Cultural Reference


This ancient, mechanical device, found throughout the world in almost every culture, enables the user to produce various textiles by enabling the interweaving of threads that are held in tension. Immobile bars form a frame, and a tool called the shuttle raises the warp, or vertical-running, threads while pulling the filling strand, or weft thread, horizontally back and forth and over and under the warp. Although they were automated during the industrial revolution of the early 17th century, looms retain the original, operational characteristics of their ancient cultural predecessors.

stick receiver

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.


A pale and unhealthy demeanor, especially of the face. Writing of winter's pallor, Hillerman suggests that the atmosphere was gray and gloomy until the onset of spring.


This phrase could not be translated with any reliability.

Land of Everlasting Summer

According to the Zuni, the Corn Maidens dwell in a grand forest in the Land of Everlasting Summer. It is their breath that brings spring to the north, with its sweet smell, warm breezes and the rain clouds that nourish the blossoming corn. Each direction, including up and down, is symbolized by one of the Corn Maidens. The Land of Everlasting Summer to the south is represented by the third Corn Maiden sister, and red corn.


Growing on vines in warm regions, the melon originated in central Asia and is prized for its edible, fleshy fruit. The genus melon (Cucumis melo) is in the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). The seven cultivars of melons weigh anywhere from two to nine pounds and melons are ripe when they give off a sweet, musky scent. Spanish introduced the melon to North America in the 1600s and today, the pueblos of Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Santo Domingo and San Felipe all grow their own unique strains of melon.


In meteorology, thunder is the by-product of the movement of lightning through the atmosphere. As lightning snaps through the air, it instantaneously superheats the air around it, causing the air to expand in an explosive fashion, creating a shock wave that sounds like a giant clap.

In the Navajo tradition, Thunder can be a protective force and is considered to be one of the Holy People. In Navajo culture, the Holy People are immortal beings that can take the outer form of landscape elements, animals, plants, and celestial bodies. Conversely, Thunder can be personified as an evil and destructive force, which means that when dealing with such a powerful entity, one must be cautious.

Encircling Guardian

A component in most Navajo sandpaintings, the Encircling Guardian can be a creature, object, lightning, arrow, rainbow, or animal that encircles the edges of the painting and leaves an opening to the east. In the Navajo tradition, the east, the direction of the rising sun, is sacred. The Encircling Guardian protects the opening, through which the healing energies enter the ceremony.

sand painting

Also known as sandpaintings or dry paintings, sand paintings (or iikááh in Navajo) are created by a medicine man (or Hataałii in Navajo) for ceremonial purposes. Sand paintings are created by pouring colored sands, crushed dried plants, crushed stone, or other powdered pigments onto the ground. Sand paintings are generally symbolic representations of different stories in Navajo mythology and are created in conjunction with the performance of certain chants. Navajo sand paintings began as an integral part of religious and healing ceremonies rather than as art for art’s sake. However, many Navajo artists currently produce sand paintings for the commercial art market. Sand paintings created as art generally contain important errors so that it is not an exact replica of a sacred ceremonial sand painting.

Sun God

The sun retains a significant position in most cosmologies, often taking on anthropomorphic features. From Ra, Apollo, Buddha, and the Christ figure, to indigenous appreciations of the creative power and potential of the solar disc, the figure of the Sun God is assigned an importance and range of powers pertinent to the specific needs and value systems of each group. For example, Sun-Father is a Navajo Holy Person, husband of Changing Woman, while in the Kiowa tradition, Sun Boy is the originator of the sacred tribal items.

Often the term "Sun God" is used inappropriately, generally as a blanket term to signify dominant male figures in non Judeo-Christian religions, specifically those of Native American tribes.


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