Sample Paper on The Agriculture and Mythology of Navajo

Sample Paper on The Agriculture and Mythology of Navajo


Navajo are the second largest federally recognized tribe in South-West United States with large populations in Arizona and New Mexico. The Navajo people possess the capability of adapting to foreign lifestyle, and integrating it to their own values, ideas and beliefs. Historically, the first group of Navajo practiced nomadic lifestyle before embracing new agricultural lifestyles. They originated from Canada in the period between 900 and 1200 AD, and settled in various parts of the Southwest of America. The Navajo people gained more knowledge on the cultural and agricultural practices from the Pueblo Indians. The paper examines the agriculture and mythology of Navajo people by highlighting on key agricultural practices and mythological beliefs.

Agricultural Practices

Humanity settled in different parts of the world and started practicing new methods for agriculture and other activities. Communities developed their own unique ways and techniques, as they tried producing food for their households. Most of their techniques were highly beneficial for getting better results. In modern times, sophisticated agriculture practices are followed in most of the regions. This depletes the value of the ancient processes and almost makes them invisible to most people, especially the younger generations. But even now, some communities continue to relish opportunities of continuing with their ancient ideas and agricultural activities. For instance, Navajo are exceptional examples of farmers who settled on incredible tracks of land, where they developed unique techniques and agricultural practices. It has been avowed that Spanish colonialists were instrumental in showing the Navajo people how to tend flocks of sheep (Woods 82). Moreover, the Navajo learnt from the Spanish colonialists that horses could be used for transport, and to plough large tracks of agricultural lands. However, introduction of sheep rearing into practice was the main reason why Navajo people migrated to the Southern and Western parts, in search of pasture for their livestock.

The Navajo community has transformed their activities from hunting and gathering to embrace livestock rearing and crop planting. In the ancient days, they were practicing nomadic type of life where they had to travel from one place to another in search of temporary settling sites. It has been revealed that interactions with Pueblo Indians introduced them to the concept of farming, which consequently became their main means of survival (Cohlene & Reasoner 40). Thus they were showed how to plough and cultivate land, where they planted beans and corn. Later, they began rearing sheep, goats and cattle to supplement crop produce, as means of sustaining their families. Evidently, women and girls in the community own sheep, while men are actively involved on cattle and horse rearing. Produce and end products from animals are managed by women, and it is considered to be a symbol of social status of the society signifying the position occupied by women.

To some extent, herds of animals are communally owned, meaning that any member can benefit from livestock and their produce. Consequently, products from sheep and cattle are shared communally, and animal owners donate some to community to suffice communal needs. Studies have established that gender is not a concern for the Navajo people when it comes to farming and other activities; this is because both men and women are actively involved in farming and rearing of livestock (Matthews 39). It is worth noting that they practice a wide range of soil regenerations to ensure continuity and quality in crop production. They have consistently used their framing implements despite criticisms from other people that such tools are less modern.


Mythology beliefs of the Navajo people are focused on the Navajo Indian legend named Changing Woman, who is believed to be the creator of the four main clans they belong to. However, in modern times, Navajo people have introduced more clans due to interaction and assimilation with the Mexicans and Spaniards. When the Navajo people moved to the United States, they found other groups of people, and an interaction with them lead to marriage, thus creating more clans. Navajo people believe on a myth that ‘Changing Woman’ had to go through a series of transformations and shifting to different worlds, before finally settling. In this mission, Changing Woman came with dirt, which she used to create four mountains. The mountains were used to demarcate their territories and signify boundaries that existed with their neighbors. Navajo community believes that Changing Woman, upon arriving at the fourth world, rubbed the first four clans off her own skin to create the Navajo people. They also call her Earth Mother, since the legend exemplifies motherhood and all of its wonders associated with the community. The Earth Mother is also a role model for all female members of community.

Kinship exists in their organizational setup where Mother-Child bond occupies the primary kinship. Then, Wife-Husband kinship follows suit before secondary kinship that encompass Father-Child and Sibling-Sibling bond. For that matter, the connection between father and child is through the mother, and so women play critical roles in the Navajo community. As part of emulating Changing Woman, women play fundamental roles of bearing children, and thus bring about new life into their world. The women nurture their children in the best possible manner with extreme love and care. They perform all duties of the Changing Woman, who they believe brought them to earth and nurtured them to ensure survival. On the other hand, the Navajo man acts as the protector and preserver of the family, community and life. Hence the male member performs tasks, and offers things that the mother cannot provide and the children cannot provide for themselves. These activities include hunting for animals, tilling land, and other common activities or tasks done by a man in the Navajo community. However, in modern times, gender roles have greatly changed because men are actively involved in farming and ranching, while women safeguard the community and even go to battle as they try to defend their families. This has been a problem for most men who still believe that women should not engage in battle, for it is through them that Navajo will continue.

Navajo mythology also comprises a story which is told to every generation, and acts as a model of social organization of the Navajo society. Through the story, one gets to know about the life of the Navajo people and their interactions with people from other regions. Life, reproduction and subsistence are considered to be the three main aspects which form a major part of the motherhood system. Moreover, motherhood is also vehemently expressed in affectionate care and food provision to family members. For that matter, it is asserted that motherhood is a concrete social system that is organized and well-structured (Craats 45).

Traditional healing practices are passed from one generation to another, and still forms part of a dynamic existence. Even today, the ancient techniques of healing are practiced in most of the regions. These practices are found to be much more efficient than the modern-day healing techniques. It has been revealed that medicine man; a traditional healer is a prominent figure in the community, and is responsible for healing sick individuals in the society (Cunningham and Benoit 55). He plays a critical role in restoring harmony, balance, and beauty to the affected persons using special tools such as rock crystals. The healing procedure involves chanting prayers over the patients to heal them, a prayer that can last for a day. Notably, medicine men are so important in the Navajo community that the locals will first seek their attention, before opting to go for the western medical procedures in hospitals or clinics.

Relationship between Agriculture and Mythology

Most of agricultural practices of Navajo are closely related to their mythology because many of their farming practices are supported by myths. Perhaps one of the biggest myth surrounding agricultural practices of Navajo is sustainability of organic farming. Modern beliefs assert that soil erosion in chemically ploughed lands undermine societal beliefs of Navajo on land. The society believes in feeding their families and this is why they specialize in both small scale and expansive crop production. This is supported by United Nation FAO report affirming the ability of agriculture in family sustenance. Navajo still practice ancient agriculture using less modern tools and implements which is supported by their mythological values and beliefs.

However, to yield more produce, Navajo community must embrace new methods of cultivation because food security has remained a pressing issue. Relationships also exist in building and conserving healthy soil, traditionally, Navajo society believes that their survival and continuity is possible with improved soil fertility. Significantly, Navajo believes that agriculture will continue to face revolutions as they try to supply adequate food for community. Navajo must continue to see through myths of modern agriculture practices that build soil and improve food production.




Today, Navajo people have adjusted to their surroundings effectively, transforming their life experiences, beliefs and values. The result of such transformations has helped them to become what they are today. Historians affirm that the Navajo people have been known to expand their land to accommodate more sheep and cattle and in the process, have adapted to changes presented to them (Locke 77).  Radical changes have also had refining effects to their agricultural and mythological perspectives, and so they managed to fit in the ever-changing world. Their cultural and mythological changes have resulted from a combination of commerce and trade with other people. Significantly, interactions and assimilation has greatly inspired them when they were residing in the Southwestern parts of the United States. Without question, Navajo people are proud of their heritage and accomplishments, and have helped define the United States.


Works Cited

Cohlene, Terri, and Charles Reasoner. Turquoise Boy: A Navajo Legend. New York: Scholastic,

Inc, 2004. Print.

Craats, Rennay. The Navajo. New York, NY: AV2 by Weigl, 2014. Print.

Cunningham, Kevin, and Peter Benoit. The Navajo. New York: Children’s Press, 2011. Print.

Locke, Raymond F. The Book of the Navajo. Los Angeles: Mankind Publishing Company, 2001.


Matthews, Washington. Navaho Myths, Prayers and Songs. Lanham: Start Publishing LLC,

  1. Internet resource.

Woods, Geraldine. The Navajo. New York: Franklin Watts, 2002. Print.