American Indian Stories - The Wanderings

Last Next


Native American Navaho

Go to: The Wanderings - Navaho Index

Now all that has been told before this time was about the people living in the country before the coming of the Dîné, the Navaho.

The White Bead Woman wished now to have her own people. She wished to have a people that she could call her grandchildren. They would carry on the lore that she would teach them. They would respect and hold holy the prayers and the chants that she would give them.

She took a white bead stone and she ground it to powder. She put this powder on her breasts and between her shoulders, over her chest and on her back; and when this powder became moist she rubbed it off her body and rolled it between her fingers and on the palm of her hand.

note: The following are given: Dîné, Dénés, Dinae e, meaning the People. There is Navajo and Navaho. The Early Spanish appellation was Los Apache de Navajoa.

From time to time a little ball dropped to the ground. She wrapped these little balls in black clouds. They arose as people. She placed these people on the shore of a big body of water.

These people lived there and they brought forth children. These children played along the shore where the waves broke on the sand. The waves rolled up all kinds of shells, big and little ones. The children played with these shells.

Then the White Bead Woman asked the Twelve Holy Beings to lead her children far away from the Great Water. She said that the shells should be planted for corn and for different kinds of food plants. So the people made ready and they moved far inland from the sea.

These people had four chiefs, they were the head men. The names of the four chiefs were: Ba'nee, Ba'nee kosa, Guish to' and Ba'no'tilthne'.

In the mud of the mountain called Dzil chal'yelth, Night Mountain, a cub bear was found. This cub was brought to the people. Then on another mountain called Dzil yel soie, Yellow Mountain, a young mountain lion was found. These two animals were given to the people. This was all in the White Bead Woman's plan, and the animals were raised by her power.

Then one of the Twelve Holy Beings came and told the four chiefs that they were wanted at the home of the White Bead Woman. They started out. When the five got to the shore of the Great Water, over the sea there appeared a white house with a wide flat land of white bead in all directions. When it settled down and floated to the shore they stepped on it and were taken way out to sea.

They entered the white house and saw a very old woman sitting inside. Now she got up and she went into the east room, and she carried a white bead walking stick in her hand. When she returned she was only a little past middle age. She then went into the south room, and she carried a turquoise walking stick in her hand. She came out a young woman, without a walking stick. She went into the west room and returned a beautiful maiden. She went into the north room, and returned a girl. So she is called the Changeable Woman as well as the White Bead Woman and the White Bead Girl.

Then the White Bead Girl sat down and said:

My grandchildren, I did not create you to live near me. You are now ready to go to a place called Dine'beke'ya, the Land of the People. You will go with two of my children, two of the Twelve Holy Beings. You will go to the mountain called Neilth sat'dzil; then to the mountain called Nit tlez'dzile; and to the mountain called Ka'ta'dine dzile. To these mountains you must go. I made you so that you can live there. I will give you the seeds of different plants for your food, and I will give you pretty flowers to seed over the whole country. I will give you rain. Then should another people come crowding into your country I will do what I think best. Whatever I do will be for your good.

note: The Pacific Ocean.

note: The animals were formed by the Holy Beings, they were also fed by them.

You must go now. When you reach your present home you must start out. In your travels you will cross the mountain called Yol gaeye dzile, and the mountain called Yodot ligie dzile, and over another mountain called De chili dzile, and over still another, Ba'chini dzile. From there you will go to a place called Tse'ha dole'kon, the place of solid rock. At this place the first chiefs were made. And as long as the footprints are there I will know that all is well with my people.

From there the Holy Beings will return to me. After this happens you must go to a place called Tse'bit e'tine. You must travel on the south side for there are people living there who are not peaceful. From there you must go to a place called Dzil ines gaeye. You must go to the north side there. From there you will see a mountain peak In the distance. It is called Na'ysis an', Navaho Mountain. You must go beyond that mountain to a place called Tqo da'enet tine. From there you must follow the range of mountains called Dzil le' gine; then to the north of the canyon called Tse Ji or Segi (Canyon de Chelly). Then you must go to a place called Tse'hel ne'; and to a place called Tsin tlo hogan. Follow the range of mountains to a place called Tse'ta je'je, and over the mountains to a place called Ha'ha'tsia. From there you will go on to a plain where there is a place called Tseast tso'sa'kade, Big Cotton Wood Tree.

The country is good there. You must plant your corn there. When the corn grows up and ears develop, the lowest ear above the ground will not grow to a full ear. Break those off and put them into a basket which contains water; and after you have placed them In the water raise one out and say: "May we have the Male Rain. May we have the Female Rain." These ears of corn you must boil and eat.

Then the White Bead Girl brought four bundles of strings and placed them before her. She took a string from each bundle and threaded four white beads on it; and she laid the string, with the four beads, from the first bundle on the first bundle, and in like manner, the others on the other bundles. She placed the white bead walking stick on the first bundle. On top of the second bundle she laid the turquoise walking stick. On the third bundle she placed the white shell walking stick. And on the fourth she placed the walking stick of ha'dan'y yei, male banded stone. Now the first bundle went to the first chief, and the second, third, and fourth to the respective chiefs as they were named.

Each chief was to take his bundle, beads, and walking stick. The walking stick was to be used in the country where there was no water. When the people got thirsty the first chief was to put the white bead walking stick into the ground and give it one turn, and the water would come forth. The second time the second chief was to put the turquoise walking stick into the ground and give it two turns, as the sun travels. The third time the white shell walking stick was to be used; and the third chief should turn it three times for water. The fourth walking stick was to be turned four times; and after that they had to repeat the whole thing beginning with the first and so on.

note: These mountains are far to the Northwest.

note: The ceremonial names of the four sacred mountains of the Dîné: East, Yolga'dzil, Pelado Peak; South, Yo dotl'izh'i dzil, Mount Taylor; West Dichi'li dzil, San Francisco Peak; North, Bash'zhini dzil, San Juan Mountains.

Then the White Bead Plain with the house floated near the shore and the four chiefs and the two Holy Beings landed. They traveled to their home and joined the people. They all crossed over the first four far mountains named. By that time the load that they were carrying got very heavy. They opened the bundles of strings and they found strings of beautiful beads. They had a great many strings of beads.

When they got to the rock where they saw the footprints, made carefully by the first two chiefs so that they would remain forever, the two Holy Beings left and returned to the White Bead Woman.

The people moved to the next place which was called Tse bit e'tine. They camped there, and in the afternoon they sent two men out to see what they could find. The men returned and said that there were people living not far away. They said that they had cornfields and that the corn was ripe to eat.

They remained at this place until they got acquainted with the people. These people were known as the Ga dine, the Arrow People. After a time some of the young men went to the maidens of this other tribe. They gave them beads and they took them for their wives. They also gave some of their maidens to the young men of the Arrow People, and the maidens were given different cornfields.

One day when the corn was ripe the chiefs went to the sweat house to take a sweat bath. While they were inside, Chief Ba'nee' said: "We were not made to live here. We are going to the country which will be our country. In two days from now we must move on. We have made friends and we have exchanged maidens. Those who wish to go with us will go. Those who wish to remain will remain." Then the other chiefs went out and Ba'nee' knew that they were dressing. So they all dressed and went home.

That night Ba'nee' spoke to the people and told them that he planned that they should go on to the land which had been given them. He said that those who wished to go on should do so; and those who wished to stay in this place should remain. The next morning the second chief, Ba'nee'kosa, made a speech about their leaving. So when the 2 days had passed they started out.

They made camp the first night, and after another day's travel they made a second camp. They made their second camp just about twilight. Now the bear, who was with them, pulled up two little spruce trees and crossed them; and they noticed that he sat on them. Then Ba'nee' said: "Now we shall see what my pet will do and what he knows."

The bear chanted:

Terrifying is my home.
I am the Brown Bear.
Terrifying is my home.
Lightning flashes from my home.
Terrifying is my home.
Like the Most High Power Whose Ways Are Terrifying
My home is terrifying.

There are 10 sections to this chant. And the people heard it sung by the bear. Then Ba'nee' received the chant and it was his.

The next morning, just at dawn, they heard the bear chant two more chants. And these chants went to Ba'nee' and were also his. And Ba'nee' said: "I wonder what my pet knows? There must be something wrong. Now we shall see what my pet knows."

The bear ran around in a circle four times, then to the East he went. Now the other tribe had followed them, but they did not know it. The Arrow People intended to follow them, kill them, and take their beads and their women. During the night they had circled around them. They planned to attack the first thing in the morning; but the Arrow People retreated because of the bear's chanting. They called from a distance: "We have followed you because we have loved you, and we wish to have a talk with you once more." Then Ba'nee' said: "We will not listen to you. You had murder in your hearts when you circled our camp in the night. If you had had peace in your hearts you would have come up in the day time. Now go away while you have a right mind."

Then some said: "We are going back." But by this time some others wished to go on with the Dîné. However, Ba'nee' told the Arrow People that those who wished to go on should join the people in the daytime not the night.

Then the Dîné, with the bear, moved on.

They came to a country where there was no water. Ba'nee' used the first walking stick and the water came forth and the people drank. Because of this the descendants of this First Chief who used the first walking stick were called Tqo a'ha'ne', Near Water Clan.

Then they moved on, and the next time they grew thirsty the Second Chief used the turquoise walking stick. When the water came out of the ground it was bitter to the taste, so the people who used the turquoise walking stick were known as the Tqo tachee'nee, the Bitter Water Clan.

On the third night of travel the Chief who used the white shell walking stick found water that was salty to the taste. His people were then called Tqo te' gonge', the Salt Water Clan.

The fourth Chief used the banded male rock walking stick. He found that mud came first, and then came clear, sweet water. His people were called Has'klish nee, the Mud Clan.

They were now in a country where there was no water and both plant food and game were scarce. After a time they grew hungry. Early one afternoon, after they had made camp, they saw the mountain lion asleep on a pile of goods. Ba'nee' said: "My pet, what is wrong with you now? is that all you can do, just sleep? Now wake up and see what you are good for." The mountain lion got up, stretched, and disappeared out of sight. When he returned there was a little blood on his mouth. They went at once to see what he had killed, and they saw that he had killed an antelope and that he had eaten only the heart. They brought the antelope to the camp and the people ate it.

The second day the mountain lion killed two antelope; the third day he killed three, and the fourth day, four antelope. At the end of the fourth day they were carrying extra meat. Then the people knew that the bear had been given to them to warn them of their enemies, and the mountain lion had been given to them to get their meat.

About this time the Dîné reached the place called Dzil ines gaeye, the Mountain with White Bands. Here another group of people joined them. The men of this people wore two feathers on their heads and it made them appear as though they had horns. They came from the South. They were the same people who had first come from the White Bead Woman.

The chief of this party carried a basket full of pollen for the Big Snake. The Big Snake killed their meat. When the parties joined they said: "Our pets are equal. So we will be one people and go on together." From these people sprang the clan called Kin ye'a ane, Standing House.

This made five clans.

Then they arrived at a place called Tqo da'enet tine. There was a mesa there, and from this mesa flowed springs. Now, when they got there they found another party of people following them. These were some of the Arrow People who wished to join the Dîné. This they did, and they were called the Ga dine, Arrow Clan. This made six clans.

They had, by this time, passed Navaho Mountain. There were tall, standing rocks near, and around these rocks and through this country were many mountain sheep. So they lived there for some time. They killed the sheep for food, and they used both the wool and the hides.

One spring they decided to move on. They wanted to name this place. "What shall we call it?" they said. Then they named it Ag'thlan, Much Wool, because they had gathered much wool from the mountain sheep. Then they followed the foothills of the Black Mountains, and the bear found tlochin, wild onion, for them. They ate the wild onions. They also gathered a low plant with little white and red flowers and flat leaves called chas tigee. They dug up the roots and ate them. And they ate the roots of another plant called il so'nee, Mariposa lily.

Then they went to the mouth of the Tse'ji or Segi Canyon and crossed the Tse'hel ne' to Tsin tlo hogan. They made camp in the daytime because one young woman, who was a little lame, got tired, but some of the party pushed on. Now a light-skinned young man came to the camp and slept with the lame girl. The next morning when the party was about to start out they delayed because the young man had taken to himself a wife.

This young man was from Tse ne'e jin, which is just over the Lukaichukai. The girl was from the clan Has klish nee, but her descendants are known as the clan Tqo tso nee and they are related to the Mud Clan. The young man was from the clan called Ta chee', and he took his young wife back to a place called Tqo tso, also near the Lukaichukai.

Then they traveled to a place where there is a gap between two rocks. They put down a walking stick on one side of the gap and a spring came up; and on the other side as well, a spring appeared. They called the place Al nash'ee tqo (Al nash ha'tline) meaning Opposite Springs. Then they went to Bear Spring, Shash'bitqo, which was later the site of Fort Wingate.

Now this country was not like the country they were told to go to so they crossed over the mountain. Then they moved back to where Tqoha chi is now. The place was called Ba'has tla. They found good ground there and they planted their corn near a grove of big cottonwoods.

Men they were living there there were some people among them who quarreled. And over at the foot of Red Mountain, at a place called Dzil lechee, there was a village, and the people there were very strong. The village was so well fortified that the people who marched against it were killed. So the people who made war against this village said: "These people who have just come from their Grandmother have for their pet a bear. Now our only chance is to borrow this pet. Some of us will go over to see what they will say." Then some of them went over to the Dîné and asked for the loan of the bear. They told the Dîné how each time they had been defeated when they marched against this village. Their enemies were very strong.

note: tlochini, wild onion, strong smelling grass, Allum palmeri.

note: Chas tigee, edible roots, a low-growing plant with flat leaves and whitish and reddish flowers.

note: alt sini, mariposa lily (Calochortus loteus).

note: Na'nzhosh, the site of Gallup, N. Mex.

After the Dîné had listened to the chief, Ba'nee' spoke: "My pet," he said to the bear, "these men have come for our help. They wish to make war against the village near Red Mountain. What do you think about it?" The bear got up, stretched, and let his tongue out. It stretched and circled up. He made ugly faces and the hair above his spine stood straight up. Then Ba'nee' said: "I see, my pet, that you agree that we should help these people, and that we should march against this village. We will set out 3 days from now."

They camped near this village. The bear pulled up two little spruce trees, crossed them, and sat on them. Then he chanted. And the first chant he used was this:

Ponder well what you think of me.
I am he who killed the monsters.

There are 6 sections of this chant, and 10 sections of the following:

Ponder well what you say of me.
Etc. . . .

They were told that the enemy had strongly fortified houses and that their spies were out at all times. So the bear chanted and told how he wished it would be when he went against the enemy. He was not to be seen. He was the mirage. He was the heat waves over the desert. He sang about 20 sections of the chant here. In the last two verses the Bear named only himself. He said that he would take the scalps, that he would carry the scalps.

Then the Bear went forth and there settled a great cloud on the earth. The enemy could not see the Dîné and the others. The bear ran four times around the village, and he killed many enemies.

Long ago when the Big Hail fell there were only three villages saved, and this village was one of them. And now the bear destroyed it.

The sign or symbol of the knife is called A'cha whee tso. The people crossed, as shown in the figure below.

They had sung 75 chants by the time they returned. When they neared their home the bear made a mark.

This was the bear's mark, and they stepped over it. The bear was behind them.

note: These were the Bear Chants. The Informant knew them. These chants are used today in the Navaho country In cases of "coughs" or similar illness. They are used against anything that bothers the people, whether enemies or disease. And it is told that every time the Bear chanted he gave the chant to the chief, and it became his.

Where the people crossed the running water, the level land, and the mountains.


The Bear's Mark

When the Dîné returned from fighting the enemy the bear seemed never to have finished fighting. Whenever he saw an object in the distance he went after it, determined to kill. Chief Ba'nee' said: "My pet, you can never be peaceful again I see. You came from the mountain called Night Mountain, now you must go to the East to a mountain called Black Mountain. You will join your people there." He spread out a buckskin, the hide of a deer not killed by a weapon. It is called do'gi gi. Then he spoke to the bear. "My pet, now sit on this." The bear sat on the buckskin. Ba'nee' tied five white beads in each of six different strings. He tied five beads around the bear's four legs, and then he tied five beads on a string across the chest one way, and the same the other way. Then Ba'nee' took a turquoise, and giving it to the bear told him to put it in his mouth. The bear put the turquoise in his mouth and then laid it on the buckskin. This is called shash biza nas'tan. Then Ba'nee' gave the bear a white bead and told him to put it in his mouth. The bear put the bead in his mouth, and taking it out, placed it with the turquoise. Then he sprinkled corn pollen all over the bear, and Ba'nee' told him to shake the pollen off. The bear did this. The medicine from the bear, or other animals, is gotten in this way. Now men were to use this medicine against all sorts of diseases. It was to be for their protection.

Here is the chant:

De yana he'a now it starts out
De yana he'a,
De yana he'a.
A Big Black Bear starts out.
Now he starts out with the black pollen for his moccasins.
Now he starts out with the black pollen for his leggings.
Now he starts out with the black pollen for his garment.
Now he starts out with the black pollen for his headdress.
He starts out for the Black Mountain plains.
He starts out for the doorway of the two crossed spruce trees.
He starts out on the straight pollen trail.
He starts out for the top of the pollen foot prints.
He starts out for the top of the pollen seed prints.
He is like the Most High Power Whose Ways Are Beautiful.
With beauty before him,
With beauty behind him,
With beauty above him,
With beauty below him,
All around him is beautiful.
His spirit is all beautiful.

There are three sections of this chant: "Now he goes . . ."Now he is gone . . .". Only one knowing all the chants can possess a bear fetish, among the Navaho people.

Now after the first chant was sung the bear's hair lay down and was smooth. And after the chants were sung he went peacefully on his way.

The plan was also to send the mountain lion back. He had come from the Yellow Mountain, Dzil let'tsoie. He was returned to that place. He was sent back without a chant or a prayer, or without any dress or trimming because he had been peaceful.

Go to: The Wanderings - Navaho Index

American Indian Myths Stories
Last Next