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Friday, 01 March 2019

The People of the Four Sacred Mountains: The Navajo - Page 2

Written by Jim Chamberlain
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“The Frog Man indicates great drought while the snake symbol leads to water sources. White hand prints indicate where people are buried and mummified shadow hand prints show someone was cremated. The Kokopelli figure is the rain dancer.” This was how some of the numerous petroglyphs were described by Adam Teller of the Coyote Clan whose family has lived in Canyon del Muerto for generations. He is an adept storyteller who combines legend, history, clan lore and geological knowledge into a verbal description of his people and their connection to the land they call home.

He is one of the best guides to have if you visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Adam pointed out the drawings of Spanish conquistadors on the canyon wall at another site. These depict the invaders from Santé Fe who came in 1805 to conquer the canyon. One has a cross on the front of his serape probably depicting a Catholic padre.


Spanish Riders Panel

The Navajo have been artists for hundreds of years. Navajo rug weaving is recognized throughout the world, not only because of its quality, but also because of its unique designs. Navajo women believe the art of weaving was taught by Spider Woman, who constructed a loom according to directions given by the Holy People. She is believed to reside on the top of the 700-foot twin pinnacles of Spider Rock.

Spider Rock

Silversmithing was introduced by the Spanish around the middle of the 19th Century. Navajo silversmiths in the past obtained metal by melting down American silver dollars or Mexican pesos. Their exquisite jewelry of silver and turquoise can be seen at many roadside stands and trading posts all over the Dine’tah.



Pottery is another art form these adaptable people excel at. They learned the skills from their pueblo neighbors but soon developed their own style. Navajo pottery is not confined to traditional methods and styles, and the craft is experiencing new and creative designs. I watched Jackie Hunter paint a small clay vase using traditional symbols and colors. Many are like those I saw on the rock walls of Navajo sandstone. She was dressed in her traditional clothing while seated in her “Hogan”, a traditional Navajo dwelling, that she uses as a studio.


Jackie Hunter The Potter


The young are future of any people. The Dine’ pass on their customs, skills, clan lore and a great pride in their heritage to their children. The skills are taught by parents and grandparents to their offspring. This keeps the skills and traditional methods alive even in the age of machines, computers and the Internet. Many young people love to wear the clothing of their forebearers. One young man said that he liked wearing his “traditionals”. The Navajo are bonded to the land and respect and cherish the rocky homeland of stark beauty that they inhabit between the four sacred mountains that they call the Dine’tah.


Cliff Top Lessons


If you go:

I recommend Adam Teller at Antelope House Tours at

Photographers should contact Arizona Highways PhotosScapes. This not for profit group gives good value and excellent guides, like Leroy DeJolie, who will make the experience outstanding. Check them out at They often offer workshops several times a year to Navajo land.

©Jim Chamberlain


The Rug Weaver

A Rug Weaver



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Last modified on Tuesday, 09 April 2019

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