The Blessing Way (1970)

The Blessing Way (1970)

Anasazi houses

Large ruins, generally located in defensible areas such as cliff faces or on mesa tops and that were ancestrally occupied by the Anasazi.

In contemporary scholarship, the Anasazi are also referred to as Ancient or Ancestral Pueblo peoples. This ancient Native American culture was concentrated in the Four Corners area of the Southwest, including the present day states of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Ancestral Puebloans are known for the range of structures they left behind, especially their cliff dwellings, inclulding those found in Many Ruins Canyon (Canyon de Chelly), Chaco Canyon, and Mesa Verde National Park. The term “pueblo” is both the name given to the culture and the name of their dwellings and was given to the culture by the Spanish, who recognized in these site buidling styles and a social organization of space similar to the "pueblos" or villages they had left behind on the Iberian Peninsula.

Bearer of the Sun

In Navajo mythology there is a difference between the sun in the sky and the Bearer of the Sun, also known as Tsohanoai in navajo. The Bearer of the Sun is the holy being who carries the sun across the sky every day. He is symbolically represented as a blue disk with mouth eyes, and, occassionally, horns. Sometimes, however, he is represented in sand paintings as a person. He has an acknowledged wife, Changing Woman (Estsanatlehi), but much like Zeus in Greek mythology, Bearer of the Sun has relations with many other women, and as a result has many illegitimate children. The illegitimate children are only acknowledged as his own when they have completed a difficult task. In one such instance, Changing Woman’s children, the Hero Twins, are challenged to complete a series of tasks when they confront Bearer of the Sun at his house.


An arroyo is a dry creek or stream bed with nearly vertical walls. Arroyos are ephemeral water ways, and so remain dry most of the time, but can fill and flow with water after a large amount of rainfall. Although they are often naturally created when riverbeds overflow and then dry out again, cutting into the rock outside the streambed, in many desert regions, arroyos are also constructed and used as a means of flood control and irrigation. Arroyos exist throughout the western United States, but are most common in the arid and semi-arid climates of the Southwestern U.S.

four directions

The number four is sacred to many Native Americans. There are four sacred directions, four sacred mountains, four sacred plants, and four times of day. It is believed that attempts to create new things are usually unsuccessful the first three times but are successful the fourth time. The Navajo believe that the four directions are alive and places where sacred things happen. Each direction has its own star or constellation, a color, and various associations.

East Direction is associated with the Great Divine or Big Star, positive thinking, and the development of concentration and the senses. South Direction is associated with the Pleiades or the Flint Brothers, planning, and with organization, communication, comprehension, and the planting of seeds. West Direction is associated with Cluster of Stars, Many Stars, and the Milky Way, life, and the clan system, kinship, social development, and life cycles. North Direction is associated with the Horned Star, spirituality, hope, strength, the natural order, sacred songs, prayers, ceremonies, and protection.


In some Native American traditions, the bear is considered the most powerful of all of the animals and is one of the most popular subjects of Native American artists. For the Navajo, historically there were two main species of bear that resided in Navajo territory: the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) and the black bear (Ursus americanus). While the grizzly bear has been hunted to extinction in the Southwest, the black bear still inhabits mountainous areas in the Southwest, including those within the Navajo Reservation. Also known as "Mountain People," bears have complex symbolic and spiritual meanings. Bears are believed to be spiritual guides and represent strength and self-knowledge. The Navajo also believe that bears have supernatural powers, including great healing powers. The bear is a symbol of deliberate action, introspection, soul searching, and insight. In addition, the bear is the guardian of the West.

Bears are also taboo in Navajo beliefs. Some acts revolving around bears can cause “bear sickness.” This is probably due to the bear’s rather human appearance, especially when they are standing on their hind legs. Causes of bear sickness include killing bears or eating their flesh, touching an object a bear has touched, crossing a bear’s path, or drinking from a bear’s watering hole. The chantway ceremony used to cure “bear sickness” is the Mountainway Chant (see Mountainway Chant). Finally, bears are also associated with witchcraft, as they are thought, similar to the wolf, to be an animal whose powers and characteristics shapechangers and skinwalkers prefer to take.

Alumni Chapel, University of New Mexico

This chapel, on the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was built in memory of alumni killed in action while supporting US military efforts. The names of the fallen are engraved on the south wall. Designed by John Gaw Meem, who also designed UNM's Zimmerman Library, it was built in 1962.

San Francisco Peaks, Arizona

The San Francisco Peaks are a volcanic mountain range located in just North of Flagstaff, Arizona. This mountain range was once a cluster of volcanoes, and it has the tallest peak in Arizona; Humphrey’s Peak is 12,633 feet. Navajos consider it the sacred mountain of the West, and it has three names Dook'o'oosłííd -"Never Thaws on Top", Ghá’niłts’įįlii- “Faultless Mountain”, and the sacred name "Diichiłi Dziil" - Abalone Shell Mountain. It marks the western boundary of the Navajo’s aboriginal homeland.

In Navajo Origin mythology, First Man adorned the mountain range with abalone shells, yellow clouds, male rain, and all animals. It is also said to have been the home of Talking God, White Corn Boy, and Yellow Corn Girl and then fastened them into the sky with sunbeams. Interestingly, the Navajo also consider the mountain male and the mountain's diverse vegetation made it a perfect place to gather herbs to make traditional medicines.

New York : HarperTorch, 2008.

New York : HarperCollins, 2009.

[New York : HarperCollins], 2009.


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