Navajo / Navaho Native Americans

Navajo Indian Photos by Edward S. Curtis
Tribal Summary
Primitively the Navajo men dressed in deerskin shirts, hip-leggings, moccasins, and native blankets. These were superseded by what has been the more universal costume during the present generation; close-fitting cotton or velvet shirt, without collar, cut rather low about the neck and left open under the arms; breeches fashioned from any pleasing, but usually very thin, material, and extending below the knees, being left open at the outer sides from the bottom to a little above the ankles; deerskin moccasins with rawhide soles, which come to a little above the ankles, and brown deerskin leggings from moccasin-top to knee, held in place at the knee by a woven garter wound several times around the leg and the end tucked in.

The hair is held back from the eyes by a head-band tied in a knot at the back. In early times the women wore deerskin waist, skin, moccasins, and blanket, but these gradually gave place to the so-called “squaw-dress,” woven on the blanket loom, and consisting of two small blankets laced together at the sides, leaving arm-holes, and without being closed at top or bottom. The top then was laced 1oge1her, leaving an opening for the head, like a poncho. This blanket-dress was of plain dark colors. To-day it has practically disappeared as an article of Navaho costume, the typical “best” dress of the women now consisting of a velvet or other cloth skirt reaching to the ankles, a velvet shirt-like waist cut in practically the same manner as that of the men, and also left open under the arms. Many silver and shell ornaments are worn by both sexes. The women part their hair down the middle and tie it in a knot at the back.

Whatever its form or stability, the Navajo house is called hogan. In its most substantial form it is constructed by first planting four heavy crotch posts in the ground; cross logs are placed in the crotches, and smaller ones are leaned from the ground to these, the corner logs being longer, forming a circular framework, which is covered with brush and a heavy coating of earth. The entrance is invariably at the east. The building of a hogan and its first occupancy are attended with ceremony and prayer. For the great nine-day rites hogans like those used as dwellings, but larger, are built. Generally they are used for the one occasion only, but in localities where there are very few trees the same ceremonial hogan may be used for a generation or more. For summer use a brush shelter, usually supported by four corner posts and sometimes protected by a windbreak, is invariably used, supplanting a once common single slant shelter.

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