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Title: Navaho Houses, pages 469-518 - Seventeenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to - the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1895-1896, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1898
Author: Mindeleff, Cosmos, 1863-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Navaho Houses, pages 469-518 - Seventeenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to - the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1895-1896, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1898" ***

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[Transcriber’s Note:
This text uses a few characters that will only display correctly in
UTF-8 encoding:
  ă ĕ ĭ Ĭ (letter with breve or “short vowel“ sign)
  ŋ (“eng” symbol)
  ġ (g with superscript dot)
The capitalized form of ¢ would not display reliably, so the lower-case
¢ has been used throughout.]

       *       *       *       *       *


                     of the


                     to the




                 J. W. POWELL


          Government Printing Office


       *       *       *       *       *

                 NAVAHO HOUSES


                COSMOS MINDELEFF

       *       *       *       *       *

  Introduction                                           475
  Description of the country                             477
  Habits of the people                                   481
  Legendary and actual winter hogáns                     487
  Summer huts or shelters                                494
  Sweat houses                                           499
  Effect of modern conditions                            502
  Ceremonies of dedication                               504
  The hogán of the Yébĭtcai dance                        509
  Hogán nomenclature                                     514


  [Transcriber’s Note:
  The position of the full-page Plates is not shown in the text.]

  Plate LXXXII. The Navaho reservation                   475
       LXXXIII. A typical Navaho hogán                   483
        LXXXIV. A hogán in Canyon de Chelly              485
         LXXXV. A Navaho summer hut                      495
        LXXXVI. A “lean-to” summer shelter               497
       LXXXVII. Ĭnçá-qoġán, medicine hut                 501
      LXXXVIII. Modern house of a wealthy Navaho         505
        LXXXIX. A Yébĭtcai house                         511
            XC. Diagram plan of hogán,
                        with names of parts              514

  Figure   230. The three main timbers of a hogán        489
           231. Frame of a hogán, seen from below        491
           232. Frame of a doorway                       492
           233. Ground plan of a summer shelter          495
           234. Supporting post in a summer hut          496
           235. Ground plan of a summer hut              496
           236. Section of a summer hut                  497
           237. Masonry support for rafters              497
           238. A timber-built shelter                   498
           239. Shelter with partly closed front         499
           240. Low earth-covered shelter                500
           241. Ground plan of Yébĭtcai house            510
           242. Framework of Yébĭtcai house              512
           243. Diagram showing measurements
                        of Yébĭtcai house                513
           244. Interior of Yébĭtcai house,
                        illustrating nomenclature        516

  [Illustration: Plate LXXXII

  from the atlas sheets of the

       *       *       *       *       *

                 NAVAHO HOUSES

              By Cosmos Mindeleff

       *       *       *       *       *


The account of the houses or hogáns of the Navaho Indians which is
presented here will be of interest to the student of architecture,
it is believed, because data concerning such primitive types of house
structures are quite rare. It is also thought to be of interest to the
archeologist and ethnologist as well as to the general reader, for it
is well known that no one product of a people’s art exhibits so clearly
their mental attitude and their industrial status as the houses which
they build.

Much of the material here presented was obtained some ten years ago,
when the recent changes which have taken place in Navaho life had
only just begun. Although the same processes are now employed in house
construction as formerly, and although the same ceremonies are observed,
they are not so universally nor so strictly adhered to as they were. The
present tendency is such that in a comparatively short time the rules
for the construction of a hogán which have been handed down through
many generations and closely followed, and the elaborate ceremonies of
dedication which formerly were deemed essential to the well-being of the
occupants, will be so far modified as to be no longer recognizable, if,
indeed, they are not altogether abandoned. Such being the case, even a
bare record of the conditions which have prevailed for at least two
centuries must be of value.

As the architecture of a primitive people is influenced largely by the
character of the country in which they live, a brief description of the
Navaho reservation is deemed necessary. Similarly, the habits of life of
the people, what a naturalist would term their life history, which in
combination with the physical environment practically dictates their
arts, is worthy of notice, for without some knowledge of the conditions
under which a people live it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain
an adequate conception of their art products.

The winter hogáns are the real homes of the people, but as the form
and construction of these are dictated by certain rules and a long line
of precedents, supported by a conservatism which is characteristic of
savage life, the summer shelters, which are largely exempt from such
rules, are of considerable interest. Moreover, the effects of modern
conditions and the breaking down of the old ideas should have some place
in a discussion of this kind, if only for the hint afforded as to the
future of the tribe.

The elaborate ceremonies of dedication which in the old days always
followed the construction of a house, and are still practiced, exhibit
almost a new phase of Indian culture. The essentially religious
character of the Indian mind, and his desire to secure for himself and
for his family those benefits which he believes will follow from the
establishment of a perfect understanding with his deities--in other
words, from the rendering of proper homage to benignant deities and the
propitiation of the maleficent ones--are exhibited in these ceremonies.
The sketch of them which is here given, the songs which form a part of
the ceremony, and the native explanations of some of the features will,
it is believed, assist to a better understanding of Indian character.

Finally, the rather full nomenclature of parts and elements of the house
which forms the last section of this memoir will probably be of service
to those who find in language hints and suggestions, or perhaps direct
evidence, of the various steps taken by a people in the course of their
development. As the writer is not competent to discuss the data from
that point of view, it is presented here in this form for the benefit of
those who are. Some suggestions of the derivation of various terms are
given, but only as suggestions.

Much of the material which is comprised in this report was collected by
the late A. M. Stephen, who lived for many years among the Navaho. His
high standing and universal popularity among these Indians gave him
opportunities for the collection of data of this kind which have seldom
been afforded to others. Some of the notes and sketches of Mr Victor
Mindeleff, whose studies of Pueblo architecture are well known, have
been utilized in this report. The author is indebted to Dr Washington
Matthews, the well-known authority on the Navaho Indians, for revising
the spelling of native terms occurring throughout the text.

In the present paper two spellings of the Navaho word for hut are used.
The proper form is _qoġán_, but in and around the Navaho country it
has become an adopted English word under the corrupt form _hogán_. Thus
nearly all the whites in that region pronounce and spell it, and many
of the Indians, to be easily understood by whites, are pronouncing it
lately in the corrupted form. Therefore, wherever the term is employed
as an adopted English word, the form _hogán_ is given, but where it is
used as part of a Navaho phrase or compound word the strictly correct
form _qoġán_ is preserved.

An inverted comma (‘) following a vowel shows that the vowel is

An inverted comma following _l_ shows that the _l‘_ is aspirated in a
peculiar manner--more with the side than with the tip of the tongue.

ŋ represents the nasalized form of _n_.

ġ represents the Arabic _ghain_.

In other respects the alphabet of the Bureau is followed.


The Navaho reservation comprises an extensive area in the extreme
northeastern part of Arizona and the northwestern corner of New Mexico
(plate LXXXII). The total area is over 11,000 square miles, of which
about 650 square miles are in New Mexico; but it would be difficult to
find a region of equal size and with an equal population where so large
a proportion of the land is so nearly worthless. This condition has had
an important effect on the people and their arts, and especially on
their houses.

The region may be roughly characterized as a vast sandy plain, arid
in the extreme; or rather as two such plains, separated by a chain of
mountains running northwest and southeast. In the southern part of the
reservation this mountain range is known as the Choiskai mountains,
and here the top is flat and mesa-like in character, dotted with little
lakes and covered with giant pines, which in the summer give it a
park-like aspect. The general elevation of this plateau is a little less
than 9,000 feet above the sea and about 3,000 feet above the valleys or
plains east and west of it.

The continuation of the range to the northwest, separated from the
Choiskai only by a high pass, closed in winter by deep snow, is known as
the Tunicha mountains. The summit here is a sharp ridge with pronounced
slopes and is from 9,000 to 9,400 feet high. On the west there are
numerous small streams, which, rising near the summit, course down the
steep slopes and finally discharge through Canyon Chelly into the great
Chinlee valley, which is the western of the two valleys referred to
above. The eastern slope is more pronounced than the western, and its
streams are so small and insignificant that they are hardly worthy of

Still farther to the northwest, and not separated from the Tunicha
except by a drawing in or narrowing of the mountain mass, with no
depression of the summit, is another part of the same range, which bears
a separate name. It is known as the Lukachukai mountains. Here something
of the range character is lost, and the uplift becomes a confused mass,
a single great pile, with a maximum altitude of over 9,400 feet.

Northwest of this point the range breaks down into Chinlee valley, but
directly to the north is another uplift, called the Carriso mountains.
It is a single mass, separated from the range proper by a comparatively
low area of less than 7,000 feet altitude, while the Carriso itself is
over 9,400 feet above the sea.

The western and northwestern parts of the reservation might also
be classed as mountainous. Here there is a great mesa or elevated
table-land, cut and gashed by innumerable canyons and gorges, and with
a general elevation of 7,500 to 8,000 feet. Throughout nearly its whole
extent it is impassable to wagons.

The valleys to which reference has been made are the Chinlee on the west
and the Chaco on the east of the principal mountain range described.
Both run nearly due north, and the former has a fall of about 2,000 feet
from the divide, near the southern reservation line, to the northern
boundary, a distance of about 85 miles. Chaco valley heads farther south
and discharges into San Juan river within the reservation. It has less
fall than the Chinlee. Both valleys are shown on the maps as occupied by
rivers, but the rivers materialize only after heavy rains; at all other
times there is only a dry, sandy channel. Chaco “river,” which heads
in the continental divide, carries more water than the Chelly, which
occupies Chinlee valley, and is more often found to contain a little
water. The valleys have a general altitude of 5,000 to 6,000 feet above
the sea.

The base of the mountain range has an average breadth of only 12
or 15 miles, and it is a pronounced impediment to east-and-west
communication. It is probably on this account that the Navaho are
divided into two principal bands, under different leaders. Those of one
band seldom travel in the territory of the other. The Navaho of the
west, formerly commanded by old Ganamucho (now deceased), have all the
advantages in regard to location, and on the whole are a finer body of
men than those of the east.

On the west the mountains break down into Chinlee valley by a gradual
slope--near the summit quite steep, then running out into table-lands
and long foothills. This region is perhaps the most desirable on the
reservation, and is thickly inhabited. On the east the mountains descend
by almost a single slope to the edge of the approximately flat Chaco
valley. In a few rods the traveler passes from the comparatively fertile
mountain region into the flat, extremely arid valley country, and in 50
or 60 miles’ travel after leaving the mountains he will not find wood
enough to make his camp fire, nor, unless he moves rapidly, water enough
to carry his horses over the intervening distance.

Throughout the whole region great scarcity of water prevails; in the
large valleys during most of the year there is none, and it is only in
the mountain districts that there is a permanent supply; but there life
is almost impossible during the winter. This condition has had much
to do with the migratory habits of the people, or rather with their
frequent moving from place to place; for they are not a nomadic people
as the term is usually employed. This is one of the reasons why the
Navaho have no fixed habitations.

San Juan river forms a short section of the northeastern boundary of
the Navaho country, and this is practically the only perennial stream to
which they have access. It is of little use to them, however, as there
are no tributaries from the southern or reservation side, other than the
Chaco and Chelly “rivers,” which are really merely drainage channels and
are dry during most of the year. The eastern slope of the mountain range
gives rise to no streams, and the foot of the range on that side is as
dry and waterless as the valley itself. One may travel for 20 miles over
this valley and not find a drop of water. Except at Sulphur springs,
warm volcanic springs about 30 miles south of the San Juan, the ordinary
traveler will not find sufficient water between the foot of the
mountains and the river, a distance of over 50 miles. Such is the
character of Chaco valley. But the Indians know of a few holes and
pockets in this region which yield a scanty supply of water during
parts of the year, and somewhere in the vicinity of these pockets will
be found a hogán or two.

Chaco wash or river, like most of the large drainage channels of this
country, has a permanent underflow, and by digging wells in the dry,
sandy bed it is often possible to obtain a limited supply of water.
This is well known to the Navaho, and 90 per cent of the houses of this
region are located within reach of the wash, whence the supply of water
which the Navaho deems essential is procured.

On the western slope of the mountains and in the canyons and cliffs of
the high table-lands which form the western part of the reservation,
the water supply, while still scanty, is abundant as compared with
the eastern part. In the mountains themselves there are numerous small
streams, some of which carry water nearly all the year; while here and
there throughout the region are many diminutive springs almost or quite
permanent in character. Most of the little streams rise near the crest
of the mountains and, flowing westward, are collected in a deep canyon
cut in the western slope, whence the water is discharged into Chinlee
valley, and traversing its length in the so-called Rio de Chelly,
finally reaches San Juan river. But while these little streams are
fairly permanent up in the mountains, their combined flow is seldom
sufficient, except in times of flood, to reach the mouth of Canyon
Chelly and Chinlee valley. However, here, as in the Chaco, there is an
underflow, which the Indians know how to utilize and from which they
can always obtain a sufficient supply of potable water.

The whole Navaho country lies within what the geologists term the
Plateau region, and its topography is dictated by the peculiar
characteristics of that area. The soft sandstone measures, which are its
most pronounced feature, appear to lie perfectly horizontal, but in fact
the strata have a slight, although persistent dip. From this peculiarity
it comes about that each stratum extends for miles with an unbroken
sameness which is extremely monotonous to the traveler; but finally its
dip carries it under the next succeeding stratum, whose edge appears
as an escarpment or cliff, and this in turn stretches out flat and
uninteresting to the horizon. To the eye it appears an ideal country for
traveling, but only a very slight experience is necessary to reveal its
deceptiveness. Everywhere the flat mesas are cut and seamed by gorges
and narrow canyons, sometimes impassable even to a horse. Except along a
few routes which have been established here and there, wagon travel is
extremely difficult and often impossible. It is not unusual for a wagon
to travel 50 or 60 miles between two points not 20 miles distant from
each other.

The high mountain districts are characterized by a heavy growth of giant
pines, with firs and spruce in the highest parts, and many groves of
scrub oak. The pines are abundant and make excellent lumber. Going
downward they merge into piñons, useful for firewood but valueless as
timber, and these in turn give place to junipers and cedars, which are
found everywhere throughout the foothills and on the high mesa lands.
The valleys proper, and the low mesas which bound them, are generally
destitute of trees; their vegetation consists only of sagebrush and
greasewood, with a scanty growth of grass in favorable spots.

To the traveler in the valley the country appears to consist of sandy
plains bounded in the distance by rocky cliffs. When he ascends to the
higher plateaus he views a wide landscape of undulating plain studded
with wooded hills, while from the mountain summits he looks down upon
a land which appears to be everywhere cut into a network of jagged
canyons--a confused tangle of cliffs and gorges without system.

For a few weeks in early summer the table-lands are seen in their most
attractive guise. The open stretches of the mesas are carpeted with
verdure almost hidden under a profusion of flowers. The gray and dusty
sagebrush takes on a tinge of green, and even the prickly and repulsive
greasewood clothes itself with a multitude of golden blossoms. Cacti
of various kinds vie with one another in producing the most brilliant
flowers, odorless but gorgeous. But in a few weeks all this brightness
fades and the country resumes the colorless monotonous aspect which
characterizes it.

July and August and sometimes part of September comprise the rainy
season. This period is marked by sudden heavy showers of short duration,
and the sandy soil absorbs sufficient moisture to nourish the grass and
herbage for a time; but most of the water finds its way directly into
deep-cut channels and thence in heavy torrents to the deep canyons of
the San Juan and the Colorado, where it is lost. A small portion of the
rainfall and much of the snow water percolates the soil and the porous
sandstones which compose the region, and issues in small springs along
the edges of the mesas and in the little canyons; but these last only
a few months, and they fail in the time of greatest need--in the hot
summer days when the grass is dry and brittle and the whole country is

The direct dependence of the savage on nature as he finds it is
nowhere better illustrated than on the Navaho reservation. In the three
essentials of land, water, and vegetation, his country is not an ideal
one. The hard conditions under which he lives have acted directly on his
arts and industries, on his habits and customs, and also on his mind and
his mythology. In one respect only has he an advantage: he is blessed
with a climate which acts in a measure as an offset to the other
conditions and enables him to lead a life which is on the whole not

In these dry elevated regions the heat is never oppressive in the day
and the nights are always cool. Day temperatures of 120° or more are
not uncommon in the valleys in July and August, but the humidity is so
slight that such high readings do not produce the discomfort the figures
might imply. In his calico shirt and breeches the Navaho is quite
comfortable, and in the cool of the evening and night he has but to add
a blanket, which he always has within reach. The range between the day
and night temperature in summer is often very great, but the houses are
constructed to meet these conditions; they are cool in hot weather and
warm in cold weather.

The extreme dryness of the air has another advantage from the Indian
point of view, in that it permits a certain degree of filthiness. This
seems inseparable from the Indian character, but it would be impossible
in a moist climate; even under the favorable conditions of the plateau
country many of the tribes are periodically decimated by smallpox.


The habits of a people, which are to a certain extent the product of the
country in which they live, in turn have a pronounced effect on their
habitations. New Mexico and Arizona came into the possession of the
United States in 1846, and prior to that time the Navaho lived chiefly
by war and plunder. The Mexican settlers along the Rio Grande and the
Pueblo Indians of the same region were the principal contributors to
their welfare, and the thousands of sheep and horses which were stolen
from these people formed the nucleus or starting point of the large
flocks and herds which constitute the wealth of the Navaho today.

The Navajo reservation is better suited for the raising of sheep than
for anything else, and the step from the life of a warrior and hunter to
that of a shepherd is not a long one, nor a hard one to take. Under the
stress of necessity the Navajo became a peaceable pastoral tribe, living
by their flocks and herds, and practicing horticulture only in an
extremely limited and precarious way. Under modern conditions they
are slowly developing into an agricultural tribe, and this development
has already progressed far enough to materially affect their house
structures; but in a general way it may be said that they are a pastoral
people, and their habits have been dictated largely by that mode of

Every family is possessed of a flock of sheep and goats, sometimes
numbering many thousands, and a band of horses, generally several
hundreds, in a few instances several thousands. In recent times many
possess small herds of cattle, the progeny of those which strayed into
the reservation from the numerous large herds in its vicinity, or were
picked up about the borders by some Navaho whose thrift was more highly
developed than his honesty. The condition of the tribe, as a whole, is
not only far removed from hardship, but may even be said to be one of
comparative affluence.

Owing to the scarcity of grass over most of the country, and the
difficulty of procuring a sufficient supply of water, the flocks must be
moved from place to place at quite frequent intervals. This condition
more than any other has worked against the erection of permanent houses.
Yet the Navaho are by no means nomads, and the region within which a
given family moves back and forth is extremely circumscribed.

In a general way the movements of a family are regulated by the
condition of the grass and the supply of water. In a dry season many
of the small springs cease to flow at an early date in the summer.
Moreover, if a flock is kept too long in one locality, the grass is
almost destroyed by close cropping, forcing the abandonment of that
particular place for two or three years. When this occurs, the place
will recover and the grass become good again if left entirely
undisturbed for several years.

The usual practice is to take the flocks up into the mountains or on
the high plateaus during the summer, quartering them near some spring or
small stream, and when the snow comes they are moved down to the lower
foothills or out into the valleys. In the winter both shepherds and
sheep depend on the snow for their water supply, and by this means an
immense tract of country, which otherwise would be a perfect waste,
is utilized. As the snow disappears from the valleys the flocks are
gradually driven back again into the mountains.

The heavy fall of snow in the mountains and its slow melting in spring
makes that region far more fertile and grassy than the valleys, and were
it possible to remain there throughout the year doubtless many families
would do so. As it is, however, the feed is covered too deeply for the
sheep to reach it, and during several months heavy snowdrifts make
communication very difficult and at times impossible. In a few favored
localities--usually small, well-sheltered valleys here and there in the
mountains--some families may remain throughout the winter, but as a
rule, at the first approach of the cold season and before the first snow
flies there is a general exodus to the low-lying valleys and the low
mesa regions, and the mountains are practically abandoned for a time.

During the rainy season pools and little lakes of water are formed all
over the flat country, lasting sometimes several weeks. Advantage is
taken of the opportunity thus afforded and the flocks are driven out on
the plains and grazed in the vicinity of the water so long as the supply
holds out, but as this is seldom prolonged more than a few weeks it is
not surprising that the house erected by the head of the family should
be of a very temporary nature. In fact the most finished house
structures of these people must be temporary rather than permanent so
long as the conditions sketched above prevail; in other words, so long
as they depend principally on their sheep.

Another result of these conditions is that each family lives by itself
and, as it were, on its own ground. Large communities are impossible,
and while there are instances where eight or ten families occupy some
place of exceptionally favorable location, these are rare. In fact to
see even three or four hogáns together is remarkable. There are perhaps
more hogáns in Canyon Chelly than in any other one locality, but the
people who live here are regarded by the other Navaho as poor, because
they own but few sheep and horses and depend principally on horticulture
for their subsistence. Incidentally it may be stated that horses are
well esteemed by the Navaho as an article of food, and that the large
herds which some of them own are not so wholly useless as they appear
to the casual traveler.

Canyon Chelly, which the Navaho call Tségi, contains several small
streams and numerous patches of arable land on the bottoms. The
conditions here are exceptionally favorable for horticulture; indeed,
the numerous remains of cliff dwellings which are found in the canyon
would show this if other evidence were lacking. It has long been famous
among the Navaho as the horticultural center of the tribe, and for its
peach crops, derived from thousands of trees planted in sheltered nooks.
In the summer scattered members of the various families or clans gather
there by hundreds from every part of the reservation to feast together
for a week or two on green corn, melons, and peaches.

As a rule, however, each hogán stands by itself, and it is usually
hidden away so effectually that the traveler who is not familiar with
the customs of the people might journey for days and not see half a
dozen of them. The spot chosen for a dwelling place is either some
sheltered nook in a mesa or a southward slope on the edge of a piñon
grove near a good fuel supply and not too far from water. A house is
very seldom built close to a spring--perhaps a survival of the habit
which prevailed when the people were a hunting tribe and kept away from
the water holes in order not to disturb the game which frequented them.

So prevalent is this custom of placing the houses in out-of-the-way
places that the casual traveler receives the impression that the region
over which he has passed is practically uninhabited. He may, perhaps,
meet half a dozen Indians in a day, or he may meet none, and at sunset
when he camps he will probably hear the bark of a dog in the distance,
or he may notice on the mountain side a pillar of smoke like that
arising from his own camp fire. This is all that he will see to indicate
the existence of other life than his own, yet the tribe numbers over
12,000 souls, and it is probable that there was no time during the day
when there were not several pairs of eyes looking at him, and were he
to fire his gun the report would probably be heard by several hundred
persons. Probably this custom of half-concealed habitations is a
survival from the time when the Navaho were warriors and plunderers,
and lived in momentary expectation of reprisals on the part of their

Although the average Navaho family may be said to be in almost constant
movement, they are not at all nomads, yet the term has frequently been
applied to them. Each family moves back and forth within a certain
circumscribed area, and the smallness of this area is one of the most
remarkable things in Navaho life.

Ninety per cent of the Navaho one meets on the reservation are mounted
and usually riding at a gallop, apparently bent on some important
business at a far-distant point. But a closer acquaintance will develop
the fact that there are many grown men in the tribe who are entirely
ignorant of the country 30 or 40 miles from where they were born. It
is an exceptional Navaho who knows the country well 60 miles about his
birthplace, or the place where he may be living, usually the same thing.
It is doubtful whether there are more than a few dozens of Navaho living
west of the mountains who know anything of the country to the east, and
vice versa. This ignorance of what we may term the immediate vicinity of
a place is experienced by every traveler who has occasion to make a
long journey over the reservation and employs a guide. But he discovers
it only by personal experience, for the guide will seldom admit his
ignorance and travels on, depending on meeting other Indians living
in that vicinity who will give him the required local knowledge. This
peculiar trait illustrates the extremely restricted area within which
each “nomad” family lives.

Now and then one may meet a family moving, for such movements are quite
common. Usually each family has at least two locations--not definite
places, but regions--and they move from one to the other as the
necessity arises. In such cases they take everything with them,
including flocks of sheep and goats and herds of ponies and cattle, if
they possess any. The _qasçíŋ_, as the head of the family is called,
drives the ponies and cattle, the former a degenerate lot of little
beasts not much larger than an ass, but capable of carrying a man in
an emergency 100 miles in a day. He carries his arms, for the coyotes
trouble the sheep at night, two or three blankets, and a buckskin on
his saddle, but nothing more. It is his special duty to keep the ponies
moving and in the trail. Following him comes a flock of sheep and goats,
bleating and nibbling at the bushes and grass as they slowly trot along,
urged by the dust-begrimed squaw and her children. Several of the more
tractable ponies carry packs of household effects stuffed into buckskin
and cotton bags or wrapped in blankets, a little corn for food, the rude
blanket loom of the woman, baskets, and wicker bottles, and perhaps a
scion of the house, too young to walk, perched on top of all. Such a
caravan is always accompanied by several dogs--curs of unknown breed,
but invaluable aids to the women and children in herding the flocks.

Under the Navaho system descent is in the female line. The children
belong to the mother, and likewise practically all property except
horses and cattle. Sheep and goats belong exclusively to her, and the
head of the family can not sell a sheep to a passing traveler without
first obtaining the consent and approval of his wife. Hence in such a
movement as that sketched above the flocks are looked after by the
women, while under normal circumstances, when the family has settled
down and is at home, the care of the flocks devolves almost entirely on
the little children, so young sometimes that they can just toddle about.

The waters are usually regarded by the Navaho as the common property
of the tribe, but the cultivable lands in the vicinity are held by the
individuals and families as exclusively their own. Their flocks occupy
all the surrounding pasture, so that virtually many of the springs come
to be regarded as the property of the people who plant nearest to them.

In early times, when the organization of the people into clans was more
clearly defined, a section of territory was parceled out and held as a
clan ground, and some of the existing clans took their names from such
localities. Legends are still current among the old men of these early
days before the introduction of sheep and goats and horses by the
Spaniards, when the people lived by the chase and on wild fruits, grass
seeds, and piñon nuts, and such supplies as they could plunder from
their neighbors. Indian corn or maize was apparently known from the
earliest time, but so long as plunder and the supply of game continued
sufficient, little effort was made to grow it. Later as the tribe
increased and game became scarcer, the cultivation of corn increased,
but until ten years ago more grain was obtained in trade from the
Pueblos than was grown in the Navaho country. There are now no defined
boundaries to the ancient clan lands, but they are still recognized
in a general way and such a tract is spoken of as “my mother’s land.”

Families cling to certain localities and sections not far apart, and
when compelled, by reason of failure of springs or too close cropping
of the grass, to go to other neighborhoods, they do not move to the new
place as a matter of right, but of courtesy; and the movement is never
undertaken until satisfactory arrangements have been concluded with the
families already living there.

Some of the Pueblo tribes, the Hopi or Moki, for example, have been
subjected to much the same conditions as the Navaho; but in this case
similarity of conditions has produced very dissimilar results, that is,
as regards house structures. The reasons, however, are obvious, and
lie principally in two distinct causes--antecedent habits and personal
character. The Navaho are a fine, athletic race of men, living a free
and independent life. They are without chiefs, in the ordinary meaning
of the term, although there are men in the tribe who occupy prominent
positions and exercise a kind of semiauthority--chiefs by courtesy, as
it were. Ever since we have known them, now some three hundred years,
they have been hunters, warriors, and robbers. When hunting, war,
and robbery ceased to supply them with the necessaries of life they
naturally became a pastoral people, for the flocks and the pasture lands
were already at hand. It is only within the last few years that they
have shown indication of developing into an agricultural people. With
their previous habits only temporary habitations were possible, and when
they became a pastoral people the same habitations served their purpose
better than any other. The hogáns of ten or fifteen years ago, and
to a certain extent the hogáns of today, are practically the same as
they were three hundred years ago. There has been no reason for a change
and consequently no change has been made.

On the other hand, the Hopi came into the country with a comparatively
elaborate system of house structures, previously developed elsewhere.
They are an undersized, puny race, content with what they have and
asking only to be left alone. They are in no sense warriors, although
there is no doubt that they have fought bitterly among themselves within
historic times. Following the Spanish invasion they also received sheep
and goats, but their previous habits prevented them from becoming a
pastoral people like the Navaho, and their main reliance for food is,
and always was, on horticultural products. Living, as they did, in fixed
habitations and in communities, the pastoral life was impossible to
them, and their marked timidity would prevent the abandonment of their
communal villages.

Under modern conditions these two methods of life, strongly opposed to
each other, although practiced in the same region and under the same
physical conditions, are drawing a little closer together. Under the
strong protecting arm of the Government the Hopi are losing a little
of their timidity and are gradually abandoning their villages on the
mesa summits and building individual houses in the valleys below.
Incidentally they are increasing their flocks and herds. On the other
hand, under the stress of modern conditions, the Navaho are surely,
although very slowly, turning to agriculture, and apparently show some
disposition to form small communities. Their flocks of sheep and goats
have decreased materially in the last few years, a decrease due largely
to the removal of the duty on wool and the consequent low price they
obtained from the traders for this staple article of their trade.

In both cases the result, so far as the house structures are concerned,
is the same. The houses of the people, the homes “we have always had,”
as they put it, are rapidly disappearing, and the examples left today
are more or less influenced by ideas derived from the whites. Among the
Navaho such contact has been very slight, but it has been sufficient to
introduce new methods of construction and in fact new structures, and it
is doubtful whether the process and the ritual later described could be
found in their entirety today. Many of the modern houses of the Navaho
in the mountainous and timbered regions are built of logs, sometimes
hewn. These houses are nearly always rectangular in shape, as also are
all of those built of stone masonry in the valley regions.

There is a peculiar custom of the Navaho which should be mentioned, as
it has had an important influence on the house-building practices of the
tribe, and has done much to prevent the erection of permanent abodes.
This is the idea of the _tcĭ´ndi_ hogán. When a person dies within a
house the rafters are pulled down over the remains and the place is
usually set on fire. After that nothing would induce a Navaho to touch a
piece of the wood or even approach the immediate vicinity of the place;
even years afterward such places are recognized and avoided. The place
and all about it are the especial locale of the _tcĭ´ndi_, the shade or
“spirit” of the departed. These shades are not necessarily malevolent,
but they are regarded as inclined to resent any intrusion or the taking
of any liberties with them or their belongings. If one little stick of
wood from a _tcĭ´ndi_ hogán is used about a camp fire, as is sometimes
done by irreverent whites, not an Indian will approach the fire; and not
even under the greatest necessity would they partake of the food
prepared by its aid.

This custom has had much to do with the temporary character of the
Navaho houses, for men are born to die, and they must die somewhere.
There are thousands of these _tcĭ´ndi_ hogáns scattered over the
reservation, not always recognizable as such by whites, but the Navaho
is unerring in identifying them. He was not inclined to build a fine
house when he might have to abandon it at any time, although in the
modern houses alluded to above he has overcome this difficulty in a very
simple and direct way. When a person is about to die in one of the stone
or log houses referred to he is carried outside and allowed to die in
the open air. The house is thus preserved.


The Navaho recognize two distinct classes of hogáns--the _keqaí_ or
winter place, and the _kejĭ´n_, or summer place; in other words, winter
huts and summer shelters. Notwithstanding the primitive appearance of
the winter huts, resembling mere mounds of earth hollowed out, they are
warm and comfortable, and, rude as they seem, their construction is a
matter of rule, almost of ritual, while the dedicatory ceremonies which
usually precede regular occupancy are elaborate and carefully performed.

Although no attempt at decoration is ever made, either of the inside or
the outside of the houses, it is not uncommon to hear the term beautiful
applied to them. Strong forked timbers of the proper length and bend,
thrust together with their ends properly interlocking to form a
cone-like frame, stout poles leaned against the apex to form the sides,
the whole well covered with bark and heaped thickly with earth, forming
a roomy warm interior with a level floor--these are sufficient to
constitute a “_qoġán nĭjóni_,” house beautiful. To the Navaho the house
is beautiful to the extent that it is well constructed and to the degree
that it adheres to the ancient model.

There are many legends and traditions of wonderful houses made by the
gods and by the mythic progenitors of the tribe. In the building of
these houses turquois and pearly shells were freely used, as were also
the transparent mists of dawn and the gorgeous colors of sunset. They
were covered by sunbeams and the rays of the rainbow, with everything
beautiful or richly colored on the earth and in the sky. It is perhaps
on account of these gorgeous mythical hogáns that no attempt is now made
to decorate the everyday dwelling; it would be _bátsĭç_, tabooed (or
sacrilegious). The traditions preserve methods of house building that
were imparted to mortals by the gods themselves. These methods, as is
usual in such cases, are the simplest and of the most primitive nature,
but they are still scrupulously followed.

Early mention of house building occurs in the creation myths: First-man
and First-woman are discovered in the first or lowest underworld, living
in a hut which was the prototype of the hogán. There were curious beings
located at the cardinal points in that first world, and these also lived
in huts of the same style, but constructed of different materials. In
the east was Tiéholtsodi, who afterward appears as a water monster, but
who then lived in the House of Clouds, and I¢ní‘ (Thunder) guarded his
doorway. In the south was Teal‘ (Frog) in a house of blue fog, and
Tiel‘íŋ, who is afterward a water monster, lay at that doorway. Ácihi
Estsán (Salt-woman) was in the west, and her house was of the substance
of a mirage; the youth Çó‘nenĭli (Water-sprinkler) danced before her
door. In the north Çqaltláqale[1] made a house of green duckweed, and
Sĭstél‘ (Tortoise) lay at that door.

    [Footnote 1: Recorded by Dr Matthews as the Blue Heron.]

Some versions of the myth hold that First-man’s hut was made of wood
just like the modern hogán, but it was covered with gorgeous rainbows
and bright sunbeams instead of bark and earth. At that time the
firmament had not been made, but these first beings possessed the
elements for its production. Rainbows and sunbeams consisted of layers
or films of material, textile or at least pliable in nature, and were
carried about like a bundle of blankets. Two sheets of each of these
materials were laid across the hut alternately, first the rainbows from
north to south, then the sunbeams from east to west. According to this
account the other four houses at the cardinal points were similarly
made of wood, the different substances mentioned being used merely for
covering. Other traditions hold that the houses were made entirely of
the substances mentioned and that no wood was used in their construction
because at that time no wood or other vegetal material had been

After mankind had ascended through the three underworlds by means of the
magic reed to the present or fourth world, Qastcéyalçi, the God of Dawn,
the benevolent nature god of the south and east, imparted to each group
of mankind an appropriate architecture--to the tribes of the plains,
skin lodges; to the Pueblos, stone houses; and to the Navaho, huts of
wood and earth and summer shelters. Curiously enough, nowhere in Navaho
tradition is any mention or suggestion made of the use by them of skin

In building the Navaho hogán Qastcéyalçi was assisted by Qastcéqoġan,
the God of Sunset, the complementary nature god of the north and west,
who is not so uniformly benignant as the former. In the ceremonies which
follow the erection of a hogán today the structure is dedicated to both
these deities, but the door is invariably placed to face the east, that
the house may be directly open to the influences of the more kindly
disposed Qastcéyalçi.

When a movement of a family has been completed, the first care of the
_qasçíŋ_, or head of the family, is to build a dwelling, for which
he selects a suitable site and enlists the aid of his neighbors and
friends. He must be careful to select a place well removed from hills
of red ants, as, aside from the perpetual discomfort consequent on
too close a proximity, it is told that in the underworld these pests
troubled First-man and the other gods, who then dwelt together, and
caused them to disperse.

  [Illustration: Fig. 230--The three main timbers of a hogán]

A suitable site having been found, search is made for trees fit to make
the five principal timbers which constitute the _qoġán tsá¢i_, or house
frame. There is no standard of length, as there is no standard of
size for the completed dwelling, but commonly piñon trees 8 to 10
inches in diameter and 10 to 12 feet long are selected. Three of the
five timbers must terminate in spreading forks, as shown in figure 230,
but this is not necessary for the other two, which are intended for the
doorway and are selected for their straightness.

When suitable trees have been found, and sometimes they are a
considerable distance from the site selected, they are cut down and
trimmed, stripped of bark, and roughly dressed. They are then carried or
dragged to the site of the hogán and there laid on the ground with their
forked ends together somewhat in the form of a T, extreme care being
taken to have the butt of one log point to the south, one to the west,
and one to the north. The two straight timbers are then laid down with
the small ends close to the forks of the north and south timbers and
with their butt ends pointing to the east. They must be spread apart
about the width of the doorway which they will form.

When all the timbers have been laid out on the ground, the position
of each one of the five butts is marked by a stone or in some other
convenient way, but great care must be exercised to have the doorway
timbers point exactly to the east. Sometimes measurements are made
without placing the timbers on the site, their positions and lengths
being determined by the use of a long sapling. The interior area being
thus approximated, all the timbers are removed, and, guided only by the
eye, a rough circle is laid out, well within the area previously marked.
The ground within this circle is then scraped and dug out until a fairly
level floor is obtained, leaving a low bench of earth entirely or partly
around the interior. This bench is sometimes as much as a foot and a
half high on the high side of a slightly sloping site, but ordinarily it
is less than a foot. The object of this excavation is twofold--to make
a level floor with a corresponding increase in the height of the
structure, and to afford a bench on which the many small articles
constituting the domestic paraphernalia can be set aside and thus avoid
littering the floor.

The north and south timbers are the first to be placed, and each is
handled by a number of men, usually four or five, who set the butt ends
firmly in the ground on opposite sides at the points previously marked
and lower the timbers to a slanting position until the forks lock
together. While some of the men hold these timbers in place others set
the west timber on the western side of the circle, placing it in such a
position and in such a manner that its fork receives the other two and
the whole structure is bound together at the top. The forked apex of the
frame is 6 to 8 feet above the ground in ordinary hogáns, but on the
high plateaus and among the pine forests in the mountain districts
hogáns of this type, but intended for ceremonial purposes, are sometimes
constructed with an interior height of 10 or 11 feet, and inclose an
area 25 to 30 feet in diameter. Following is a list of measurements of
four typical hogáns:

  _Measurements of typical hogáns_

                                    |Ft. in.|Ft. in.|Ft. in.|Ft. in.|
  |Door frame       |Height         | 3   8 | 4   0 | 4   0 | 3   6 |
  |                 |Width          | 3   8 | 1   8 | 1   6 | 1   9 |
  |Interior         |North & south  |17  10 |12   8 |14   9 |14   5 |
  |                 |East & west    |18   0 |12   0 |15   0 |14   0 |
  |Height under apex                | 7   9 | 6   6 | 7   0 | 6   9 |
  |Smoke hole       |Width at apex  | 1  10 | Very  | 1   2 | 1  10 |
  |                 |Width at base  | 3   0 | irre- | 2   4 | 2  10 |
  |                 |Length         | 3  10 | gular | 3   0 | 3   0 |
  |Space between    |At apex        | 1  10 | 2   0 | 1   2 | 1  10 |
  | doorway timbers |At base        | 3   8 | 3   0 | 3   0 | 3   5 |

In the large hogáns mentioned a crowd of workers are engaged in the
construction and ropes and other mechanical aids are employed to lift
the heavy timbers of the frame in position.

At this stage in the construction the house shows only the three
principal timbers of the frame, securely locked at the apex by the
interlacing forks (as shown in figure 231) and firmly planted in the
ground. The two doorway timbers are next placed in position, with their
smaller ends resting on the forked apex of the frame, from 1-1/2 to 2
feet apart, and with the butt ends resting on the ground about 3-1/2
feet apart. The whole frame, comprising five timbers, is known as
_tsá¢í_, but each timber has its own specific name, as follows:

  South timber, _ca¢aá¢e naaí_.
  West timber, _iŋiŋá¢e naaí_.
  North timber, _náqokos¢e naaí_.
  Doorway timbers (two), _tcíŋĕçin¢e naaí_.

The appearance of the frame as seen from below is shown in figure 231.

  [Illustration: Fig. 231--Frame of a hogán, seen from below]

These names afford a good illustration of the involved nomenclature
which characterizes Indian languages. _Naaí_ means a long, straight
object, like a piece of timber. The first word in each of the terms
above is the name of the cardinal point, the place it occupies (south,
west, and north), with the suffix _¢e_, meaning “here” or “brought
here.” The same words are used with the suffix _dje_, instead of _¢e_,
as _ca¢aádje_ _naaí_ for the north timber, _dje_ meaning “there” or
“set there.” The west timber is also specially designated as _bigídje
nabkád_, “brought together into it,” an allusion to its functions as
the main support of the frame, as the two other timbers rest within its
spreading fork. The two doorway timbers are also designated as north
timber and south timber, according to the position each occupies, and
they are sometimes called _tcíŋĕçin bĭnĭnĭ´li_, “those in place at the
doorway passage.” A full nomenclature of hogán construction will be
found in another section.

When the _tsá¢i_, or frame of five timbers, is completed the sides are
filled with smaller timbers and limbs of piñon and cedar, the butt ends
being set together as closely as possible on the ground and from 6 to 12
inches outside of the excavated area previously described. The timbers
and branches are laid on as flat as possible, with the upper ends
leaning on the apex or on each other. The intervening ledge thus formed
in the interior is the bench previously mentioned, and aside from its
convenience it adds materially to the strength of the structure.

  [Illustration: Fig. 232--Frame of a doorway]

While the sides are being inclosed by some of the workers a door-frame
is constructed by others. This consists simply of two straight poles
with forked tops driven into the ground at the base of and close inside
of the doorway timbers, as shown in figure 232. When in place these
poles are about 4 feet high, set upright, with a straight stick resting
in the forks, as shown clearly in plate LXXXIV. Another short stick is
placed horizontally across the doorway timbers at a point about 3-1/2
feet below the apex, at the level of and parallel with the cross-stick
of the door-frame. The space between this cross-stick and the apex is
left open to form an exit for the smoke. Sometimes when the hogán is
unbearably smoky a rough chimney-like structure, consisting of a rude
cribwork, is placed about this smoke hole. Such a structure is shown
in plate LXXXIII.

The doorway always has a flat roof formed of straight limbs or split
poles laid closely together, with one end resting on the crosspiece
which forms the base of the smoke hole and the other end on the
crosspiece of the door-frame. The whole doorway structure projects from
the sloping side of the hogán, much like a dormer window. Sometimes the
doorway roof is formed by a straight pole on each side of the smoke hole
crosspiece to the crosspiece of the door-frame, supporting short sticks
laid across and closely together with their ends resting on the two
poles. This style of doorway is shown in plate LXXXIV.

The sides of the projecting doorway--that is, the spaces between the
roof and the sloping doorway timbers--are filled in with small sticks
of the required length. Sometimes the ends of these sticks are bound
in place with twigs of yucca, being made fast to the door-frame, but
generally they are merely set in or made to rest against the outer roof
covering. Usually the larger timbers are roughly dressed on the sides
toward the interior of the hut, and the smaller poles also are stripped
of bark and rough hewn.

The entire structure is next covered with cedar bark; all the
interstices are filled with it, and an upper or final layer is spread
with some regularity and smoothness. Earth is then thrown on from base
to apex to a thickness of about six inches, but enough is put on to make
the hut perfectly wind and water proof. This operation finishes the
house, and usually there are enough volunteers to complete the work
in a day.

It is customary to make a kind of recess on the western side of the
hut by setting out the base of the poles next to the west timber some
8 to 15 inches beyond the line. This arrangement is usually placed next
to and on the south side of the west timber, and all the poles for a
distance of 3 or 4 feet are set out. The offset thus formed is called
the “mask recess,” and when a religious ceremony is performed in the
hogán, the shaman or medicine-man hangs a skin or cloth before it and
deposits there his masks and fetiches. This recess, of greater or less
dimensions, is made in every large hogán, but in many of the smaller
ones it is omitted. Its position and general character are shown in
the ground plan, plate XC. In the construction of a hogán all the
proceedings are conducted on a definite, predetermined plan, and the
order sketched above is that ordinarily followed, but nothing of a
ceremonial nature is introduced until after the conclusion of the work
of construction.


The rules which govern the building of a regular hogán or winter house,
although clearly defined and closely adhered to, do not apply to the
summer huts or shelters. These outnumber the former and are found
everywhere on the reservation, but they are most abundant in the
mountain regions and in those places where horticultural operations
can be carried on.

These structures are of all kinds and of all degrees of finish, although
certain well-defined types, ancient in their origin, are still closely
adhered to when the conditions permit. But under other circumstances
the rudest and most primitive shelters are constructed, some of them
certainly not so high in the scale of construction as an ordinary bird’s
nest. There is a certain interest that attaches to these rude attempts,
as they exhibit the working of the human mind practically untrammeled
by precedent.

Perhaps the most primitive and simple shelter the Navaho builds is a
circle or part-circle of green boughs, generally pine or cedar. Half an
hour of work by two men with axes is all that is required to erect one
of these. A site having been selected, a tree is felled on the windward
side, and the branches trimmed from it are piled up to a height of
4 or 5 feet on three sides of a circle 15 or 20 feet in diameter. A fire
is built in the center and the natives dispose themselves around it.
Blankets are thrown over outstanding branches here and there, affording
an abundance of shade in the hot summer days when even a little shade
is agreeable. Rude as this shelter is, it is regarded by the Navaho as
sufficient when no better is available. During the recent construction
of some irrigating ditches on the reservation, when from 50 to 100 men
were employed at one time, this form of shelter was the only one used,
although in several instances the work was carried on in one place for
five or six weeks. Shelters of this kind, however, are possible only in
a wooded region, and are built only to meet an emergency, as when a man
is away from home and there are no hogáns in the vicinity where he can

Another form, scarcely less rude, is sometimes found in localities
temporarily occupied for grazing or for horticulture. It consists of a
circle of small branches, sometimes of mere twigs, with the butts stuck
into the ground, and not over 2-1/2 or 3 feet high. The circle is broken
by a narrow entrance way on one side. This form of shelter, hardly as
high as a man’s waist, does little more than mark the place where a
family have thrown down their blankets and other belongings, but it may
afford some protection against drifting sand. Shelters of this type
are occupied several months at a time. They are often seen on the sandy
bottom lands of Canyon Chelly and in other regions of like character,
and the same sites are sometimes occupied several years in succession.

From these rude makeshift types there is an unbroken range up to the
standard winter hut, which also meets the requirements of a summer
house, being as comfortable in warm weather as it is in cold weather.
The kind of house which a man builds depends almost entirely on
the purposes which it is to serve and very little on the man or his
circumstances. The houses of the richest man in the tribe and of the
poorest would be identical unless, as often happens in modern times, the
former has a desire to imitate the whites and builds a regular house
of stone or logs. If, however, a man builds a summer place to which
he intends to return year after year, and such is the usual custom, he
usually erects a fairly substantial structure, a kind of half hogán, or
house with the front part omitted. If it is possible to do so he locates
this shelter on a low hill overlooking the fields which he cultivates.
The restriction which requires that the opening or doorway of a regular
hogán shall invariably face the east does not apply to these shelters;
they face in any direction, but usually they are so placed as to face
away from the prevailing wind, and, if possible, toward the fields or

  [Illustration: Fig. 233--Ground plan of a summer shelter]

Figure 233 is a ground plan of a shelter of this type, which is shown
also in plate LXXXV. The effect is that of a half hogán of the regular
type, but with a short upright timber in place of the usual north piece.
The example shown is built on a somewhat sloping site, and the ground
inside has been slightly excavated, but on the front the floor reaches
the general level of the ground. The principal timbers are forked
together at the apex, but not strictly according to rule. The structure
is also covered with earth in the regular way, and altogether appears
to occupy an intermediate position between the summer shelter and the
winter hut. It is a type which is common in the mountain districts and
in those places where a semipermanent shelter is needed, and to which
the family returns year after year.

The supporting post in front in this case was so short that the use of
its fork would have made the roof too low. To overcome this the side
beams were not laid directly in the fork, but a tablet or short piece of
wood was inserted, as shown in figure 234, and the timbers rest on this.
The entrance or open front faced to the northwest, and to protect it
from the evening sun a temporary shelter of piñon brush was put up, as
shown in the illustration. This feature is a common accompaniment of
summer shelters and is often found with the regular winter hogán.

  [Illustration: Fig. 234--Supporting post in a summer hut]

Figure 235 shows another type of summer shelter in plan, and figure 236
is a section of the same. It is of the “lean-to” type, and consists of a
horizontal beam resting on two forked timbers and supporting a series
of poles, the upper ends of which are placed against it. The structure
faces the east, and the southern end is closed in like a hogán, but it
was covered only with cedar boughs laid close together without an earth

This shelter stood upon a slope and the timbers used in its construction
were small and crooked. Perhaps on account of these disadvantages the
interior was excavated, after the shelter was built, to a depth of
nearly 24 inches on the higher side, as shown in figure 236. By this
expedient the space under the shelter was greatly enlarged. The
excavation was not carried all the way back to the foot of the rafters,
but, as shown in the section, a bench or ledge some 18 inches wide was
left, forming a convenient place for the many little articles which
constitute the Navaho’s domestic furniture.

  [Illustration: Fig. 235--Ground plan of a summer hut]

Mention has been made before of this interior bench, which is an
interesting feature. It has been suggested by Mr Victor Mindeleff, whose
well-known studies of Pueblo architecture give his suggestions weight,
that we have here a possible explanation of the origin of the interior
benches which are nearly always found in the kivas or ceremonial
chambers of the Pueblo Indians, that the benches in the kivas may be
survivals of archaic devices pertaining to the primitive type from which
Pueblo architecture developed. If a low wall of masonry were used as a
support for rafters, in the manner shown in figure 237, and additional
space were sought by excavation, the form shown in the illustration
would be retained, for the construction would be seriously weakened if
the rude stonework were placed directly on the edge of the excavation.
Possibly this practice has some bearing on the Pueblo requirement that
the kivas should be at least partly excavated, a requirement still
rigidly adhered to. The conservatism of the Indian mind in matters
connected with their ceremonials is well known, and forms and practices
long abandoned in ordinary house construction still survive in the
building of the kivas.

  [Illustration: Fig. 236--Section of a summer hut]

Plate LXXXVI shows a shelter somewhat resembling that last described,
but of more simple construction. Here the main crosspiece which forms
the front of the shelter is supported by forked upright timbers, as in
the previous example, and here also the fork of the main upright is too
large and has been filled in.

  [Illustration: Fig. 237--Masonry support for rafters]

Aside from the types described, which illustrate the more common forms
of summer shelters, all kinds and degrees of variation are found. As
they, unlike the regular hogán, do not follow any rule or precedent,
their form depends largely on the facilities or the particular
requirements or abilities of the builder. Figure 238 shows a shelter in
the mountains, where timber is abundant. Except that it is not covered
with earth and has no door-frame, it might be classed as a regular

Figure 239 shows a form that occurs in the valley regions where
driftwood can sometimes be obtained. It is closely related to the
“lean-to” type, but it is formed partly by excavating the side of a hill
and is well covered with earth. It will be noticed that the front is
partly closed by logs leaned against it and resting against the front
crosspiece or ridgepole.

Figure 240 shows a type which is common in the valleys where timber is
scarce and difficult to procure. Sage and other brush is used largely in
the construction of shelters of this sort, as the few timbers which are
essential can be procured only with great difficulty, and usually must
be brought a great distance.

  [Illustration: Fig. 238--A timber-built shelter]

Plate LXXXVII shows a structure that might easily be mistaken for a
summer shelter, but which is a special type. It is a regular hogán, so
far as the frame and timber work go, but it is covered only with cedar
boughs. The illustration shows a part of the covering removed. This
structure was a “medicine hut,” put up for the performance of certain
ceremonies over a woman who was ill. There are no traces of any fire in
the interior, perhaps for the reason that the women’s ceremony is always
performed in the day time. Aside from its lack of covering, it is a
typical hogán, and the illustration conveys a good impression of the
construction always followed. This kind of hut is called an _ĭnçá

Rude and primitive as these structures seem, a certain amount of
knowledge and experience is necessary to build them. This has been
discovered at various times by whites who have attempted to build hogáns
and failed. An instance occurred not long ago where a trader, finding it
necessary to build some kind of a travelers’ house, where Indians who
came in to trade late in the evening or on Sunday could spend the night,
decided to build a regular hogán. He employed several Navaho to do the
work under his own supervision. The result was a failure, for, either on
account of too much slope to the sides or for other reasons, the hogán
does not remain in good order, and constant work on it is necessary to
maintain it in a habitable condition.

  [Illustration: Fig. 239--Shelter with partly closed front]


All over the reservation there are hundreds of little structures which
are miniature models, as it were, of the hogáns, but they lack the
projecting doorway. These little huts, scarcely as high as a man’s hip,
look like children’s playhouses, but they occupy an important place
both in the elaborate religious ceremonies and in the daily life of the
Navaho. They are the sweat houses, called in the Navaho language
_çó‘tce_, a term probably derived from _qáço‘tsil_, “sweat” and
_ĭnçĭníl‘tce_, the manner in which fire is prepared for heating the
stones placed in it when it is used. The structure is designed to hold
only one person at a time, and he must crawl in and squat on his heels
with his knees drawn up to his chin.

In the construction of these little huts a frame is made of three boughs
with forked ends, and these have the same names as the corresponding
timbers in a hogán. They are placed, as in the hogán, with the lower
ends spread apart like a low tripod. Two straight sticks leaned against
the apex form a narrow entrance, which, as in the hogán, invariably
faces the east. Numerous other sticks and boughs inclose the frame,
and enough bark and earth are laid on to make the structure practically
air-tight when the entrance is closed.

When the place is to be used a fire is made close beside it, and in
this fire numerous stones are heated. The patient to be treated is
then stripped, placed inside the little hut, and given copious drafts
sometimes of warm or hot water. The nearly red-hot stones are rolled in
beside him and the entrance is closed with several blankets, forming in
fact a hot-air bath. In a short time the air in the interior rises to a
high temperature and the subject sweats profusely. When he is released
he rubs himself dry with sand, or if he be ill and weak he is rubbed
dry by his friends. This ceremony has a very important place in the
medicine-man’s therapeutics, for devils as well as diseases are thus
cast out; but aside from their religious use, the _çó‘tce_ are often
visited by the Indians for the cleansing and invigorating effect of
the bath, with no thought of ceremonial. The Navaho, as a race or
individually, are not remarkable for cleanliness, but they use the
_çó‘tce_ freely.

  [Illustration: Fig. 240--Low earth-covered shelter]

During the _Yébĭtcai_ dance or ceremony four _çó‘tce_ are set around the
song house, about 40 yards distant from it, one at each cardinal point.
The _qaçál‘i_, or chief medicine-man, sweats the patient in them on four
successive mornings, just at dawn, beginning with the east and using one
each morning. The _çó‘tce_ on the east is merely an uncovered frame, and
after the patient enters it and hot stones have been rolled in it is
covered with many blankets and a large buckskin is spread over all. On
this skin the _qaçál‘i_ sprinkles iron ochers and other colored sands
in striated bands, symbolic of the rainbow and sunbeams which covered
the early mythic houses. He and his assistants stand near the hut
shaking rattles and singing a brief song to Qastcéjĭni, at the
conclusion of which the patient is released. The initial spark of the
fire used at these ceremonies and for all religious purposes is obtained
by friction, and is regarded as essentially different from fire produced
by flint and steel or otherwise, because the first spark of friction
fire was brought from Qastcéjĭni, who is the god of the underworld fire.
The production of fire by friction is a very simple matter to these
Indians and is often done in play; frequently, under the windy
conditions that prevail in their country, in but little more time than a
white man can accomplish the same result with matches. For this purpose
they often use the dry, brittle stalks of the common bee weed (_Cleome
pungens_). The drill, which is whirled between the palms of the hands,
consists of a stalk perhaps a quarter of an inch in diameter. This is
made to revolve on the edge of a small notch cut into a larger stalk,
perhaps an inch in diameter. A pinch of sand is sometimes placed under
the point of the drill, the rapid revolution of which produces a fine
powder. This powder runs down the notch or groove, forming a little pile
on the ground. Smoke is produced in less than a minute, and finally, in
perhaps two minutes, tiny sparks drop on the little pile of dry powder,
which takes fire from them. By careful fostering by feeding with bits
of bark and grass, and with much blowing, a blaze is produced.

It is said that First-man made the first _çó‘tce_. After coming up the
_qadjinaí_, or magic reed, he was very dirty; his skin was discolored
and he had a foul smell like a coyote. He washed with water, but that
did not cleanse him. Then Qastcéjĭni sent the firefly to instruct him
concerning the _çó‘tce_ and how to rotate a spindle of wood in a notched
stick. As First-man revolved the spindle, or drill, between his hands,
Firefly ignited the dust at its point with a spark of fire which
Qastcéjĭni had given it for that purpose. There is another myth
concerning the origin of these little sweat houses which does not agree
with that just stated. According to this myth, the _çó‘tce_ were made by
the Sun when the famous twins, Nayénĕzgani and Ço‘badjĭstcíni, who play
so large a part in Navaho mythology, were sent to him by Estsánatlehi.
When they reached the house of the Sun they called him father, as they
had been instructed to do, but the Sun disowned them and subjected them
to many ordeals, and even thrust at them with a spear, but the mother
had given each of the youths a magic feather mantle impervious to any
weapon. Kléhanoai (the night bearer--the moon) also scoffed at them and
filled the mind of the Sun with doubts concerning the paternity of the
twins, so he determined to subject them to a further ordeal.

He made four _çó‘tce_, but instead of using wood in their construction
he made them of a metallic substance, like iron. He placed these at the
cardinal points and sent the moon to make a fire near each of them. This
fire was obtained from the “burning stars,” the comets. The _çó‘tce_
were made exceedingly hot and the twins were placed in them
successively; but instead of being harmed they came out of the last one
stronger and more vigorous than ever. Then the Sun acknowledged them
as his sons and gave the elder one the magic weapons with which he
destroyed the evil genii who infested the Navaho land. This is the
reason, the Navaho say, why it is well to have many _çó‘tce_ and to use
them frequently. Their use gives rest and sweet sleep after hard work;
it invigorates a man for a long journey and refreshes him after its

First-woman, after coming up the _qadjinaí_, was also foul and ill
smelling, and after First-man she also used the _çó‘tce_. Hence the
Navaho women use the _çó‘tce_ like the men, but never together except
under a certain condition medical in character. The _çó‘tce_ is built
usually in some secluded spot, and frequently large parties of men go
together to spend the better part of a day in the enjoyment of the
luxury of a sweat bath and a scour with sand. On another day the women
of the neighborhood get together and do the same, and the men regard
their privacy strictly.


Up to a comparatively recent period the Navaho have been what is usually
termed a “wild tribe;” that is, they have existed principally by war and
plunder. Since the conquest of the country by General Kearny and the
“Army of the West,” in 1846, they have given us but little trouble, but
prior to that time they preyed extensively on the Pueblo Indians and the
Mexican settlements along the Rio Grande. Practically all their wealth
today, and they are a wealthy tribe, consists of thousands of sheep
and goats and hundreds of horses, all descended from flocks and herds
originally stolen. When the country came into the possession of the
United States marauding expeditions became much less frequent, and
almost insensibly the tribe changed from a predatory to a pastoral
people. But aside from the infrequency or absence of armed expeditions
the life of the people remained much the same under the changed
conditions. When the Atlantic and Pacific railroad entered the country
some sixteen or seventeen years ago traders came with it, although there
were a few in the country before, and numerous trading posts were
established in the reservation and about its borders. The effect of
this was to fix the pastoral habits of the people. Wool and pelts were
exchanged for flour, sugar, and coffee, and for calico prints and dyes,
and gradually a demand for these articles was established.

The men looked after their herds of horses and took very good care of
the few cattle that drifted into the reservation; the women attended
to their domestic duties and, with the aid of the children, took care
of the sheep and goats, which, according to long-established custom,
belonged exclusively to them. Agriculture was practically unknown. But
with the removal of the duty on wool a new era opened for the Navaho.
The price of wool fell to about one-half of the former figure, and a
flock of sheep no longer furnished the means for procuring the articles
which had grown to be necessities. The people were gradually but surely
forced to horticulture to procure the means of subsistence. It is this
tendency which is especially destructive of the old house-building
ideas, and which will eventually cause a complete change in the houses
of the people. Recently the tendency has been emphasized by the
construction, under governmental supervision, of a number of small
irrigating ditches in the mountain districts. The result of these works
must be eventually to collect the Navaho into small communities, and
practically to destroy the present pastoral life and replace it with
new and, perhaps, improved conditions.

But many of the arts of the Navaho, and especially their house building,
grew out of and conformed to the old methods of life. It is hardly to be
supposed that they will continue under the new conditions, and, in fact,
pronounced variations are already apparent. Up to ten years ago there
was so little change that it might be said that there was none; since
then the difference can be seen by everyone. Should the price of wool
rise in the near future the change that has been suggested might be
checked, but it has received such an impetus that the Navaho will always
henceforth pay much more attention to horticulture than they have in the
past, and this means necessarily a modification in the present methods
of house building. The average Navaho farm, and almost every adult male
now has a small garden patch, comprises less than half an acre, while
two acres is considered a large area to be worked by one family at one

One result of this industrial development of the people is an increased
permanency of dwellings. As the flocks of sheep and goats diminish and
their care becomes less important, greater attention is paid to the
selection of sites for homes, and they are often located now with
reference to a permanent occupancy and with regard to the convenience of
the fields, which in some cases furnish the main source of subsistence
of the family. As a collateral result of these conditions and tendencies
an effort is now sometimes made to build houses on the American plan;
that is, to imitate the houses of the whites. Such houses are a wide
departure from the original ideas of house structures of the Navaho.
They are rectangular in plan, sometimes with a board roof, and
occasionally comprise several rooms. When the local conditions favor it
they are constructed of stone, regular walls of masonry; but perhaps the
greater number of those now in existence are in the mountain districts,
and were built of logs, often hewn square before being laid in place.
Plate LXXXVIII shows a stone house belonging to one of the wealthiest
men in the tribe, Bitcai by name. It is situated on the western slope of
the Tunicha mountains and was built some years ago, but it is a type of
house which is becoming more and more frequent on the reservation. There
is practically nothing aboriginal about it except a part of its interior
furniture and its inhabitants, and the only one of the old requirements
that has been met is the fronting of the house to the east, while the
character of the site and the natural conditions demand a western front.

The log houses referred to are constructed much like the stone house
shown in the illustration, except that they are built usually by Indian
labor and ordinarily are covered with flat earthen roofs. Frequently the
logs are hewn square before being placed in the walls, which present
a very neat and finished appearance. Sometimes door and window frames
are procured from the sawmill or from the traders, and add to such
appearance, while nearly always one or more glazed sashes occupy the
window openings and board doors close the entrances. In nearly all cases
the requirement that the entrance should face the east is observed, but
it is being more and more ignored, and in the houses constructed within
the last few years the ancient custom is frequently violated. Unless the
principal entrance were made to face the east, the performers in the
dedicatory ceremonies could not take their prescribed positions and the
ceremony would have to be either modified or omitted altogether.


Among the Pueblo Indians there are certain rituals and ceremonial
observances connected with the construction of the houses, but in the
Navaho system nothing of a ceremonial nature is introduced until the
conclusion of the manual labor. Usually there are enough volunteers to
finish the work in one day, and by evening everything is ready for the
dedication. The wife sweeps out the house with a wisp of grass and she
or her husband makes a fire on the floor directly under the smoke hole.
She then goes to her bundles of household effects, which are still
outside, and pours a quantity of white cornmeal into a shallow
saucer-shape basket. She hands this to the _qasçíŋ_, or head of the
family, who enters the hogán and rubs a handful of the dry meal on the
five principal timbers which form the _tsá¢i_ or frame, beginning with
the south doorway timber. He rubs the meal only on one place, as high up
as he can reach easily, and then does the same successively on the south
timber, the west timber, the north timber, and the north doorway timber.
While making these gifts, as the proceeding is termed, the man preserves
a strict silence, and then, as with a sweeping motion of his hand from
left to right (_cabĭkégo_, as the sun travels) he sprinkles the meal
around the outer circumference of the floor, he says in low measured

  _Qojónli_             _coġán_
  May it be delightful  my house;

  _Cĭtsĭ´dje_   _qojónli_
  From my head  may it be delightful;

  _Cĭké¢e_    _qojónli_
  To my feet  may it be delightful;

  _Ciyá¢e_     _qojónli_
  Where I lie  may it be delightful;

  _Cĭkígĭ ¢áltso_  _qojónli_
  All above me     may it be delightful;

  _Cĭná ¢áltso_  _qojónli_
  All around me  may it be delightful.

He then flings a little of the meal into the fire, saying--

  _Qojónli hóçe_                  _cĭkóŋ_
  May it he delightful and well,  my fire.

and tosses a handful or two up through the smoke hole, saying--

  _Qojónli_             _Tcíŋhanoaí_        _cĭçá naiĭcní‘_
  May it be delightful  Sun (day carrier),  my mother’s ancestor,
                                               for this gift;

  _Qojónli_             _nacále_          _coġán_
  May it be delightful  as I walk around  my house.

Then two or three handfuls of meal are sprinkled out of the doorway
while he says--

  _Qojónli_             _caĕ´çin_            _cĭçá_
  May it be delightful  this road of light,  my mother’s ancestor.

The woman then makes an offering to the fire by throwing a few small
handfuls of meal upon it, and as she sprinkles it she says in a subdued

  _Qojónli_             _cĭkóŋ_
  May it be delightful  my fire;

  _Qojónli_             _caltcíni_        _¢áltso yahóçe_
  May it be delightful  for my children;  may all be well;

  _Qojónli_             _cibeaçán_                _¢áltso yahóçe_
  May it be delightful  with my food and theirs;  may all be well;

  _¢áltso cĭnalgéya_       _yahóçe ¢olel‘_
  All my possessions well  may they be made
                           (that is, may they be made to increase);

  _¢áltso cĭl‘íŋ_  _yahóçe ¢olel‘_
  All my flocks    well may they be made (to increase).

When a hogán is built for a woman who has no husband, or if the husband
is absent at the time, the wife performs all these ceremonies. In the
absence of white cornmeal, yellow cornmeal is sometimes used, but never
the _çqa¢ĭçíŋ ¢oçlĭ´j_, the sacred blue pollen of certain flowers, which
is reserved exclusively for the rites of the shaman.

By the time these forms have been observed night will have fallen.
During the day, while the house building was in progress, the women were
busily engaged in preparing food; all now gather inside the hogán, a
blanket is suspended over the door frame, all the possessions of the
family are bought in, sheepskins are spread on the floor, the fire is
brightened and the men all squat around it. The women bring in food in
earthen cooking pots and basins, and, having set them down among the
men, they huddle together by themselves to enjoy the occasion as
spectators. Every one helps himself from the pots by dipping in with
his fingers, the meat is broken into pieces, and the bones are gnawed
upon and sociably passed from hand to hand. When the feast is finished
tobacco and corn husks are produced, cigarettes are made, everyone
smokes, and convivial gossipy talk prevails. This continues for two or
three hours, when the people who live near by get up their horses and
ride home. Those from a long distance either find places to sleep in the
hogán or wrap themselves in their blankets and sleep at the foot of a
tree. This ceremony is known as the _qoġán aiíla_, a kind of salutation
to the house.

But the _qoġán bĭgĭ´n_, the house devotions, have not yet been observed.
Occasionally these take place as soon as the house is finished, but
usually there is an interval of several days to permit the house
builders to invite all their friends and to provide the necessary food
for their entertainment. Although analogous to the Anglo-Saxon “house
warming,” the _qoġán bĭgĭ´n_, besides being a merrymaking for the young
people, has a much more solemn significance for the elders. If it be
not observed soon after the house is built bad dreams will plague the
dwellers therein, toothache (dreaded for mystic reasons) will torture
them, and the evil influence from the north will cause them all kinds
of bodily ill; the flocks will dwindle, ill luck will come, ghosts will
haunt the place, and the house will become _bátsĭç_, tabooed.

A few days after the house is finished an arrangement is made with some
shaman (_qaçál‘i_, devotional singer) to come and sing the ceremonial
house songs. For this service he always receives a fee from those who
engage him, perhaps a few sheep or their value, sometimes three or four
horses or their equivalent, according to the circumstances of the house
builders. The social gathering at the _qoġán bĭgĭ´n_ is much the same
as that of the _qoġán aiíla_, when the house is built, except that
more people are usually invited to the former. They feast and smoke,
interchange scandal, and talk of other topics of interest, for some
hours. Presently the _qaçál‘i_ seats himself under the main west timber
so as to face the east, and the singing begins.

In this ceremony no rattle is used. The songs are begun by the shaman
in a drawling tone and all the men join in. The _qaçál‘i_ acts only as
leader and director. Each one, and there are many of them in the tribe,
has his own particular songs, fetiches, and accompanying ceremonies,
and after he has pitched a song he listens closely to hear whether the
correct words are sung. This is a matter of great importance, as the
omission of a part of the song or the incorrect rendering of any word
would entail evil consequences to the house and its inmates. All the
house songs of the numerous _qaçál‘i_ are of similar import but differ
in minor details.

The first song is addressed to the east, and is as follows:

  _House song to the East_

  _Qa‘ádje_        _biyádje_  _beqoġán_      _aiíla_
  Far in the east  far below  there a house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Qastcéyalçi_  _bebiqoġán_      _aiíla_
  God of Dawn    there his house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Qayol‘kál‘_  _bebiqoġán_      _aiíla_
  The Dawn      there his house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Naçáŋ l‘akaí_  _bebiqoġán_      _aiíla_
  White Corn      there its house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Yu´¢i alçqasaí_  _bebiqoġán_       _aiíla_
  Soft possessions  for them a house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Ço‘l‘á_         _nastcín_    _bebiqoġán_     _aiíla_,
  Water in plenty  surrounding  for it a house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Çqa¢ĭçíŋ_   _bebiqoġán_     _aiíla_
  Corn pollen  for it a house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Sáŋa nagaí_  _aiíla bĭké_         _qojón_
  The ancients  make their presence  delightful;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

Immediately following this song, but in a much livelier measure, the
following benedictory chant is sung:

  _Cĭtsĭ´dje_  _qojógo_
  Before me    may it be delightful;

  _Cĭké¢e_   _qojógo_
  Behind me  may it be delightful;

  _Cĭná¢e_   _qojógo_
  Around me  may it be delightful;

  _Ciyági_  _qojógo_
  Below me  may it be delightful;

  _Cĭkígi_  _qojógo_
  Above me  may it be delightful;

  _¢áltso_           _qojógo_
  All (universally)  may it be delightful.

After a short interval the following is sung to the west:

  _House song to the West_

  _Iŋiŋádje_       _biyádje_  _beqoġán_      _aiíla_
  Far in the west  far below  there a house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Qastcéqoġan_    _bebiqoġán_      _aiíla_
  God of Twilight  there his house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Naqotsói_               _bebiqoġán_      _aiíla_,
  Yellow light of evening  there his house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Naçáŋ ĭl‘tsói_  _bebiqoġán_      _aiíla_
  Yellow corn      there its house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Ĭntlĭ´z alçqasaí_  _bebiqoġán_        _aiíla_
  Hard possessions    there their house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Ço‘biáji_  _bebiqoġán_      _aiíla_
  Young rain  there its house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Çqa¢ĭçíŋ_   _bebiqoġán_      _aiíla_
  Corn pollen  there its house  was made;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

  _Sáŋa nagaí_  _aiíla bĭké_         _qojón_
  The ancients  make their presence  delightful;

  _Qojón_     _qoġáne_
  Delightful  house.

The song to the west is also followed by the benedictory chant, as
above, and after this the song which was sung to the east is repeated;
but this time it is addressed to the south. The song to the west is then
repeated, but addressed to the north, and the two songs are repeated
alternately until each one has been sung three times to each cardinal
point. The benedictory chant is sung between each repetition.

All the men present join in the singing under the leadership of the
shaman, who does not himself sing, but only starts each song. The women
never sing at these gatherings, although on other occasions, when they
get together by themselves, they sing very sweetly. It is quite common
to hear a primitive kind of part singing, some piping in a curious
falsetto, others droning a deep bass.

The songs are addressed to each of the cardinal points, because in the
Navaho system different groups of deities are assigned to each of these
points. The Navaho also makes a distinction between heavy rain and light
rain. The heavy rain, such as accompanies thunderstorms, is regarded
as the “male rain,” while the gentle showers or “young rains,” coming
directly from the house of Estsánatlehi, are regarded as especially
beneficent; but both are deemed necessary to fertilize. A distinction is
also made between “hard possessions,” such as turquois and coral beads,
shell ornaments, and all articles made from hard substances, and “soft
possessions,” which comprise blankets and all textile substances, skins,
etc. The Navaho prays that his house may cover many of both hard and
soft possessions.

The songs given above are known as the twelve house-songs, although
there are only two songs, each repeated twelve times. These are sung
with many variations by the different _qaçál‘i_, and while the builders
are preparing for this ceremony they discuss which _qaçál‘i_ has the
best and most beautiful words before they decide which one to engage.
But the songs are invariably addressed to the deities named,
Qastcéyalçi, the God of Dawn, and Qastcéqoġan, the God of Twilight;
and they always have the same general significance.

After the “twelve songs” are finished many others are sung: to
Estsánatlehi, a benignant Goddess of the West, and to Yol‘kaí Estsán,
the complementary Goddess of the East; to the sun, the dawn, and the
twilight; to the light and to the darkness; to the six sacred mountains,
and to many other members of a very numerous theogony. Other
song-prayers are chanted directly to malign influences, beseeching them
to remain far off: to _ĭntcóŋgi_, evil in general; to _dakús_, coughs
and lung evils, and to the _bĭ¢akúji_, sorcerers, praying them not to
come near the dwelling. The singing of the songs is so timed that the
last one is delivered just as the first gray streaks of dawn appear,
when the visitors round up their horses and ride home.


Despite the ceremonies which have been performed, it frequently happens
that malign influences affect the new dwelling. The inmates suffer from
toothache, or sore eyes, or have bad dreams, or ghosts are heard in the
night. Then the house ceremony is repeated. If after this the conditions
still prevail and threatening omens are noted, an effort is made to
ascertain the cause. Perhaps the husband recalls an occasion when he
was remiss in some religious duty, or the wife may remember having
seen accidentally an unmasked dancer, or they may be convinced that a
sorcerer, a _¢ĭlkúji_, is practicing his evil art. Such malign
influences must be due to some definite cause, and it must be found.
Then, if the cause be grave, resort must be had to a very elaborate
ceremony, the dance of the _Yébĭtcai_.

For the observance of this ceremony it is usual to construct a flat-roof
hut called _iyá¢askuni_, meaning, literally, “under the flat.” The roof
is nearly square as well as flat, and the edifice, with its spreading
base, suggests a truncated pyramid; but as it is roughly covered with
earth heaped over the entire structure it is externally little more than
a shapeless mound. Plate LXXXIX is an exterior view of one of these
special hogáns, which is also shown in plan in figure 241.

  [Illustration: Fig. 241--Ground plan of Yébĭtcai house]

When it has been decided to build an _iyá¢askuni_ all the young men of
the neighborhood join in the labor while some of the older men direct
them in the prescribed methods. The procedure is much the same as that
employed in building the regular hogán, but larger timbers are required.
Any kind of timber growing in the vicinity is used; but as groves of
piñon and juniper are most abundant in the Navaho country, these are
the kinds usually employed. The stunted, twisted trunks of these trees
make it a matter of some difficulty to find the necessary timbers of
sufficient size, for they must be at least a foot in diameter. When
found, the trees are cut down and carried to the site selected, which
must have fairly level surroundings, free from dense wood and
underbrush, so as to afford a clear space for the ceremonial processions
and dances. Four heavy posts are necessary--“legs,” the Navaho call
them--and these must be trimmed so as to leave a strong fork at the top
of each at least 6 feet from the ground when set upright. Four others,
for the horizontal roof-beams, must be 10 feet long, but without forks;
and two more, the straightest and longest, are necessary for the doorway
passage. These ten timbers are called _tsá¢i_, the same term that is
applied to the five main timbers of the ordinary hogán.

The four posts are set firmly in the ground in shallow holes at
distances apart corresponding to the length of the main roof-beams,
and so arranged as to describe a square, the sides of which face the
cardinal points. The prescribed position of the doorway is the center
of the eastern side, and it must face the east exactly. The post at
the southeastern corner is the first to be set, then the one at the
southwestern corner, with the forks arranged on the same line. The
northwestern post is then set, and finally the one at the northeastern
corner, and the forks of the last two are also placed on the same line.
In the ground plan (figure 241) the posts are numbered in the order in
which they are set up. This sequence is not always strictly followed,
but the old men say that this is the proper way.

The beam for the southern side of the roof is next lifted into place and
laid so as to rest in the forks of the two posts on that side, with the
ends projecting a little beyond them. The beam on the northern side is
similarly placed, and the western and the eastern beams are next laid
so that their ends rest upon the ends of the beams already in place.
Another timber is then placed parallel with the eastern beam, as shown
on the plan. This forms the western side of the smoke-hole and also
a support for the smaller roof-timbers to rest upon. Sometimes an
additional timber is laid across for this purpose between the one last
named and the next beam. The two timbers for the sides of the doorway
passage are then placed in position about 3 feet apart and leaning
against the eastern roof-beam. The butt ends rest upon the ground, and
the space between them should be in the center of the eastern side.
All the main posts and beams are stripped of bark, the rough knobs and
protuberances are hewn off, and they are finished according to the skill
of the builders or the exactions of the old men who superintend the

While this work is in progress a great number of smaller and less
shapely timbers are procured for the sides and roof. To determine a
pitch for the sloping sides all the workers arrange themselves so as to
encompass the square frame, and a few of the longest of the irregular
timbers are placed here and there around it, leaning against the beams.
They are roughly aligned, and some attempt is made to have the sides of
the same slope. The floor area thus determined, the outer edge of which
would fall 4 to 6 feet outside the posts, is then lightly dug over to
remove all irregularities, and is made as level as possible.

As in the ordinary hogán, the upright posts of the door-frame are set
near the lower ends of the doorway timbers, and the roof and sides of
the doorway are covered in when the sides of the hut are inclosed, which
is the next step in the construction. Small tree trunks and timbers are
placed closely around the excavated floor area, with their upper ends
leaning against the roof beams. They are not set very regularly and
boughs are often used to fill the larger crevices, while the corners are
turned in a clumsy manner, with the tops of the timbers overlapping
each other, while the butts diverge in a haphazard curve.

The roof is laid with smaller timbers, the longest resting on the
smoke-hole timber and the western beam, while the shorter pieces span
the smaller interval from the former timber to the eastern beam. The
arrangement of the smoke exit differs from that of the ordinary hogán.
In the latter an open space is left between the doorway timbers at their
upper ends; in the _iyá¢askuni_ the doorway roof is continued up to the
eastern beam, which forms the eastern side of the smoke hole. This hole
is in the main roof, in line with the doorway but just beyond the ends
of its timbers, and it is usually about 3 feet square. Figure 242
is an interior view of the frame, looking outward. The structure is
finished like the hogáns; the frame is covered by heavy layers of cedar
or juniper bark over the sides and roof, and finally with a deep
covering of earth packed firmly over the whole exterior. The door frame
is usually about 4 feet high and 2-1/2 feet wide; the roof is about 7
feet high in the interior, and the floor area measures roughly 20 feet
square, with the four posts standing about 5 feet from the base of the
sides. Figure 243 shows some actual measurements.

  [Illustration: Fig. 242--Framework of Yébĭtcai house]

While the _Yébĭtcai_ ceremony is in progress the hut is occupied by the
_qaçál‘i_ and his assistants and by the young men who assume the sacred
masks and personate the various deities in the nightly dances. In the
mornings the _qaçál‘i_ sits under the western side of the hut and
directs the young men in the process of sand painting, the making of
curious sand mosaics delineating mythologic subjects. The materials used
are dry sand, charcoal, and powdered ochers of different colors, which
are poured from the hand between the thumb and fingers. Without the use
of a brush or other implement the trickling stream is guided to form
intricate designs. These designs are made directly on the earthen floor
in a zone about 3 feet wide and extending nearly the entire length of
the hut from north to south. This zone, called the _iká‘_, is made in
front of the _qaçál‘i_, and between him and the fire, which is reduced
to small dimensions to enable him to work close under the opening in
the roof. During the process the door is closed with the usual hanging
blanket, and to increase the light from above a buckskin or white cloth
is sometimes suspended as a reflector on a light frame of boughs erected
on the roof on the western side of the smoke hole.

  [Illustration: Fig. 243--Diagram showing measurements of Yébĭtcai

The mask recess, which is found in all the larger hogáns, is always made
in the middle of the western side of the _iyá¢askuni_. It is usually
somewhat wider and deeper than in the ordinary dwelling. The bundles
containing the masks and other paraphernalia to be used in the ceremony
are placed in the recess by the _qaçál‘i_, who then fastens a skin or
cloth across it. The upper edge at a height of about 3 feet from the
floor is fastened with strings to the sloping timbers. The lower edge is
held by small pegs driven into the edge of the bench-like ledge of earth
which marks the limits of the floor. When he needs them the _qaçál‘i_
reaches behind the curtain for the paraphernalia he has previously
prepared and deposited there. The masks must never be seen except when
worn by the dancers, nor are the fetiches exposed except when certain
rites demand their display.

This recess is called by the Navaho _djĭc bĭnasklá_, literally “mask
recess.” Besides its practical use it has a mythic significance, as
it indicates the position occupied by First-man, who sat there with
Qastcéyalçi (Dawn) and Qastcéqoġan (Twilight) on either hand, in the
house where the Corn people were made. They also occupied similar
positions in the house in which they made the celestial bodies, and
also in the first _iyá¢askuni_, which was made by them to celebrate
the occurrence of the first menstruation of Estsánatlehi.

No special veneration attaches to the _iyá¢askuni_ except when a
ceremony is in progress. At that time it is devoted exclusively to the
_qaçál‘i_ and the other actors in the rites, and it is then known as
_qaçál‘ biqoġan_, the song house. Perhaps the family for whose benefit
it was first used may have contributed the larger share of the food for
the workers who constructed it, but it is not held to be the exclusive
property of any one person; it is for the use of the neighborhood. In
the summer time, during which season no important rites are celebrated,
the women often erect their vertical looms there and use it as a
workroom. Some of the neighbors may find it convenient to occupy it
temporarily, or when some occasion brings an influx of visitors they
adjourn to the flat-roof house, if there be one near, to smoke and
gamble and sleep there. But it is rarely used as a dwelling in winter,
as it would have to be vacated whenever one of the neighbors wished to
have a ceremony performed. Moreover, owing to its large size, it would
be more difficult to keep warm than the more compact hogán.


_qoġán ĭl‘tcĭ´n ¢ezá‘_--conical hut; probably from _siníl_, a plural
  article pronoun; _tsĭn_, a timber; and _¢ezá‘_, a point.

_qoġán ¢ĭtcóli_--round, inclosed hut. Both this term and the preceding
  are used to designate the ordinary dwelling hut, but the former is
  more commonly used.





_náni_--flat, bevel.



_nanaái_--a long straight object, as a timber.

  _ca¢aá¢e naaí_--south timber.             } The (five) principal
  _iŋiŋá¢e naaí_--west timber.              } timbers composing the
  _nâqokos¢e naaí_--north timber.           } frame, collectively
  _tcíŋĕçin¢e naaí_--doorway timbers (two). } called--

_tsá¢i_--frame. Sometimes these timbers are called--

_ca¢aádje naaí_, _iŋiŋádje naaí_, etc. _¢e_ means “here,” or “brought
  here;” _dje_ means “there” or “set there.” The western timber is also
  specially designated--

_bigídje nolká¢_, brought together into it; an allusion to its function
  as the main support of the frame, as the other two timbers rest within
  its spreading fork. The two doorway timbers are also designated as
  north or south timber respectively. They are also called--

_tcíŋĕçin bĭnĭnĭ´li_, those in place at the doorway passage.

_¢ezá‘_--a point; the forked apex.

_l‘éjça_--the ground; the floor.

_bitúça_--surrounding projection; the ledge or undisturbed margin of the
  floor area.

_tcíŋĕçin_--the road there; the doorway. This term appears to mean “the
  road there” to the east--that is, to _tcíŋhanoai_, the sun. The word
  _tciŋ_ also means day.

_tcíŋĕçin sĭlái_--the uprights of the door frame. They are also called--

_tcíŋeçin iái_--but this, strictly speaking, means one upright.

_sĭlaí_, or _sĭlái_--a pair.

_tcíŋĕçin sĭlái nanaái_--doorway-post horizontal timber; the lintel.

_tcíŋĕçin na¢asĭçă´ni_--another term for the lintel. A single stick
  lying on the ground is called--

_tsĭn sĭçă´ni_--but when resting upon something above the ground it is

_tsĭn ¢asĭçă´ni_.

_tcĭlégi nanaái_--smoke-hole horizontal timber; the crosspiece that
  rests upon the large doorway timbers and forms the base of the
  smoke-hole, and also supports one end of the doorway roof.

_tcĭlégi na¢asĭçă´ni_--this term is also applied to the smoke-hole
  stick, as in the case of the lintel above.

_tcíŋĕçin biká¢e nanĭjóji_--doorway upper surface flat roof; the
  doorway roof formed of parallel sticks resting on the lintel and the
  smoke-hole base. The word--

_boġán¢e_--uppermost, is sometimes used instead of _biká¢e_. The term--

_nanĭjóji_--means, literally, timbers laid level side by side, and is
  applied to a floor of wood, as in--

_wúya¢e nanĭjóji_--the below-level arrangement of timbers or boards. It
  is also applied to walls, as in--

_biyá¢e bĭnĭjóji_--the side arrangement of boards. A bridge across a
  stream is called--

_ço‘ĭnlĭ´nigi nanijóji_--the first term meaning “water flowing.”

_tcíŋĕçin biyá¢e bĭnĭjóji_--doorway side walls; the sticks set in
  between the uprights of the door-frame and the slanting doorway

_tcĭlégi_--smoke-hole; derivation obscure.

_biyá¢e bĭnĭjóji_--the side “walls;” the smaller timbers which inclose
  the hut. They are also called--

_biya´¢e bĭnĭnĭ´li_--leaning around the sides; from _hĭ´nia‘_, slanting,
  and the plural article pronoun _siníl_.

  [Illustration: Fig. 244--Interior of Yébĭtcai house, illustrating

_úji_--cedar bark.

_úji behesdjéhi_--cedar bark laid on; the bark covering.


_l‘ej behesnĭ´li_--earth thrown on or lifted on; the earth covering.

_¢ánĭpal‘_--suspended thin object; this term is always applied to the
  door covering, which is usually a blanket hanging from the lintel.

_Terms applied to different parts of the floor area_

_qaa‘ádje ni sĭ´skla_--within the small corner in the east. The
  derivation is probably as follows: _qaádje_, in the east; _ni_ from
  _yúni_, within; _sĭs_ from _ĭltsĭ´si_, small; _tkla_ from _nasklá_,
  a corner.

_ca¢aádje ni sĭ´çkla_--within the corner in the south.

_iŋiŋádje ni sĭ´çkla_--within the corner in the west.

_náqokosdje ni sĭ´çkla_--within the corner in the north.

_náqokosdje ni sĭ´skla_--within the small corner in the north.

_qonicpáŋgi_--means something like sacred path, or direction. _Náspas_
  is the name applied to a circle. During a ceremony persons entering a
  hut must pass in to the left of the fire; to leave the hut they pass
  out on the north side of the fire.

_iyái‘yi_--under half; the center of the hut.

_ko´ŋnike_--fireplace; probably derived from _koŋ_, fire; _ni‘_, land;
  and _ke_, track or footprint; _kê_ also means land.

_qónĭcqa‘_--meaning unknown; it is applied to the space between the fire
  and the entrance.

_djĭc bĭnasklá_--mask corner or recess.

_tcíŋĕçin_--the entrance. See explanation above.

_kló¢e_--without; the area in front of the entrance outside of the hut.

_qoġán bĭné¢e_--outside of the hut.

  _Yébĭtcai house nomenclature_[2]

_iyá¢ahaskúni_--or _¢askúni_, the _Yébĭtcai_ house; probably derived
  from _iyá_, under; and _¢ahaskúni_, a detached, smooth-sided, flat-top
  mountain. This structure is also called--

_çiŋbĭtsáçi qoġán_--four-legged house.

 1. _tcíŋĕçin¢e naaí_, _tcíŋĕçin bĭnĭnĭ´li_-- }
 2. _tcíŋĕçin sĭlái_--                        }
 3. _tcíŋĕçin sĭlái nanaái_, or _¢asĭçă´ni_-- } As in the regular
 4. _tcíŋĕçin biká¢e nanaái_--                }   hogán.
 5. _tcíŋĕçin boġán¢e nanĭjóji_--             }
 6. _tcíŋĕçin biyá¢e bĭnĭjóji_--              }
 7. _qaá‘adje nanaái_--east horizontal timber.
    _ca¢aádje nanaái_--south horizontal timber.
    _iŋiŋádje nanaái_--west horizontal timber.
 8. _náqokosdje nanaái_--north horizontal timber.
    _qaá‘adje iái_ (1)[3]--east post. }
    _ca¢aádje iái_ (2)--south post.   } These posts are further
    _iŋiŋádje iái_ (3)--west post.    } distinguished as follows:
 9. _náqokosdje iái_ (4)--north post. }
    _ca¢aá qaá‘adje iái_ (1).
    _ca¢aá iŋiŋádje iái_ (2).
    _náqokos iŋiŋádje iái_ (3).
    _náqokos qaá‘dje iái_ (4).
10. _biyá¢e bĭnĭjóji_--the walls; also distinguished as north, south,
        east, and west walls.
11. _boġán¢e nanijóji_--uppermost roof; the main roof.
12. _tcíŋĕçin_--doorway.
13. _tcĭlégi_--smoke-hole.
14. _tcĭlégi nanaái_--smoke-hole timber. The same term is applied to
      the timber marked 7 in the figure.

    [Footnote 2: The figures refer to the interior view shown in figure

    [Footnote 3: The numbers in parentheses refer to the ground plan,
    figure 241.]


  Agriculture among the Navaho                                 503

  Bark used in Navaho structures                               493
  Benches in Navaho houses                                     496
  Butts and tips in Navaho house building                 489, 490

  Cardinal Points of the Navaho            488, 500, 502, 508, 511
  Carriso Mountains described                                  477
  Ceremony, _see_ Dedication.
  Chaco Valley described                                  478, 479
  Chelly Canyon occupied by the Navaho                         483
  Chinlee Valley described                                     478
  Choiskai Mountains described                                 477
  Cornmeal used in Navaho house dedication                504, 505

  Dawn God of the Navaho                                       489
  Decoration, lack of, in Navaho houses                        487
  Dedication of Navaho houses                             476, 504
  Descent among the Navaho                                     485
  Dogs among the Navaho                                        484
  Doorframes of Navaho houses                                  492
  Drill, fire, of the Navaho                                   501

  Environment, effect of, on primitive people                  475
  Estufa, _see_ Kiva.

  Feast at Navaho house dedication                             506
  Fire-Making by the Navaho                                    501
  Frog in Navaho genesis                                       488

  Ganamucho, former Navaho chief                               478
  Genesis of the Navaho                                        488
  Government of the Navaho                                     485

  Hogans, _see_ Houses.
  Hopi and Navaho compared                                485, 486
  Houses, _see_ Tcindi Hogan.

  Kearny, _Gen._, conquest of New Mexico by                    502
  Kivas partly subterranean                                    496

  Land division of, by the Navaho                              485
  Lukachukai mountains described                               477

  Matthews, W., acknowledgments to                        476, 488
  Mindeleff, Victor, data by, on Navaho houses                 476
    ----, on origin of pueblo house benches                    496
  Mortuary Customs of the Navaho                               487
  Myth, _see_ Genesis.

  Navaho former and present condition compared                 502
    ---- habitat, description of                               477
    ----, habits of the                                        481
    ----, modern condition of the                              486
    ---- population                                            483
  New Mexico, _see_ Navaho.
  Nomenclature of Navaho house building               491, 514-517

  Pueblos raided by the Navaho                                 481

  Rain personified by the Navaho                               509
  Rainbow in Navaho genesis                                    488
  Recesses in Navaho houses                               493, 514

  Salt-Woman in Navaho genesis                                 488
  Sand Paintings of the Navaho                            501, 513
  Sheep acquired by the Navaho                            485, 486
  Sheep-Raising by the Navaho                                  481
    ----, decline of, among the Navaho                         503
  Sites of Navaho houses                                  483, 489
  Smoking at Navaho house dedication                           506
  Songs of dedication by Navaho                            505-508
    ----, Navaho, necessity for correctness of                 506
  Stephen, A. M., data by, on Navaho houses                    476
  Summer Shelters of the Navaho                                494
  Sunbeams in Navaho genesis                                   488
  Sunset God in Navaho mythology                               489
  Sweat Baths, Navaho method of taking                         500
  Sweat Houses of the Navaho                                   499

  Taboo of tcindi-hogan                                        487
  Tcĭndi Hogans of the Navaho                                  487
  Tobacco, _see_ Smoking.
  Tortoise in Navaho genesis                                   488
  Traveling, Navaho method of                                  484
  Tségi Canyon, _see_ Chelly Canyon.
  Tunicha Mountains described                                  477

  Vegetation of the Navaho country                             480

  Water Monster in Navaho genesis                              488
  Women, Navaho, status of                                     485

  Yébĭtcai ceremony of the Navaho                              500
    ---- hogan of the Navaho                                   509

       *       *       *       *       *
           *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *

  _spelling as in original (twice)_
The whole frame, comprising five timbers, is known as _tsá¢í_
  _so in original: “tsáçi”?_
On this skin the _qaçál‘i_ sprinkles iron ochers
  _text has comma: “the _qaçál‘i_, sprinkles”_
under the windy conditions that prevail in their country
  _text reads “prevail n”_
continue under the new conditions
  _text reads “condi/ditions” at line break_
_Qojónli_             _cibeaçán_                _¢áltso yahóçe_
May it be delightful  with my food and theirs;  may all be well;
  _final semicolon absent in original_
_náqokos qaá‘dje iái_ (4)
  _so in original: “qaá‘adje”?_

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Navaho Houses, pages 469-518 - Seventeenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to - the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1895-1896, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1898" ***

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