Guest Author - April Alisa Marquette
Recently I've been reading about North America's Native peoples. I've learned that since they are incredibly diverse, when it's possible, and when an individual shares with you what tribe they belong to, they would prefer to be referred to as such. When we refer to one as a Navajo, a Lakota, or a Cherokee, we signify the tribe they belong to. This is a form of respect, one that offers an authentic heritage description. Now days many believe that to be simply called an American Indian, or a Native American, can feel like being lumped into an over-simplified category -- when the truth is: that person has hailed from a vast and a diverse ethnicity.
That brings me to the Navajo tribe in particular. Friends, I find them most interesting because they are traditionally matrilineal. This means the clan's identity is not derived from the male, but from the female! In this they differ from other societies. This I thought was worth mentioning. I also like that often a Navajo person will introduce their self by naming their maternal clan before they state their fatherís -- their paternal clan.
I find it interesting that traditionally, Navajo women have owned land and livestock. These are passed down to daughters, to young women who have been trained to manage such things. Ethnic beauties, I love that women are the center of Navajo life; in their culture, they are the core, the ones to consult about social and economic issues. Many contemporary Navajo women are just like you and I. Contrary to the belief of some; they indeed work outside the home, and wear the same types of clothing as others in the larger society. For special occasions and events however, Navajo women don traditional cultural clothing. They also teach the younger generation crafts like weaving and pottery-making, skills that have long been in their lineage. The preservation of culture and keeping traditions alive is very important to Navajo women. I love that like many other ethnic women, the Navajo are not only beautiful on the outside, but that from the youngest age these ethnic beauties are taught to use their minds.
In Navajo culture, a sacred ritual, one that is most important is the Kinaalda Ceremony. This festive four-day event marks the passage of thirteen year old girls into womanhood. There is music and dance, and family members and others in society are considered helpers. They dress the young women and comb their hair. There are ceremonial duties that a chosen female companion aids the young women with. Special jewelry and ornamentation are part of this celebration. Costumes and other items that are painted are used to depict Changing Woman, the principal deity in the Navajo religion. This deity represents the various roles that a woman will take on in her lifetime. The deity Changing Woman is believed to aid girls on their journey into womanhood.
I'd like to share with you what The Elders have said of tribal women: They will lead healing among the tribes. When others give up, the women sing songs of strength. They are the backbone of the people, and must be prayed for. They have special powers. They keep the people strong; they are respectful, gentle and modest. For this reason, the Great One is asked to bless them.