Navaho Houses, pages 469-518 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 71 pages of information about Navaho Houses, pages 469-518.

  [Illustration:  Fig. 239—­Shelter with partly closed front]


All over the reservation there are hundreds of little structures which are miniature models, as it were, of the hogans, but they lack the projecting doorway.  These little huts, scarcely as high as a man’s hip, look like children’s playhouses, but they occupy an important place both in the elaborate religious ceremonies and in the daily life of the Navaho.  They are the sweat houses, called in the Navaho language co’tce, a term probably derived from qaco’tsil, “sweat” and [)i]nc[)i]nil’tce, the manner in which fire is prepared for heating the stones placed in it when it is used.  The structure is designed to hold only one person at a time, and he must crawl in and squat on his heels with his knees drawn up to his chin.

In the construction of these little huts a frame is made of three boughs with forked ends, and these have the same names as the corresponding timbers in a hogan.  They are placed, as in the hogan, with the lower ends spread apart like a low tripod.  Two straight sticks leaned against the apex form a narrow entrance, which, as in the hogan, invariably faces the east.  Numerous other sticks and boughs inclose the frame, and enough bark and earth are laid on to make the structure practically air-tight when the entrance is closed.

When the place is to be used a fire is made close beside it, and in this fire numerous stones are heated.  The patient to be treated is then stripped, placed inside the little hut, and given copious drafts sometimes of warm or hot water.  The nearly red-hot stones are rolled in beside him and the entrance is closed with several blankets, forming in fact a hot-air bath.  In a short time the air in the interior rises to a high temperature and the subject sweats profusely.  When he is released he rubs himself dry with sand, or if he be ill and weak he is rubbed dry by his friends.  This ceremony has a very important place in the medicine-man’s therapeutics, for devils as well as diseases are thus cast out; but aside from their religious use, the co’tce are often visited by the Indians for the cleansing and invigorating effect of the bath, with no thought of ceremonial.  The Navaho, as a race or individually, are not remarkable for cleanliness, but they use the co’tce freely.

  [Illustration:  Fig. 240—­Low earth-covered shelter]

During the Yeb[)i]tcai dance or ceremony four co’tce are set around the song house, about 40 yards distant from it, one at each cardinal point.  The qacal’i, or chief medicine-man, sweats the patient in them on four successive mornings, just at dawn, beginning with the east and using one each morning.  The co’tce on the east is merely an uncovered frame, and after the patient enters it and hot stones have been rolled in it is covered with many blankets and a large buckskin is

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Navaho Houses, pages 469-518 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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