In the Navajo Tradition, there are many ways we identify ourselves. One was is the complex clan system. Take mine for example, Tábąąhá nishlį́ dóó Haltsoí bááshishchį́į́n. I am Water’s Edge People Born for the Meadow People. We can further expand on this adding our grandfather’s clan from both maternal and paternal sides. These tell our relations. It gets more complex than that, I won’t go into details. But some people have often wondered how the clans started.
It was the result of Changing Woman and the first people. After Changing Woman had moved to an island in the western ocean the sun had created for her, some of the first beings followed her. After the first beings became lonely, they moved back to their original home. At this point, Changing Woman thought that there should be more people and thus the first clans were born.
Changing Woman rubbed the skin from her breast, her back, and under her arms to create more human beings. The people from her breast were named Kiiyaa’ą́ąnii or Kinyaa’ą́ąnii (Towering House). The people from her back were called Honágháahnii (One Who Walks Around). The People from under her left arm were called Hashtł’ishnii (Mud people) and from her right were called Tódích’íí’nii (Bitter Water).
Each of these original clans were given a protective animal guardian. Kiiyaa’ą́ąnii was given Shash (Bear). Honágháahnii was given Náshdóí (Cougar). Tódích’íínii was given Tł’iish Tsoh (Bull Snake). Hashtł’ishnii was given Dahsání (Porcupine).
Blanca Peak in Colorado. Known in Navajo as Sisnaajiní or White Shell Mountain. It is the sacred mountain representing the East.
In every culture and religion there is a flood story. The Navajo is not exempt from this. Our great flood happened in the third world called “The Yellow World.”
What had happened was coyote, under the direction of ’Áltsé Asdzą́ą́ (first Woman), stole a baby from the water. This baby happened to belong to Tééhoołtsódii, the water monster. Coyote hid the baby under his arms.
Tééhoołtsódii learned of this and began to make it rain. ’Áltsé Hastiin (first Man) heard of the flood from the animals in the Yellow World and he told them to go to Sisnaajiní (Blanca Peak)́
Now ’Áltsé Hastiin went to all the sacred mountains to gather dirt and from each one, he planted tall growing plants to reach the sky. Out of the four plants he tried the last one, Lók’aa’ (Reed Plant) was the only one to reach the top.
As the people climbed to the top, they came out into the Fourth World also known as “The Glittering World.” Because the Turkey was the last one to climb up, his the very tip of his tail feathers are white. It was the only thing in the water.
When the people reached the top, they realized that coyote had Tééhoołtsódii’s baby under his arms. The water receded and returned to normal after an offering was made with the return of the baby.
The Creation story was always a favorite of mine growing up. I guess I will have to start in the beginning. This is a shortened version of the Creation Story, mostly because I can’t recall all the events that took place during it.
So here is the “Cliff Notes” version of the creation of the Diné.
Everything has a beginning, to the Navajo, the Diné, it was called the Black World. The first beings were not what we think people should look like, but they looked like insect beings or creatures, Wólázhiní Dine’é.
There was four corners and in those corners were four cloud columns. I can’t recall the names of these at the moment. The east was the dawn, the south was the sky, the west was the twilight, and the north was the darkness.
Now in the eastern direction, where the white and black clouds formed, came First Man, ’Áłtsé Hastiin. With him DooHonoot’ínii, the first corn, was made. He represented life and the dawn.
On the western direction, where the yellow and blue clouds formed, came First Woman, ’Áłtsé ’Asdzą́ą́. With her came the yellow corn, white shell, and Turquoise. She represented death and darkness.
First man and first woman met when they made a fire. First man made a fire of crystal and first woman made hers of turquoise. They saw each other’s fire and began to look for each other. With three tries unsuccessful. By the fourth time, they found each other.
The beings began to fight with one another, the insect beings knew the secret of bad medicine. They decided to move up into the blue blue world through an opening in the east, taking with them the evil that was in the black world.