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Navajo Indian Tribe


Navaho Indian Tribe


The Navaho Indian Tribe (called the Diné or Naabeehó in the Navaho language) speak a Southern Athabaskan language closely related to the Northern Athabaskan languages of British Colombia, and Eastern Alaska where they are thought to have originated. Anthropologists believe that in about 1400 that the Navaho Indians migrated south along the western border of the great plains and eventually arrived to their present home in the Four-Corners area of the Southwestern United States, primarily in Arizona and New Mexico.  The Navaho language is closely related to Apache and they are thought to have migrated south along with the Apaches.  However, despite speaking related languages, relations between the Navahos and various Indian Tribes of Apaches were hostile, an example being the Mescalero Apaches, who are renown as long time enemies of the Navajo Nation.  Despite many conflicts over the years, relations of the Navaho Indian Tribe with the US Government was relatively peaceful and allowed the Navahos to obtain control over 65 thousand square kilometers (some 16 million acres), by far the largest Indian reservation in the US.  Similar to the neighboring Hopi Indian Tribe, the Navahos have a matrilineal society in which they trace their ancestry via their mother's family line rather than their father's.  In this system, the women, rather than the men, are the owners of the house, land and livestock (generally sheep).  When a Navajo couple marries, the Navajo man would traditionally live with his new wife in her family's house and their clan, not being permitted to marry within his own clan. Daughters, rather than sons, traditionally receive any property inheritances. The Navajos are famous for their woven wool blankets (generally woven by male weavers) and adopted much of the material culture of the Pueblo Indian Tribe who traditionally weave cotton on upright looms. The Navajo blankets were a very fine weave and were traded with the Ute and Plains Indian Tribes.  During World War II, the Navaho People demonstrated their loyalty to the US by participating in the War in the Pacific against the Japanese Empire.  The famous Navajo Code Talkers of the U.S. Marines played a crucial role by using their Native American language as a code to rapidly transmit communications that the Japanese could not understand.  The photograph above illustrates a Navaho medicine man ("Nesjaja Hatalii") wearing a traditional Navajo silver "squash blossom" necklace.  Like many Indian Tribes, the Navajos believe that diseases are caused by violating taboos or exposure to various taboo animals such as the snake. Traditional Navajo medicine involves using plant remedies against animal spirits which are thought to cause the disease. One recent remarkable discovery about the Navaho People is that analysis of a marker gene on the Y-chromosome (Haplogroup C-M217) has revealed that they are related to people from central Asia and the Na-Dene speaking people such as the Athabaskans are thought to represent the second wave of immigrants from Asia via the Bearing Sea. Currently the Navaho Indian Tribe refers to themselves as the Diné or Naabeehó Indian Tribe, the majority of which speak their native tongue, and has a total population of around 300 thousand Native Americans, thereby being one the largest of any Indian Tribe in North America.


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