The Ghostway (1984)

The Ghostway (1984)


Sun-Father or Father Sun is one of the first five beings of Zuni origin stories living above a layer of fog, and created by A'wonawilona, or the living sky that symbolizes the essence of breath, life and the container of all. A'wonawilona's most interior thoughts and ideas eventually manifested externally, and he appeared as he had imagined himself in the form of the Sun. As he appeared, darkness brightened with his light, and he filled the emptiness with great clouds of mist that thickened together and fell as water on the emerging vastness that was taking shape as the Earth. In this way, A'wonawilona became the Sun and created 'father-sky,' 'mother-moon,' and all living creatures.

Revered and prayed to in ceremony, Father Sun created human beings when impregnating bits of foam who became his sons. The sons split the earth with lightening arrows and, finding life four levels down, the sons emerged with the people into daylight and founded the place of their permanent abode, the middle place, Ha'wi-k'uh.

In the Navajo origin story, Sun is the father to the Hero Twins, Born of Water and Monster Slayer; their mother is Changing Woman. The Hero Twins leave their mother to find their father, and eventually the Sun sends them on their way, offering his instruction and support for the task ahead of them: killing monsters. By eliminating the monsters, the Hero twins help move the People into the next world.

prayer meal

Prayer meal is usually cornmeal, which is used by various Native American peoples in the Southwestern parts of the U.S. as a sacred offering to the spirits in a wide range of traditional ceremonies. Cornmeal, carried in small baskets or pouches, can be used in sand painting, and also sprinkled over a site, a person, or an animal that needs blessing or healing. The offering of prayer meal is a common feature in many celebrations, ceremonials, and hunting rituals, but can also be utilized in personal daily spiritual practices.

Ute Reservation, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah

Today, there are actually three Ute tribal reservations, the result of European-American settlement and the Colorado Gold Rush that began in 1859. Traditionally, the Ute ranged throughout the Four Corners and the western portion of Colorado, greatly facilitated in mobility as they gained horses from early Spanish settlers and the Plains tribes. However, beginning in 1849 a series of treaties were signed which progressively limited the lands on which the Ute could live. The final reservation boundaries were created as of the 1890s, although litigation in the 20th century restored to the Ute some portions of their traditional lands.

The Northern Ute reservation is on the Utah-Colorado border and was settled by the Whiteriver, Uintah, and Uncompaghre bands. The Southern Ute reservation is in southern Colorado and was settled by the Muache and Capote Utes. The The Ute Mountain Ute reservation is on the Colorado-New Mexico border and was settled by the Weeminuche Ute.

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.

Acoma-Laguna School, New Mexico

A school located in the Grants-Cibola County School district and caters to students from middle school (7th grade) to high school (12th grade). As this school is on the edge of both the Acoma and Laguna reservations this school serves both communities.

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Acoma is both the name of a pueblo group who reside in western New Mexico and the name of the actual pueblo, also known as Sky City. Acoma Pueblo is situated on top of a high mesa top, and until a road was constructed in 1950’s from the valley floor to the top of the mesa, the only way to access the pueblo was by a steep foot path. The community of Acoma includes residential pueblo houses and ceremonial kivas. This pueblo is one of the oldest continually occupied settlements in North America.

Although the Pueblo culture is generally considered peaceful, Pueblo communities often found themselves the target of raids by their more mobile neighbors, including the Navajo, Apache, Comanche, and Ute. In addition, the Spanish first made contact with the pueblo around 1540, when Coronado was exploring the Southwest. However, it wasn’t until the second Spanish attempt to conquer this region in 1598 that tensions between Pueblo groups and the colonizers heightened. These tensions eventually led to a battle in the streets of Acoma against Vincente de Zaldivar, the nephew of the first governor of Nuevo Mexico, Don Juan de Onate. During the skirmish, Zaldivar fell to his death off the mesa. Three days later, Onateled a second attack and accomplished the massacre of between 800 to 1,000 Acoma. Onate then subjected the survivors to further penalties, including mutilation of males over the age of 25 and years of forced servitude for women and children. The historical trauma of this event is still very much alive today. In 1998, a group of Acoma cut off the heavy bronze foot of a statue dedicated to Onate in symbolic protest to the celebration of such atrocities.

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.


Talus is the sloping pile of loose rock fragments that accumulate along the edge of a steep cliff or other landform.


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