The Blessing Way (1970)

The Blessing Way (1970)

brush shelter

A brush shelter is a temporary dwelling made of branches, grass, and other plant materials. It is used primarily for sleeping or storage and has ties to many Native American tribes. Brush shelters often have open sides, and the main frame of the shelter is made of branches.

In Navajo culture, brush shelters can also be referred to as summer hogans, which are constructed when families follow sheep as they are moved to higher, cooler pastures during the summer. Brush shelters have also been called ramadas, although ramadas may also be constructed as more permanent structures than the typical brush shelter.

Ute people and culture

The Ute are a Native American group living in southern Colorado, northern New Mexico, and eastern Utah, a state which is named after them. The name Ute means "land of the sun." They speak the Ute language, which belongs to the Numic branch of Uto-Aztecan language family, suggesting a connection between the Ute tribes and other indigenous groups found throughout what is now northern and central Mexico. The Ute were known to be expert horsemen and hunters; however, prior to European, specifically Spanish, contact, they primarily lived by collecting plants and other wild foods. The Ute have been considered traditional enemies of the Navajo, as well as other tribes in the U.S. Southwest, because of their practice of capturing women and children and then selling them to European settlers and other indigenous groups as slaves. Today, the Ute are found in three distinct groups on three separate reservations: the Uintah-Ouray Ute in Utah, the Ute Mountain Ute along the Colorado-New Mexico border, and the Southern Ute.


In many indigenous cultures throughout the Americas, cornmeal is used as a prayer offering. In Zuni culture, for example, the meal is sprinkled over corn planted at each of the four cardinal directions. Before leaving to plant, a husband and his water container will be sprinkled with meal to symbolize the blessings of rain.

Oxford, England: Isis Audio Books, 1992.

Newport Beach, California: Books On Tape, 1993.

hand trembler

In the Navajo tradition, before a singer, or medicine man (called a hataałii in Navajo), is requested to perform a healing ceremonial, a hand trembler, or ndilniihii, usually a woman, will diagnose the source of illness. Through prayer, concentration, and sprinkling of sacred pollen, her hand will tremble and pinpoint the source of an illness, which then determines the proper ceremonial cure.

A hand trembler is one of three different types of diagnosticians among the Navajo who may be consulted to diagnose the cause of an illness and recommend the proper ceremony to cure it. Star gazers and listeners are the other two types of diagnosticians. Any of these specialists may be consulted for advice about sickness, identifying witchcraft, dreams, lost items, or any unusual happenings.


Sheep are hoofed mammals, classified as ovis aries. They are usually domesticated and kept as livestock by various cultures throughout the world. Sheep are raised for their wool, which is used to weave textiles, and they are also kept on farms for their milk and meat.

Sheep are dearly cherished among the Navajo people of the American southwest. Sheep husbandry and herding has been an integral part of Navajo life for centuries, and according to Navajo belief, the reciprocal relationship between humans and their sheep symbolizes balance, unity, and living in harmony with the land. The Navajo-Churro sheep is of particular importance to the Navajo spiritually, agriculturally, and economically. The Churro’s wool is used to make intricately-designed blankets and rugs, and the sheep’s meet is a staple of the Navajo diet. This breed was on the brink of extinction after the American government conducted a livestock reduction as one of many colonization efforts to push the Navajo off their land and interrupt their way of life. The Navajo Sheep Project has since set out to breed and preserve the Navajo-Churro sheep so that man and animal can live in harmony once again.

Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, 1986.


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