Encyclopedia Article


The Navajo term hatałii, also spelled yataalii, translates as into English as "singer." Singers are medicine men who perform traditional healing ceremonies and blessing rites intended to protect and cure the body, mind, and spirit. Singers use traditional, sacred practices such as chanting, praying, or herb medicine to call on the ill person, his kin, the singer himself, and divine beings to restore the individual's health in accordance with communal balance and universal harmony. Healing or blessing rituals vary according to the occasion, but singing is the main component in all of them, and there are hundreds of songs that comprise a variety of chants.

There are nearly 100 Navajo chants, originating in Navajo origin mythology, and varying in range and intricacy. They are so nuanced and complex that a singer learns only one or two complete chants over many years of apprenticeship. Healing ceremonies last anywhere from one to nine days and include songs, prayers, talks, dances, sweat baths, and sand paintings.

Photo Credit: 

"Julian Cantaz, Navajo haatalii, circa 1930," photograph by Dane Coolidge.

Published Works: 
Term Type: