The Navajo are the second largest Native North American group. They currently live mostly in northwestern New Mexico, northeastern Arizona, and southeastern Utah. The Navajo language belongs to the Apachean branch of the Athapaskan family. Ancestors of the Navajo are thought to have migrated to the Southwest within the last one thousand years. Modern Navajo culture exhibits a unique blend of Athapaskan, Puebloan, Mexican, and Anglo-American influences. Every Navajo belongs to one of sixty-four matrilineal clans. Navajo mythology is epitomized in the curing ceremony called the Blessing Way.
Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.
North America --Southwest and Basin
Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.
As one of the largest Native American tribes, with a unique language, the Navajo are by far the most studied Native American culture in anthropology. In the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography, there are a total of 252 documents, 27,210 pages of text, published between 1873 and 2001. Because of the size of the file, there is only space to list references under general categories. Documents are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.
For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.
This cultural summary is based on the article "Navajo" by William Y. Adams, in Timothy O'Leary and David Levinson (Eds.) 1991. Encyclopedia Of World Cultures, Vol. 1, North America. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co. We thank Charlotte Frisbie for helping in the selection of documents. Ian Skoggard updated population figures based on the 1990 and 2000 U.S. census.
Advisory committee -- advisers to the tribal council -- category 647
Blessing Way ceremony -- categories 755, 796, 751
camp -- 2-10 separate households living in a geographically distinct residence area -- categories 596, 621
Bureau of Indian Affairs--657
chapters -- moderately large political units -- category 631
clan groups -- category 614 (sometimes with 615)
code talkers (during World War II) -- category 708
Community Effort for Economic Development (CEED) -- an organization designed to help promote small businesses at the local chapter level -- category 179
constitutional assembly -- category 646
cooperating groups -- see "outfit"
co-residential kin groups -- category 613
district grazing committees -- categories 647, 233, 634 (sometimes 654 applicable)
DINEBEIINA NAHILNA BE AGADITAH (D.N.A.) -- a legal aid service designed to provide free legal advice to the Navajo -- category 693
field matrons -- similar in function to visiting nurses (non-Navajo)-- categories 657, 748
grattage -- a special surgical procedure used by government doctors in the treatment of trachoma in which the granules inside the eyelids are scraped off with a special instrument -- categories 657, 744
hand tremblers -- categories 756, 791 (depending on context)
hand trembling divination -- category 787
HATLI -- chanter -- category 756
homestead group -- category 596
HWELDE -- a reference to the march of the Navajo to Fort Sumner following the Navajo wars -- category 727
Ideal Woman -- 885
Indian Health Service (His)-744
JISH - medicine pouch -- 778
KINAALDÁ -- a girl's first menses and accompanying ceremony -- category 881
land management districts -- 18 in all on the reservation -- categories 634/657
land use community -- see "outfit"
NAACHID -- a winter council -- category 623
NAT'ANI (NAAT'AANIIS) -- headman -- category 622 (sometimes with 624)
Native American Church--795
natural communities -- category 621
Navajo Nation's Historic Preservation Department (NNHPD) -- category 814
New Mexico Association of Indian Affairs (NMAIA) -- a private charitable organization involved in promoting Indian health care issues -- category 747
Office of Navajo Economic Opportunity (ONEO) -- an organization designed to help the Navajo in proposing economic programs and in administering federal money to operate the projects -- category 179
outfit (called cooperating groups by Malcolm Collier) -- social units more extended than residence groups which cooperate with one another in various economic activities -- categories 596, 613 (sometimes with 628 and 476)
POBRES -- peasants, commoners -- category 565
pollen - 243, 782, 824
residence groups -- one or more closely related households living in close proximity to one another -- category 596
RICO -- nobility; individuals of high status and wealth constituting a class-like structure in the society -- categories 565, 554, 556
singers -- curing and religious functionaries -- category 756 (sometimes combined with 796 and 755)
Squaw Dance -- categories 755, 535
star-gazers -- category 756
stock reduction -- category 233 (sometimes with 179)
tribal council (modern -- post 1923) -- category 643
YEI -- the Holy People -- category 776