harrison Lapahie Jr., is releasing the sheeps and goats from her corral to graze at Dzil N'oodilii. Julia was born, raised, and lived most of her life at Dzil N'oodilii. Without electricity or running water, and living in a small hogan, "Grandma" raised most of the boys of Aunt May, her daughter, who lived less that 2 miles from her. Aunt May had something like 27 children of her own.


Gobernador Knob (Spruce Mountain) in northwest New Mexico is the birthplace of the Navajo Goddess, Changing Woman. She was found at the hump at the end of Spruce Hill, a steep little rise of ninety or a hundred feet. Her name comes from the cycle of changes in her age: young in the spring, mature in the late summer, old in winter, and young again the following spring. Gobernador Knob is a small and especially sacred mountain which is considered to be the heart of Navajo country.


A wider view of Gobernador Knob in northwestern New Mexico.


Navajo Mountain and Lake Powell. Lake Powell was formed by the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam. Lake Powell runs along the Arizona-Utah border.


Another picture of Navajo Mountain showing Monument Valley below.


Ferguson Canyon in the western foothills of Navajo Mountain, with cottonwood trees.

By Harrison Lapahie Jr.
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