In Navajo creation stories, the Holy People formed a place for the Diné (the Navajos), called Diné Bikéyah. They placed four mountains to mark the boundaries of the homeland as well as protect and guide the daily lives of the Navajos. In the east, Sisnaajiní (Mount Blanca) represents the beginning of life and the season of spring. In the south, Tso’dziil (Mount Taylor) represents adolescence and the season of summer. In the west, Dook’o’oosłííd (San Francisco Peaks) represents adulthood and the season of fall. In the north, Dibé Nitsaa (Mount Hesperus) represents the completion of the life circle and the season of winter.
It is said that when the world was created by the Holy People, they placed sacred mountains in each direction to designate boundaries. In the north, they placed Dibé Nitsa, Big Horn Sheep, and thus, sheep and goats became a part of our tradition and lifestyle. Traditional stories also teach that the Holy People, First Man and First Woman, were made from perfect ears of white and yellow corn, and thus nadaa (corn) also holds deep spiritual and cultural significance.
Luci Tapahonso Diné
Traditionally, Navajos hunted in the area bounded by their four sacred mountains. They planted corn, squash, and melons, and gathered roots and berries. The Spanish introduction of horses, sheep, and goats transformed the Diné into a pastoral people. Navajos maintained their autonomy under Spanish and Mexican occupation of their land. In 1846, the United States laid claim to the Territory of New Mexico, which included the Navajo homeland. The Diné resisted American settlement, particularly because American slave raiders targeted Navajo women and children. This led to cycles of peace and hostility between Navajos and settlers.
The Navajo people, the Diné of the mid-nineteenth century prior to 1863, were a people in charge of their own destiny. They were seen by a lot of people in the area as very wealthy and very influential. At this time, they had huge, substantial livestock and they had agriculture. They put a lot of status—and wealth came—from the blankets that the women wove that were used as wearing blankets.
Jennifer Denetdale Diné
Present Day Community
Between 1863 and 1868, the U.S. government attempted to eradicate Navajos. The U.S. government’s experiment at Bosque Redondo ultimately failed and these peoples were able to eventually return to their homelands. But the lasting impacts of the Long Walk continue to be experienced by the community today. We encourage you to visit the Navajo Nation to learn about the Navajo community and culture.