Natural Environment Reference

dung beetle

Dung beetles feed almost exclusively on manure and navigate using the stars of the Milky Way. Some dung beetles burrow or tunnel and some simply live in dung. The behavior is common to many families of beetles.

For the Navajo or Diné, beetles, along with ants, dragonflies, bats and frogs, came into being during the First World or Dark World.


A burrowing rodent with large cheek pouches for ferrying food. The pouches extend from the mouth deep into the shoulders. The gopher is a hoarder who stores food in a large network of underground tunnels. The gopher's diet consists of grubs, worms, roots and garden vegetables.

Gophers weigh about a half-pound and have brown fur matching the surrounding soil. Living two to three years, prominent predators of gophers include snakes and hawks.

water blessing

Water resources flowing in abundance such as rain, sleet, snow melt, and rushing rivers. As her husband readies for planting by sharpening his planting stick and gathering his prayer stick, the Zuni wife will sprinkle her husband and his corn seed pouch with a blessing of water, symbolic of rain, to guarantee an abundant harvest.

water strider

A mythic being who helped the Zunis in their search for the Middle Place, or what is now understood as Zuni Pueblo. Water striders are graceful-looking insects that, when they extend their long legs, can walk on water. Because the Zuni live in a high, arid desert environment, water and those beings associated with it, such as water striders and dragonflies, play roles having cultural and spiritual significance.


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.


An intrusive igneous rock that forms when magma slowly crystalizes beneath the earth’s surface instead of erupting through the earth's surface as a dynamic expression of volcanic activity. When magma cools underground, it forms large crystals, giving granite its speckled appearance. Granite is commonly found throughout the U.S. Southwest since there are many volcanic mountain ranges in this region.


Springs are areas on the landscape where groundwater is pushed by gravity or pressure to the surface through unconsolidated sediment or fractures in the bedrock. Springs often manifest as ponds or seeps of water on the surface.

scrub cedar

A colloquial reference to the juniper component of pinyon-juniper woodlands, which range from New Mexico, across the Colorado Plateau and the Great Basin, and into the higher elevations of the Mohave Desert in southeastern California. In this forest type, and in reference to the juniper species found within it, junipers tend to be relatively low to the ground and bushy due to the harsher conditions found in the arid high deserts of the western U.S..


The watery fluid that is transported through a plant’s structure through vascular tissue. This fluid can be a mixture of water, sugar, waste, food, salts, and other chemical compounds. There are different kinds of sap depending on where the fluid is stored and what the fluid is composed of. These saps include cell, xylem, and phloem.


Datura is a genus of flowering plants that is used as a narcotic in various cultural traditions throughout the Americas. Because of its hallucinatory properties, its effects are associated with divination or witchcraft. This genus is also often associated with the classic “witches weeds,” such as Deadly Nightshade and mandrake. It has a root that is poisonous, and so it used with caution.

In some Navajo curing ceremonials, the first time datura is taken for divination,or seeing into the future, it is supervised by a singer, or haatali. Divination is most often sought in order to restore people to their balanced state and only as a last resort after other means of restoring equilibrium have been attempted.


Subscribe to RSS - Natural Environment Reference