stick receiver

Encyclopedia Article


According to some versions of Navajo traditional healing ceremonies, stick receivers are roles performed by a member of another clan during the Enemyway ceremonial. The Enemyway is a ceremony performed to cure people from illness caused by coming into contact with an "enemy," typically someone or an experience outside the Navajo culture and traditional lifeways. The enemy individual could be a member of another tribe, or in more contemporary times, an Angloeuropean. The enemy experience could be going away to fight war, such as World War Two, or to boarding school or university off the reservation. Before the ceremony begins, the patient’s family chooses a person, generally outside their own clan, to be the stick receiver. Often this person is chosen to create closer ties with another community.

On the first day of the Enemy Way, a ceremonial rattlestick is created at the patient’s home. At sunset, the stick is presented to the Stick Receiver. If he finds it properly made, the stick receiver accepts the stick, and portions of the Blessingway ceremonial are sung. Food is given to the patient’s group by the stick receiver’s group. After this, the patient’s camp is moved to near the stick receiver’s camp, and songs and dances held all night. During these dances, girls choose their dance partners from any male not related to them. The men have to pay for these dances, and it is for this reason that this ceremony has been erroneously and offensively referred to as a Squaw Dance by outsiders.

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