Native American: Navajo Heritage
Brief History of Navajo Heritage
The Native Americans comprise of a number of diverse tribes and ethnic groups, most of which exist as integral political communities. The Navajo people comprise a significant percentage of the Native Americans, comprising of about 300, 048 registered members (Luebering, 2011). They were already settled around Colorado region, long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. They first made contact with the Spanish in 1581. Before this interaction, the Navajo were known for hunting and gathering activities. Later on, they adopted crop farming from the Pueblos, and animal farming from the Spanish. Since then, they have interacted with various communities, leading to their transformation to what they are today.
The Navajo have developed various values that bind them together. For instance, relationship, especially about the family, is a key part of the Navajo. Besides, the generosity is valued among the community members, particularly in assisting the less fortunate. The young people are taught to respect their elders. Moreover, community members are trained never to interfere with others. Other values include controlled emotions, bravery, honesty and strength, individual freedom, and respect for nature (Luebering, 2011).
Language and Communication Patterns
The Navajo, also called Dine Bizaad, is the most spoken language among the Native Americans, with more than 100,000 speakers. The Navajo was used during the WWII as code language to secure military communications over radio (Luebering, 2011). The language is linguistically affiliated to the Athabaskan’s Apachean subgroup. The language is exclusively different from other Amerindian languages. Dine Bizzad, is tonal unlike other Amerindian languages. In this case, tonal means words comprising of similar phonemes, but spoken with various tones have different meanings (Iverson, 2002).
Art and other Expressive Forms
Weaving, pottery making, basket making, and jewelry making are important elements of the Navajo culture. These artistic skills are passed on to daughters and granddaughters from generation-to-generation. Rags woven by old women are highly regarded in the community, and this is one of the community’s artifacts highly valued among tourists.
Norms and Rules
Like any traditional society, the Navajo had various norms and rules that hold the community together. The Navajo community has its own court, whose ruling is based on three major doctrines. First is the hozho (peace, balance, and harmony), second is ke (solidarity of kinship), and lastly is k ei (clanship system). The Navajo common law is intended to preserve the community’s language, culture, identity, and spirituality (Iverson, 2002). Besides, one of the important norms of this community is that people should respect one another, especially the young people to the elders.
The Navajo people are farmers, practicing crop and animal farming. Culture and tradition are important parts of their life, and they are geared towards their family life. Unlike other Native Americans, Navajo do not live in villages, but band together in small groupings close to water sources. Besides, they are a matriarchal society. In most cases descent and inheritance is determined from the mother’s side. Family allegiance and obligation is very strong in Navajo (Iverson, 2002).
Relationship is highly valued among the Navajo. The man is the head of the family, and is considered the breadwinner for the family. Women are expected to show respect for men, and their responsibilities are usually limited within the home. Elders have a special position in the community, and they are to be respected not only by the children, but also the rest of the community members (Oberg, 2010).
The Navajo people are known for strict ceremonies and rituals among the Native Americans, only second to Pueblo groups. They perform rituals for treatment for the sick, most of which lasts for about nine days. Less important ceremonies last for less than four days. The ceremonies are marked with sand alters, or dry paintings to portray characters and instances of myths. They have rituals and ceremonies for nearly every act of their life, including crop planting, and Hogan building. A good of the common rituals is the Kinaalda, a four-day long cerebration for transformation of a girl to womanhood at the age of 13 years (Oberg, 2010).
Over time, the Navajo people have been assimilated with the surrounding societies. Traditionally, the Navajo community was known for hunting and gathering. However, they later learnt crop farming and animal farming following the interaction with the Pueblo and Spanish, respectively. Besides, their language contains some elements of Pueblo and Spanish languages. All these shows how the Navajo have become assimilated with the communities they have come into contact with in their history (Iverson, Denetdale & Deer, 2006).
Health Behaviors and Practices
The Navajo practice various rituals as treatment of the ill and mental problems. They believe in superficial powers to heal the sick. Healing rituals usually last up to four days, and it is marked with singing and dancing. Traditional herbalists are very common in the Navajo community. It is imperative to note that the Navajo people live on traditional diets. Therefore, they generally live a healthy lifestyle, with minimal diet-related diseases (Denetdale, 2007).
Approaches needed by health care professionals
Health professional should learn to embrace and respect the culture of this community. This would enhance their acceptance in the community, and delivering health services becomes much easier. Besides, they should engage the community by creating awareness among the members on the importance of incorporating modern health care in their culture.
Denetdale, J. N (2007). Reclaiming Diné History: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Iverson, P. (2002). Diné: A History of the Navajos. With photographs by Monty Roessel. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
Iverson, P., Denetdale, J., & Deer, A. E. (2006). The Navajo. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers.
Luebering, J. E. (2011). Native American history. New York: Britannica Educational Pub. In association with Rosen Education Services.
Oberg, M. L. (2010). Native America: A history. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K: Wiley Blackwell.