Sacred-Texts Native American Navajo
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 This myth, IN THE BEGINNING, was recorded in February and March of 1950, near Tuba City, Arizona. The informant, Frank Goldtooth, was a man of from 50 to 60 years of age, who during his lifetime had been a silversmith, a farmer, a sheepman, a tribal councilman, a trader and a medicine man. When one chooses an informant, one must remember that there are three types of individuals who are willing to speak or act as informants. First is the “misfit.” He is an individual who is not accepted by his own people and frequently not by the stronger outgroup. This individual attempts to gain prestige with his own group by association with a member of the stronger outgroup. He actually straddles the fence for he neither is accepted by one group or the other. Usually this “misfit” knows little of his own people. The second type of individaul is willing to talk, but only for what he receives for doing it. Oft times he embellishes much of what he says for the effect and gain which results. The third type is the one who has much foresight and knowledge and recognizes the position his people occupy in the conflict of cultures. He realizes that the eventual outcome will be the suppression or elimination of his own people. He attempts to synthesize the good from the “foreign” culture which will benefit his own group, with those elements which can be retained in his own. He knows with certainty that the beliefs of his people will finally fade away. Frank Goldtooth is of the third type.

 In order to gain information from the informants, I employed the “fading ancient lore” as the reason for my interest, as has been done by others. The attitude of the informant on this matter is interesting and important. The following is the actual translation by Teddy, Keith and Herbert Goldtooth of the introduction prepared by Frank Goldtooth for those Navahos who were to read or hear the story of Frank Goldtooth from records or parts of the recorded text.

 “You are going to hear this story in future times. You will realize this, you people going to school when you hear it. All of you other people (the Navaho) are going to hear the story that I have been asked by this man (the author). The early Navaho medicine men never thought of giving up this information about these songs and stories. They never thought about putting them into a book. But I realize this and I do not want this story to fade. The early Navaho did not want to give true information to the white man. The Navaho laugh nowadays because they gave false information just to get rid of it. This is wrong and you should leave it alone. p. 2 That is how I think about it. That is the way I think about it and that is the way it is going to be. You that know the true story are going to know this and know this is a true story.

 “We never teach our younger generation about these stories. I want you of the younger generation to learn these stories and realize what they are for and to have you put it in your heads and remember it. I want you to think from your brains, for the different tribes are going to hear this story and realize how Navahos used to be. That is the way they are going to think about it, for if it is not put in the record it will fade out. As this record passes along you will hear the stories and when it is published as a book the tribes may buy it if they want to. After one buys the book he will know the story, but he will never learn it. I want a cover on the book so that it will never wear out. I want my name in the book, too. When you (the author) go home and work on the book. I want you to always think of the headman (F. G.,) as your best friend. I know you inside and out and it is the person and how he acts, no matter what tribe he belongs to, that makes the difference. As time goes on this book will not be made fun of, for it is going to be a real book.

 “The reason I have put songs on records is that you (the author) have given me a chance. I am not getting paid for these songs and stories, but I am giving my story so it will not fade. When you sing these songs in a ceremonial way it is different than it is on the record for I am leaving out some of the important parts. This is just to show how the songs go. Some of you medicine men have mixed up the Good Way Ceremonial with other songs. If any of you are doing the Good Way Ceremonial in the wrong way, they (the tribal council members or the tribe) will have to take it from you. We go by these songs; we live by these songs. I do not do the ceremonial songs in any old way. That is not the way I am putting it into the book. This book will go on from time to time and people will die of old age on this book. I want this story to be renewed so it will not fade. That is how it is going to be in the book and the same way with the songs. If you have learned the songs and how they go, you will understand. That is the way it is.”

 The informant learned the ceremonials, songs and stories when a young man. His teachers told him of two ways of learning. Goldtooth stated these as:

 “One was the Bego Way and the Begochiddy with Witchcraft. The other is the Good Way and the Good Way with Witchcraft. The Bego Way and Good Way are the same except that in the Bego Way, Bego does everything while in the Good way, White Bead Woman, First Man and Talking p. 3 God are the important gods. A man may learn the Bego Way or Good Way and tell the man, ‘I just want to learn the Good Way,’ or ‘I don’t want to learn the witchcraft part.’ In both the Bego and Good Way there is a branch of witchcraft, but you do not have to learn it. They both start at the same place and end at the same place. The Talking God mask is between both of them (i.e. they both make use of it). If a medicine man of either story does something wrong, either of the men can be cured by the mask of Talking God. There are two main stories with each having seven branches. Each seven branches has thirty-three stories branching off.”

 The informant claims his story to be 600 years old. About this Goldtooth said:

 “The first to learn this story knew the Good Way Story well. He was called yĭ́k’ăăch’ī (Shit-on-it) and his clan was khīyă`ā́ni (Where-Houses-Stand-Up). The next man who learned the story was called The Bird or chōstōdī a real brother of yĭ́k’ăăch’ī of the Clan Where-Houses-Stand-Up. Næłstŏ́i, The Smoker, of the Clan Bitter-Water or tqodich’ĭ́nĭ learned the story next. Black Mustace, son of The Smoker, of the Clan khīyă`ā́ni or Where-Houses-Stand-Up, followed. The next to learn the story was Many Beads, yōzhłoĭ, of the Many Goats or tl`ĭ́zi łắni. The last to learn the story was Frank Goldtooth of the Red Lefties Clan or tl’āsh chī́. This is how the story should be told.”

 The story took approximately thirty days to record. It was interpreted by the informant’s four sons, Teddy, Keith, Emmerson and Herbert. At no time were there less than two of the sons present and on many occasions all four were there. Later the completed typed notes were read to the informant for corrections and elaboration.

 Until recently much incomplete field work bas been done upon the “fastest growing Indian group in the United States”. (Note the 84 pages of bibliography of published and unpublished data on all phases of Navaho life, in Kluckhohn and Spencer, 1940). There have been numerous versions of the Navaho Origin or Creation Myth recorded and published dating back almost one hundred years (Broek, 1854). The completeness of details of the various works vary from author to author and, of course, depending upon the time they were recorded. In no version has there yet been combined all the important aspects and parts of the Navaho Myth. The religious beliefs of the Navaho are as numerous and as varied as there are medicine men. This is not to say, however, that the main theme or events in the myth are drastically different from medicine man to medicine man or from area to area. The same main theme occurs in p. 4 the different stories, but varies in detail depending upon the version. What is different in the myths are the innumerable approaches and sequence of events or emphases upon particular portions of the stories. These are the important parts in the analysis of the myths.

 Many versions of the myth begin with the creation of the gods and the subsequent creation of an earth, plants, animals, a sun and a moon. Spencer (1947, p. 14) has made a chart of the events which seem to represent the majority of main themes or those incidents which reappear in the versions most often. The infidelity of the wife of a chief caused the separation of the sexes and the men took their goods and crossed a great river. Years passed and the women became hungry and lonely and wished for the men to return. A rejoining of the sexes took place with the repentance of the women. Coyote, in his wanderings, came upon one or two baby Water Animals lying on the water. The theft of the water babies by Coyote angered the parents who caused a flood to take place. All that had been created was gathered and the ascension of the cane took place. The last journey up the cane led the people to a world filled with water. Locusts met and vanquished the four water beings who controlled this world and the people emerged from the cane.

 Coyote threw an object (hide scraper, rock, etc.) into the water near the place of emergence to divine the fate of the people. Had the object floated, there would have been no death, but it sank into the water. The things brought from below were again planted and other objects were created by the gods (house, pottery, etc.). Some of the women had been unfaithful and monsters were born from these unions. The Pueblo Gambler was a divine personage who was a gambling god. He was so lucky he soon had won all the wealth and almost all the men, women and children of the Pueblos. A Navaho, with the help of the gods, won everything back from the gambler. This gambler was shot up into the heavens to become the progenitor of the Europeans.

 The population of the earth grew rapidly, but the monsters began to destroy all of mankind. White Bead Woman or Changing Woman was created by the gods as an instrument to destroy all the evil upon the earth. White Bead Woman or Changing Woman gave birth to twins (some informants say the two women are separate with each having a child, one from the Sun and the other having a child from the Water). These two boys set out to see their father, the Sun, in order to get the power to destroy the evil upon the earth.

 After many adventures and dangers the Twins reached the Sun’s houses and here, too, were “tested” to see if they were truly whom they p. 5 claimed to be. The Sun, then satisfied, gave them protection and power, and they set out to destroy the monsters upon the earth. In succession were met the Giant, the Horned Monster, Roc (a gigantic bird who carries away human beings). Cliff Ogre, Gorgon (an evil being who kills people by its glance), the Antelope, the Rolling Rock, the Swallows, Old Age, Cold, Poverty, Hunger, the Bear Pursued, and other beings which were destroyed by the Twins. (The Roc, Cliff Ogre and Gorgon are patterned after Lowie, 1908, p. 26, 27. The others have not been systematized as these three.)

 There was a battle at Blue House and the Twins destroyed the Cliff Dwellers. After this the Sun was very lonesome for his wife, White Bead Woman, and asked the Twins to persuade her to go to the west. After much persuasion, White Bead Woman left taking with her many of the plants and animals that were in the east. While on the journey twelve Navaho were created from the body of White Bead Woman. These she sent back to the east with canes and pets to protect them.

 The clans originated as these Created Navaho came east, for they used their canes to find water. White Bead Woman and the gods went to their homes and were not to be seen again. Coyote, a witch, had great power given to him by the gods. He had a series of adventures such as the Eye Juggler, Animals and the Rock Slabs, Giant and Coyote, Coyote and the Betting Animals1, Coyote and Skunk or the Hoadwinked Dancers, (Eye Juggler, Animals and the Rock Slabs, and the Skunk and Coyote are patterned after Lowie. 1908. p. 26. 27), Changing Bear Maiden and so on, Coyote was finally killed by Spiders because he made fun of them. The last portion of the myth is the story about Self Teacher or Chap Man who was a very poor man because of his gambling. This man was chosen by the gods to go to the west and rescue all of the captured game animals. He had a perilous journey in a hollow log and finally met an old man and woman and their daughter.

 The old man, Deer Raiser, attempted many times to kill Self Teacher or Chap Man, but he did not succeed. Chap Man won the love p. 6 of the old Man’s daughter and let all of the captured animals go to be used by the Earth People.

 Of course, this résumé is not in chronological order of sequence, for all versions lack or have additional elements of the general story outlined above. For a detailed comparison of the various versions see Fishler (1951).

 In many recorded versions the myth has few rationalizations or explanations of natural phenomena or happenings. This is not to say that some explanations are not present in some or many of the versions, yet it is a question of degree. Certainly the technique of recording the myths either augments or diminishes the knowledge gained from them. Ideally, the recorded texts in toto verbatim, are the most accurate and reliable, but this is not always possible. The degree of learning of any Navaho story depends upon the student. The medicine man is there to teach, providing he is properly paid, for as long as it takes to learn. In this connection see Kluckhohn (1939) where the actual descriptions and techniques of the learning of the ceremonials, songs and stories are given.

 In the learning process certain customary explanations are made to the student. The number of these, of course, differ from medicine man to medicine man. Yet they are made by most all of these teacher-medicine men. The number of explanations voluntarily given, in turn, depends upon the training of the teacher. The student is given ample opportunity to ask any searching or revealing question on any subject with which they are concerned. Thus, the eagerness and alertness of the student determines whether he learns only that which is volunteered by the teacher or of the mysteries and theology of his religion. Knowledge means power to the Navaho. The knowledge of sacred names, songs and stories separates the chosen few from the mass of the population. This partially explains the reticence with which such information is given by medicine man and layman alike. Many years and much money and effort may ensue during the years in search of a sacred name or story.

 The learning of the myth properly, then, combines the study of religion, genealogy, economics, animal husbandry, horticulture, meteorology; it is in fact a complete anthropological study of all aspects of a people’s culture. Explanation, and much of it, there must be to explain even a small portion of a culture so rich in oral tradition as the Navaho. The importance and presence of these explanations and rationalizations must not be overlooked in the analysis of the myth. This is one of the more important features in this particular version of the Navaho Creation Myth.

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 There are also certain elements of this myth which are not found in the majority of available published material. Why this should be true may be answered by one or a combination of three explanations: One, the material has not been given by previous informants. Two, the material is a fabrication upon the part of the informants. The Navaho enjoy putting something over on someone, white or otherwise, as has long been known. Once done, such a story will linger and bring chuckles for years. Typical of such a story was one given by E. S. of Tuba City, Arizona and S. S. of Coal Mine, Arizona.

 “During the days of Fort Sumner, a Negro cook in the army attacked a young Navaho girl. The girl’s relatives found out about it and went to Fort Sumner. Two men killed the Negro and another soldier, and then escaped. The general of the army said he wanted all of the Navahos to gather at the Fort. It took a week and soon all the Navaho were at Fort Sumner numbering from seven to ten thousand people. The Navaho covered the canyon from rim to rim as the general told them he wanted the two men who had killed his soldiers. The Navahos agreed and finally located two slaves who were the right size and color. These slaves had their legs tied with ropes and were dragged to the general by horses. As they were dragged by the horses, they were so disfigured that no one could tell if they were the guilty ones or not. This was so the general and his soldiers thought they were the men who were guilty. The Navaho laugh now because this has happened many times.”

 Third, the data may perhaps be newly acquired. That such a situation exists is acknowledged by the Navaho themselves. One informant, S. S. of Coal Mine, Arizona, stated, “In the years since the return from Fort Sumner the wrong things have been taught the people. The Navaho people themselves have taught these things. The religion of the Navaho has changed greatly.” Another informant, T. H. of Tuba City, Arizona, said, “Much of Navaho belief, custom and ritual came from White House and Mesa Verde in the early days. From these areas came much of false Navaho belief.”

 Anthropologists have always recognized the great influence the Pueblos have had upon the semi-nomadic Navaho people. ln addition to these acquisitions from the sedentary Pueblo groups, are those which evolved from isolation. One must not forget that local variations in certain areas of the reservation have changed certain features of Navaho culture. There is also independent discovery or invention which changes or adds to theology. Certain rites have their origin in the dreams or visions of medicine men themselves (Haile, 1940, p. 359). Which of these three hold the answer we will not attempt to say. Some of these p. 8 rather esoteric elements in the present myth which have not appeared to my knowledge in published material are, for example, the actual creation of a Supreme God, and some of the songs which have not previously been published.

 Others are the detailed accounting of the creation of the plants, creation of the jackasses, the questioning of the Twins while in the sky by their father, the Sun, the meeting of the Twins with Pinyon Jay, the Twin and the Swallow People, the second trip to the Sun for horses (not power), the meeting of the Twins and their half brother, Frog Man, the battle of the Twins in the exact way it happened at Blue House, White Bead Woman story about the changing birds, where the white man came from, the women from the Red House Clan, khĭn łichī́nĭ and the story of the Man-with-Four-Names in this particular way and others. These are the most obvious changes from the majority of versions. The reason for their later appearance may be that they are also classified as ceremonial stories by other medicine men. Of course, there are similarities in major parts of the story between this version and others, yet there are important and interesting differences.



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1 It is difficult to separate the sacred from the profane Coyote. Each informant believes differently as to when Coyote first lost his godliness. These first four stories Frank Goldtooth believed to be after the god Coyote died and were thus animal or “fairy” tales. In Matthews (1897, pp. 90, 91, 92, 97, 98) these four are classified as sacred. From other informants have been collected some fourteen or fifteen coyote stories of the Germanic Till Eulenspiegel (Hauptmann, 1928) or Trickster type which have not yet been published.