The Blessing Way (1970)

The Blessing Way (1970)

Roman nose

A term used culturally to refer to noses that have a prominent ridge and a hook at the end. Also, known as an aquiline nose, which is from the Latin word meaning “eagle-like.” The distinctive shape of the Roman nose has led it to be stereotyped in many ways. In Europe it was seen as a noble trait. In the New World, indigenous Americans were stereotyped as having strong profiles.

roof hole

A roof hole is a hole in the roof of traditional pueblo structures. These holes allowed air and light to come into the dwelling and smoke to exit the dwelling, but primarily they were used to gain access to interior spaces. Until the Pueblo were influenced by European building styles, their structures did not have ground floor doors. Instead, access to interior spaces was through roof holes, using light-weight ladders that were raised and lowered as needed.

In many ways, this design echoes the way that sacred kivas are entered, through the roof, whether the kiva is erected above ground or built underground. This descent into an interior space is evocative of the Pueblo emergence from the center place of the world, through the narrow passage called the sipapu through which the people climbed at the end of their many-staged journey to the present world.

rock sage

A species of sage, which is also known as Greaseleaf Salvia. It grows throughout the southwestern U.S. in rocky limestone hills. Rock sage can grow to a maximum height of five feet, and it has purple colored flowers.

callers of the Clouds

A picturesque yet literal reference to several Pueblo cultures, such as the Hopi and Zuni, who have many ceremonies surrounding rain and water. Although originally semi-nomadic, Puebloan culture altered over time into settled communities that cultivated fields of subsistence crops. Rain, therefore, held an especially important place in the traditions. Pueblo approaches to agriculture often include an idea of reciprocity in which the people feed spirits and pay reverence to the elements, and, in turn, they are given the rains necessary for growing staples such as corn, beans, and squash.

Tracking Bear

In some versions of the Navajo origin story, Tracking Bear is a monster that was killed by Monster Slayer, one of the great hero twins. When Tracking Bear died, his body became yucca, a plant of great importance to many American cultures as it provides fruit, soap, and cordage.

The story of Tracking Bear and Monster Slayer is told in the Enemyway legend, where Tracking Bear follows Monster Slayer to the base of “beautiful mountain,” the highest point in the Chuska range, also known as Dziłkʼi Hózhóonii in Navajo. Monster Slayer shoots the bear with a lightning bolt, thus killing the bear, and initiating Tracking Bear's transformation.

Black Dancers

A group of dancers who are covered in mud and perform in the Enemyway ceremonial. This portion of the ceremony is only performed at a request of the patient and is not a part of all Enemyway ceremonies. During this portion of the ceremony only those being treated are allowed to be in the presence of the dancers.

The Black Dancers represent the Hard Flint Boys (the constellation Pleiades) who were brought to an Enemyway ceremony by their grandmother Hard Flint Woman. During the ceremony, they brought cornmeal with them that had been taken from the first war with Taos. To this day, corn from Taos/Oraibi is used to signify the plunder taken from a defeated enemy.

The Enemyway is sung in order to protect Navajos from harmful ghosts of slain warriors, or in more contemporary parlance, to protect Navajos from the deleterious effects of non-Native influences. This ceremonial can be used for returning military personnel to rid them of the harmful effects of evil spirits, or chindi, of the slain, as well as the associated harmful effects of modernity both on and off the reservation.

Tail Singers

A portion of the Enemyway where the Tail Song group, composed of a selected group of men and women who have been affected by the Enemyway, who dance around the scalp. This dance is considered a battle against the enemy and so their limbs are held loose from their body in preparation for battle. This dance and the accompanying song are the final portion of the Enemyway, as they are sending the ghost of the enemy away.


A physiological state where the practitioner seems to be in a dream-like condition. Often linked to mysticism or ceremonies in which the practitioner is in another consciousness.

Among the Navajo healing traditions, diagnosticians enter trance-like states as they search for the cause of an illness or imbalance. In many cases, the trance is more akin to waiting for an answer to appear than it parsing through surface signs and symptoms. These trances can be induced by the ingestion of jimsonweed, also known as sacred datura, and other substances, although often the trance is induced mentally by the practitioner.

Consuming peyote also induces a trance-like state, where it is common for the practitioner to experience the sensation of going on a journey, something akin to a vision quest. Peyote rituals are part of the Native American Church, which blends indigenous spiritual traditions with elements of Christianity.

tribal jail

Tribal jails are correctional systems maintained by individual tribes and sovereign nations as part of their own Public Safety Departments or Departments of Corrections. As with non-tribal jails, tribal jails are locally-run short-term holding facilities, whereas prisons, at the state and federal levels, are detention centers for those serving longer sentences.

The Navajo system currently maintains several adult and juvenile correctional facilities. The correctional facilities in the Navajo Nation were established under the Navajo government in the 1990’s but there were federally-funded tribal jails built on the reservation in the 1960’s to the 1970’s. New facilities and associated services and infrastructure continue to be built around the reservation, adding to the original tribal jail in Window Rock. Navajo Nation jails can now be found in Tuba City, Crownpoint, and Kayenta, with plans for adding jails in Chinle and Ft. Defiance.

Diving Heron

The great blue heron is a large water bird native to North America. It can be found in saltwater as well as freshwater habitats, and is quite common in the Southwest, along riverbanks, marshes, and lakes.

There are many versions of how witchcraft was brought or originated on Earth in Navajo mythology. It is generally associated with either the trickster Coyote or First Man and First Woman, sometimes all three. In some versions, Big Fly tells First Man and First Woman to ask “Diving Heron” to descend into the underworld to retrieve witchcraft because he has a long beak.


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