This was a unique day (Saturday, June 16) for all involved in the 2012 Navajo Oral History project. Our group was invited to take part in a traditional Navajo Blessing Way ceremony.
It is amazingly rare for biligaana (white people) to be allowed to witness a traditional Navajo ceremony. The ceremony was being held in Lukachukai, Arizona, for Leonard Haskie, the father and father-in-law of Vernon and Miranda Haskie. Miranda is the Diné College professor that is co-director of the Navajo Oral History project.
(A view of the Lukachukai Mountains, part of the Chuska Mountain Range on the Navajo Nation.)
With the permission of the family and the medicine man in charge of the ceremony, our group was allowed to help prepare for the ceremony and to participate actively in the proceedings. Because of the sacred teachings that go into this medicine and healing based ceremony, we are not allowed to photograph or discuss actual elements of the ceremony.
Suffice it to say, the Winona State University group listened with great attention to the songs and prayed for healing for the patient, as well as for well-being, balance and harmony in their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
Following an initial blessing song in the morning, our group spent most of the day helping prepare food for all the family guests at this event. Some of our group chopped firewood; others peeled potatoes and cut up vegetables. Some helped put an awning over the cook shack area so it would be in shade. Others helped make fry bread or prepare a delicious fruit salad.
And I (Prof. Tom Grier) barbecued chicken, mutton and brats.
(photo by Robbie Christiano)
In the late afternoon, after another blessing, we all got to partake of the delicious foods as well as good conversation for a couple hours.
The Navajo family members and their guests seemed pleased we were there and helping so much for this ceremony. They took the time to explain many parts of the ceremony so we would understand the significance and meaning of the songs. They gently corrected us if we made a cultural misstep. There was discussion about how far we had come and what we were doing at Diné College. We felt welcome, and in fact privileged to participate in such an event.
This is the fourth year of the Navajo Oral History project. It is the first year students in the project have been allowed to be involved in a Navajo ceremony.
Late tonight, about 11 p.m., we'll go back to participate in more of the ceremony; three hours of singing The Hogan Songs. After that, the ceremony goes on all night until sunrise, about 5 a.m.