Honeeshgish A Navajo Legend

Background Knowledge

Teacher Background Knowledge

Navajo Tribe in Utah (Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona)

The Navajo people are the second most populus of all Native American peoples in the United States. The Navajo Nation extends into the states of Utah , Arizona and New Mexico , covering over 27,000 square miles of unparalleled beauty. Diné Bikéyah, or Navajoland, is larger than 10 of the 50 states in America.

Visitors from around the world are intrigued and mystified when they hear the Navajo language – so, too, were the enemy during World War II. Unknown to many, the Navajo language was used to create a secret code to battle the Japanese. Navajo men were selected to create codes and serve on the front line to overcome and deceive those on the other side of the battlefield. Today, these men are recognized as the famous Navajo Code Talkers, who exemplify the unequaled bravery and patriotism of the Navajo people.

Today, the Navajo Nation is striving to sustain a viable economy for an ever increasing population that now surpasses 250,000. In years past, Navajoland often appeared to be little more than a desolate section of the Southwest, but it was only a matter of time before the Navajo Nation became known as a wealthy nation in a world of its own. 

Traditional Navajo wisdom recognizes spirituality as the foundation of all knowledge necessary for achieving harmony, or hozho, the Beauty Way of Life. This foun­dation is as relevant today as it ever was, and could serve as the basis of an approach to teaching which avoids the separation of secular and spir­itual knowledge that characterizes Western society. 

The Navajo Creation Story would be good background knowledge for teachers. A brief overview is that the Navajo people first emerged through four worlds, and it is believed that we are in the fourth world.

Honeeshgish Baahane' - Fire Poker

Honeeshgish baahane' originates at the beginning of time, the story is told as it relates to the stars during the journey from the four worlds. Fire was put into place in the fourth world as a substance and life sustaining element. by the Navajo deity. When the initial fire was lit and started, the deity noticed that the fire could not start properly. The Holy People wondered why it was doing that, the Holy People and Coyote finally determined that it was a wrong procedure, so they figure it was due to the laying out of the firewood and its type and species. At the instance, they decided that it required a crisscrossing of the female and male species in the logs used, where initially they were trying to start the fire with one type of firewood. When that was finally figured out that it required both elements in female and make firewood, they laid out the female and male logs in a combined crisscross manner and the fire started. but when the fire started, it started crackling out of control and shooting sparks in all directions. As the Holy People watched the fire burn, they began to notice that the hot ember and the ash was beginning to pile up and widening out. they did not know what to do to control it and it was getting really hot, so they decided at that time they needed something to control the fire and the forming of the ember and ash pile. They went and fetch a particular kind of wood and brought it back. They learned how to use the wood and control the fire and the fireplace. Fire is known as an element of life, it serves us in many ways and is considered sacred because of it origin and empowerment. It is the reason our grandparents/ teachings stress the importance in respecting fire as a household element; thay you always acknowledge the fire on a daily basis, in your prayer, upon your cooking and that you do not play or fool around with fire because fire is life - fire serves you as an element of life, yet it can also burn you if you misuse and abuse it. 

Fire to the Navajo People (and Native Americans in general):

Sacred fires have been used for generations as a way to heal, bond together, and begin sacred ceremonies, events, or rituals. Not only do sacred fires have a variety of unique benefits, but the sacred fire itself has traditions and protocols that are followed in order to uphold the integrity and sacredness of the fire. There are many lessons associated with fire. Fire offers remembrance, healing, and togetherness. A sacred fire is sacred because it is used as an Indigenous traditional wellness approach. A sacred fire is an important part of indigenous spirituality, communication with the spirit realm and our ancestors. It is a sacred practice meant to make individuals feel open, grounded, and connected with people on Earth and those who have moved on. A sacred fire is built by indigenous people who are gathering for an event, ritual, or ceremony. Usually, there is a firekeeper who builds, maintains, and keeps watch over the fire so that it is never unattended. Traditionally, men are the firekeepers who maintain and watch over the sacred fire, while women attend the ceremony. This can vary depending on Tribe or Nation and the type of ceremony taking place. The most important part to understand is that there are certain people assigned the role of Firekeeper and they are the only people allowed to disturb the fire and stand watch throughout the ceremony.

Related Resources: