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.
favor it they are constructed of stone, regular walls of masonry; but perhaps the greater number of those now in existence are in the mountain districts, and were built of logs, often hewn square before being laid in place.  Plate LXXXVIII shows a stone house belonging to one of the wealthiest men in the tribe, Bitcai by name.  It is situated on the western slope of the Tunicha mountains and was built some years ago, but it is a type of house which is becoming more and more frequent on the reservation.  There is practically nothing aboriginal about it except a part of its interior furniture and its inhabitants, and the only one of the old requirements that has been met is the fronting of the house to the east, while the character of the site and the natural conditions demand a western front.

The log houses referred to are constructed much like the stone house shown in the illustration, except that they are built usually by Indian labor and ordinarily are covered with flat earthen roofs.  Frequently the logs are hewn square before being placed in the walls, which present a very neat and finished appearance.  Sometimes door and window frames are procured from the sawmill or from the traders, and add to such appearance, while nearly always one or more glazed sashes occupy the window openings and board doors close the entrances.  In nearly all cases the requirement that the entrance should face the east is observed, but it is being more and more ignored, and in the houses constructed within the last few years the ancient custom is frequently violated.  Unless the principal entrance were made to face the east, the performers in the dedicatory ceremonies could not take their prescribed positions and the ceremony would have to be either modified or omitted altogether.


Among the Pueblo Indians there are certain rituals and ceremonial observances connected with the construction of the houses, but in the Navaho system nothing of a ceremonial nature is introduced until the conclusion of the manual labor.  Usually there are enough volunteers to finish the work in one day, and by evening everything is ready for the dedication.  The wife sweeps out the house with a wisp of grass and she or her husband makes a fire on the floor directly under the smoke hole.  She then goes to her bundles of household effects, which are still outside, and pours a quantity of white cornmeal into a shallow saucer-shape basket.  She hands this to the qasci[ng], or head of the family, who enters the hogan and rubs a handful of the dry meal on the five principal timbers which form the tsaci or frame, beginning with the south doorway timber.  He rubs the meal only on one place, as high up as he can reach easily, and then does the same successively on the south timber, the west timber, the north timber, and the north doorway timber.  While making these gifts, as the proceeding is termed, the man preserves a strict silence, and then, as with a sweeping motion of his hand from left to right (cab[)i]kego, as the sun travels) he sprinkles the meal around the outer circumference of the floor, he says in low measured tones—­

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