Navajo Religion Sacred Lands

Navajo RugsMany Dine’ assert that the four sacred mountains form a hogan which contains the world of the Dine’. The gods or first man and woman created the four Sacred Mountains – Blanca Peak and Hesperus Peak in Colorado, Mount Taylor in New Mexico, and the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona; preparing them as supernatural boundaries within which all was safe and protected. In the Navajo story of creation, after the first four Navajo clans emerged from a subsequent global flood, they moved into the area bounded by these four mountains. This was the original Dinétah, Navajo country. The importance of place and the relationship of place to spirituality is evidenced in these four sacred mountains.

Canyon de Chelle, another Navajo sacred place, lies in the heart of the land of the Navajo and the four Sacred Mountains. The canyon is hidden from view until you are upon it. It is a beautiful place abundant with life-giving sources, and a place of great peace where Navajo say important lessons can be learned. The top of Canyon De Chelly is a very holy place, one of the places the Holy Ones first set their feet, and within the canyon the Holy Ones taught the Navajo how to live. The ancient ruins in the canyon and the people who lived there form their history.

Natural springs are considered sacred to the Dine. An example of some of these springs include: Horse Springs, near Star Mountain, Red Willow Springs, Big Mountain Springs (East, West, North, South), Gravel Pit (Coal mine area), Mosquito Springs, Dove Springs, Owl Springs, Sunshine Springs, Tiic Ya Toh, To Ha Tich, Clay Springs, Onion Spring, Yes Ya Toh, Lizard Spring, and Tsi Dzeh (Jeddito area).

Cornfields are also sacred. The sand is taken into the hogan and returned to the field after the ceremony is completed. Sand is also used in sand paintings and as a purification wash. Different kinds of corn and parts of the corn (the husk, corn cob, corn pollen) are used in ceremonies and as offerings. In the field, the different colored corn are laid out in a sacred way in planting and used in almost every ceremony.

Families’ traditional use areas are bounded by sacred places where Holy People dwell. Parents and Grandparents teach their children and grandchildren the prayers and offerings that must be made at these places to insure well-being and protection. The land outside of this protective line is potentially dangerous. Also families have responsibility as caretakers of the land; the prayers and offerings must be continued to maintain the essential order of balance and harmony.

Places considered holy because of associations with the Navajo deities and those significant in the history of the tribe will continue to be meaningful to almost all Navajos. Canyon de Chelly and similar sacred Navajo environs will not lose their importance in this respect.