Encyclopedia Article


This is the name the menstruation, puberty, or maturity ceremony that celebrates a Navajo girl's entrance into womanhood. There are different accounts of the processes, chronology, and rituals within the ceremony, but the aspects outlined below account for many of the variations found within the varying versions of the ceremony.

This ritual has been passed down through generations, originating with First Woman's daughter, Changing Woman, who had a kinaaldá so that the earth people could have children and be together in a way approved of by the Holy People. The first kinaaldá ceremony was performed at Emergence Place in First Woman's house. In the first kinaaldá Changing Woman ran in the direction of the sunrise four times, washed her hair in the suds of a yucca plant, was blessed and "molded" into a woman by her mother, and baked a large corn cake for the Sun. In some versions of the story, it is thought that White Shell Woman becomes Changing Woman during this ceremony.

In emulation of the coming to maturity of Changing Woman, shortly after her first menstruation, a young Navajo girl engages in a variety of tasks and traditional actions, many of which are performed alongside the women in her community. Some of these activities include washing of hair, being dressed and prepared by female family members, fasting, running long distances, offering and receiving blessings, and the making of a corn meal cake. On the final night, a hataalii (ceremonial healer) sings the twelve hogan songs with all in attendance participating in the sing until morning.

Photo Credit: 

"Young Navajo girl near Gallup, NM, circa 1941," photograph by John Candelaria (180433). Palace of the Governors Photo Archive, New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, NM.

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