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A Navajo War Ceremonial

Plate XIII, Twelve Holy PeopleThe Navajo is currently one of the largest Native American tribes in the United States, located primarily in Arizona and New Mexico. Archeological evidence suggests that the Navajo migrated from Alaska and Canada into what is now the American Southwest circa 1400. The original treaty with the United States (1868) was supposed to give the Navajo just over 3.3 million acres of land but many individual Navajo returned to the areas in which they had previously lived, whether it was inside the reservation boundaries or not. Since that time the area of the Navajo Nation has increased in size to over 18 million acres.

Where the Two Came to Their Father, A Navaho War Ceremonial,, compiled by artist/ethnologist Maud Oakes was recorded as presented by Navajo hataałii (singer, or medicine man) Jeff King in 1942-3 and was published in 1943. Special Collections and Archives has the second edition (1969) of the book along with the accompanying silk screen reproductions of the sand paintings used in the ceremonial. The War Ceremonial was revived by 20th century Navajo to sendoff young Navajo leaving the reservation to serve in the US military during WWII. The ceremonial was intended to protect the soul of the warrior who would be so far from his people. Several hundred Navajo served in the war, including approximately 400 Code Talkers.

Beginning with an introduction to the Navajo, theSilk Screen reproduction of sand painting depicting the birth of the Two book informs readers of an earlier state of understanding possessed by "white-men" and the genesis of a new understanding. Ms. Oakes then recounts the interior of the hogan (the traditional dwelling of the Navajo), describes a Blessing Rite, and tells how the war ceremonial was given to her.

But more than just the legend of the Two, the volume tells the Navajo creation story, How The People moved from the world beneath into this world and what followed, leading up to the story of Two young heroes, Navajo warriors that travel to the home of their father, The Sun, and return with the power to destroy the monsters troubling their people.

The publication also includes commentary by mythologist Joseph Campbell. He gives the rite context, writing "...in the old times, when the warriors were about to go on a raiding party, word would be spread to be ready in two or three days … The ceremonial of Where the Two Came to Their Father was performed before they departed" (p. 7).

Special Collections houses other materials concerning the Navajo ceremonies and spiritualism including, Kinaaldá; a study of the Navaho girl's puberty ceremony and Willow stories: Utah Navajo baskets. Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah Arts Council. Also of interest are Minutes of the Navajo Tribal Council meeting and Proceedings on the meeting of the Advisory Committee, Navajo Tribal Council.

From back of box in which book and silk screen reproductions are housed
Text of the war ceremonial describing the death of the monster, page 27
Silk Screen reproduction of sand painting depicting the white horse that carries The Sun across the sky
Text describing the hero in myth, page 33
Silk Screen reproduction of sand painting depicting The Killing of the Great Monster
Textual description of the meaning and symbols in the silk screen reproductions of the sand drawing used in the ceremonial

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