This is a fascinating look at Navajo
home life, written by a Navajo boy for
a class assignment while at the Santa
Fe Indian Boarding School in 1936.
Published in Shush-Be-Toh News
Written by Moses Tofoya, a Navajo boy
studying at the Santa Clara Pueblo, Santa Fe Indian
School. New Mexico. 1936.
"There are many interesting things about the Navajos and their homes. and how they dress. They have their
hogans made of logs and/dirt. They dig holes down about a foot and then they place their logs around in the holes."
"They build up until they finish the hogan. They leave a hole at the top for the smoke to come out. Then they fill
the cracks with mud and leave it until it gets dry. Some Navajos do not live in hogans. They live in houses. They
move into the hogan when they want to."
"The Navajo ladies know how to make bread without measuring their materials. They know just how much of baking
powder, salt and flour to put in to make their bread. They make Navajo bread with skillets and on grates and
some in ashes and in Dutch ovens."
"They also make soup and dumplings, and it sure is good. They know how much salt to put in their soup. They also
make fried bread, pepper bread, kneel-down bread and some other kinds of bread."
"They cook inside when it's rainy and windy and cook outside when it is nice and cool or warm. They wear Navajo
middies and skirts. Some have about four or five on and about sixteen or eighteen widths to them. They make their
skirts out of pretty print and other pretty cloth. They trim them with very bright bias tape."
"They wear moccasins and have buckskin tied around their legs. They also ha.ve a Navajo sash which some Navajos
know how to weave. They have their hair tied up in the back. They roll it up about four inches each time. They have
some kind of hair string. They tie up their hair with the string."
"The Navajos have holes in their ears. They put Navajo earrings in through the holes in their ears. They wear
other jewelry too, such as beads, rings, bracelets and silver bolts. They put Navajo silver buttons on their
moccasins and on their waists on the front."
"Weaving is the most interesting thing among the Navajos. The very first thing you have to do before you start
to weave is to shear the wool off the sheep. Then, of course, it would be very dirty so you have to wash it before
you card it. Soap weed seeds make the wool very clean. They hang it up to dry. When it is dry you card it into
"Spin some for warp and some for weaving. They dye the wool with native dyes and bought dyes. The people weave
pretty rugs. After the rugs are done they sell them and get so much money for them. They buy what they need for
the children and themselves."
"They buy their food with what is left. Some of the Navajos do not raise as much vegetables as others. Corn is
the native crop among the Navajos. They grow corn, carrots, cabbage, chili, beans, cantalope, cucumbers, tomatoes,
onions, squash, radishes and watermelons."
"Lots of little animals come about the garden and eat anything. The animals such as prairie dogs, skunks.
chipmunks, badgers and rats dig up the seeds and store them away for winter. Sometimes snakes come into the
garden and eat corn."
"The boys have to get up very early in the morning and have to come have their breakfast so that they can go and
herd sheep. Their mother or sister have to get up to cook their breakfast for them. The boys have some mutton,
Navajo bread and coffee. They have to herd p where there is lots of green grass."
"They have to be careful that no wolves or foxes are around their sheep. They have to be good shepherd boys and
have a good dog with them."
"They have to have their corral near the hogan so the fox won't get any lambs or goats. They have to milk the
goats, too, so they can have milk for breakfast. They either put some cornmeal in it and make some mush or put it
in the bread, to make it good. They make pancakes with milk and spread it on the skillet, and let it cook. They can
eat it for dinner."
"The Medicine Man is a very helpful man to the Navajos. When anybody gets sick and they don't want to go to the
hospital, they go for a medicine man."
"They do not have a telephone so they go on horseback. They bring the Medicine Man, and he sings for about three
days. He wiggles his hand and tells the sick person what ails him. At the end of the song, the sick person's
parents give something to the Medicine Man. They either give him a blanket or some money or goats. If the person
gets well, the Medicine Man did a good job. He has to sing all day and half the night."
Lake-Thom, R. Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies. 1997.
Locke, R. F. The Book of the Navajo. 2002.