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Cailee Franklin
Professor Katsanos
LBST 2102
1 April 2016
Navajo Religious Beliefs
The Navajo Indians are considered to be one of the largest tribes which the largest Native
American reservation in the country and have also been deemed as some of the most influential
of all tribes. The most important ideal in the eyes of the Navajo is the idea of hozoji, which
means that they are in harmony or have peace with all of the supernatural powers. This idea of
hozoji helps feed their religious beliefs as well as provide a basis to what each tribal member
should be striving for on a daily basis.
When it comes to the religious beliefs of the Navajo Indians, they believe in a range of
different deities, which are gods. The category of deities that is most important to the Navajo are
the anthropomorphic, which means that some types of human characteristics are attributed to
animals in different ways. The Yei are another class of deities that are influential in the Navajos
beliefs because they are the only ones that can be called upon to be apart of some of the major
ceremonies by the masked dancers. Their cosmological belief states that the supernatural beings,
that they call the Holy People, gave the regular beings, or otherwise known as the Earth Surface
People, all of the essential knowledge that would aid in their survival on Earth. These Holy
People are thought to remain interested in the daily life of the Earth Surface People and therefore
keep constant watch on the required ceremonies and taboo in order to keep the peace they are
trying to achieve with their concept of hozoji. These ceremonies closely relate to some of the
important jobs of the religious practitioners of the Navajo Indians.

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In each religious belief of indigenous groups, it is common to have religious practitioners
that are essential parts of the community, and with the Navajo there is no exception to this
commonality. The most important and respected of the religious practitioners in the Navajo are
called singers. These singers are more considered priests than shamans, but they are not called
priests because the word priest was often seen as incorrectly describing these important people in
the community. They have to become an official singer through a long process of an
apprenticeship in order to make sure they have gained all of the essential skills and information
they need for their future work experiences. These singers are most commonly men and although
women have the potential be a singer and there are not any rules against it, it is very rare for the
women to actually practice as an established singer. One of the main and important jobs of the
singer is that they are able to perform at least one of the ceremonies, in full, that are essential to
the Navajo beliefs. Originally, the ceremonies were relating to how to treat illnesses, war,
agriculture, and hunting. As they have transitioned from aboriginal times to more contemporary
times of the reservation period, a majority of all of the large and important ceremonies have put
an emphasis on curing everything. The curing is mostly in the sense that the Navajo people are
trying to make sure they constantly have the peace and harmony with the supernatural beings, in
which they are trying to maintain their important ideal, hozoji. In Espositos reading Indigenous
Religions Today, it is shown that a commonality of all the religious practitioners is that there is
a way to perform miracles, for example trying to cure the sick or experiencing a journey to
heaven in a dream state and trying to determine the significance of it. The singers of the Navajo
are the most respected people and they are highly looked up to in their society, therefore it is
common of them to have to act as leaders in the community, which ultimately helps portray their
importance and influential abilities. Espositos reading shows how some shamans were extreme

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pivotal leaders in their indigenous groups and played a large role in their communitys life, just
like these singers in the Navajo community. Esposito also shows in his reading that sometimes
these religious practitioners that are acting as community leaders have to make decisions and
begin to make changes in order to benefit the community as a whole. In contrast, there are
members who are called curers and they have less knowledge than the singers when it comes to
rituals and are unable to perform the full entirety of ceremonies. There are also diviners that use
shamanistic ideas to determine the sickness or problems a person is experiencing. It is obvious
that these curers and diviners do not play as large of a role in the Navajos life as the singers do.
The roles these practitioners play are also shown in Espositos reading where shamanism is
continued to be incorporated into other dominant religions, whether it is practiced in secret or
practiced alongside other practices because it still has supporters. These singers are essential in
the running of the community and it is easily portrayed when comparing them to the other
religious practitioners.
These Navajo religious beliefs help relate to the information that has been presented and
discussed during our global connections class every week. As mentioned before, one of the most
heavily covered readings that has a substantial amount of meaning to this class is the Esposito
reading. This Esposito reading offered information on many different topics, but this relates best
to this global connections class by showing how religious practitioners have certain ways to
perform miracles, providing information on how the shaman figures are pivotal leaders in their
community, and that some types of shamanism is incorporated into other important religions.
Another reading that is important to this topic is the Types of Religious Specialists because it
helps show that priests are to help connect the regular people to the gods and practice religious
rituals and that shamans can enter a trance and intervene in someones life directly with the

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spirits in the terms of healing some aspect of their life. This helps explain why the Navajo
singers are considered more of a priest figure than a shaman figure, but technically they are
neither because these singers are still described with differences. These readings help to show the
importance of all ritual practitioners and directly relate to the Navajo singers and their large
contribution to their community as a whole.

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Esposito, John L. Indigenous Religions Today. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.
"Navajo Indians." Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <>.
"Navajo - Religion and Expressive Culture." Religion and Expressive Culture. 2016. Web. 01
Apr. 2016. <>.