The rules which govern the building of a regular hogan or winter house, although clearly defined and closely adhered to, do not apply to the summer huts or shelters. These outnumber the former and are found everywhere on the reservation, but they are most abundant in the mountain regions and in those places where horticultural operations can be carried on.
These structures are of all kinds and of all degrees of finish, although certain well-defined types, ancient in their origin, are still closely adhered to when the conditions permit. But under other circumstances the rudest and most primitive shelters are constructed, some of them certainly not so high in the scale of construction as an ordinary bird’s nest. There is a certain interest that attaches to these rude attempts, as they exhibit the working of the human mind practically untrammeled by precedent.
Perhaps the most primitive and simple shelter the Navaho builds is a circle or part-circle of green boughs, generally pine or cedar. Half an hour of work by two men with axes is all that is required to erect one of these. A site having been selected, a tree is felled on the windward side, and the branches trimmed from it are piled up to a height of 4 or 5 feet on three sides of a circle 15 or 20 feet in diameter. A fire is built in the center and the natives dispose themselves around it. Blankets are thrown over outstanding branches here and there, affording an abundance of shade in the hot summer days when even a little shade is agreeable. Rude as this shelter is, it is regarded by the Navaho as sufficient when no better is available. During the recent construction of some irrigating ditches on the reservation, when from 50 to 100 men were employed at one time, this form of shelter was the only one used, although in several instances the work was carried on in one place for five or six weeks. Shelters of this kind, however, are possible only in a wooded region, and are built only to meet an emergency, as when a man is away from home and there are no hogans in the vicinity where he can stop.