moving across the landscape

Pinabete Arroyo, Wild Ram Spring, & Cottonwood Wash

N1iinii, A[na Enii[ii ECONOMY

To Buy, Trade or Barter

Traditional and Agricultural Economy


Illustration of hunter/gatherers in camp.

Hunter Gatherer Culture

The Navajo hunted large game such as mule deer, big horn sheep, buffalo, and elk in the fall. The meat was processed at a hunting campsite, dried, and packed for the journey home. Wild plants, fruits, and nuts were gathered in the spring, summer, and early fall. Gathering parties made encampments in the regions where pinon nuts, broad leaf yucca fruits, sumac berries, and Indian rice grass were harvested. The plant foods were processed, dried, and packed for the winter. The Navajos moved across the landscape according to the seasons and based on migratory patterns of animals and the locations of wild plant foods. Some families moved livestock as far east as Jemez Mountains, south to Mount Taylor, and west over the Chuskas.

Navajo child shucking corn(top), and man in his garden (bottom),1950's



According to oral history, different colors of corn come from the turkey – white from the tip of the tail, blue from the blue neck ring, yellow from the top of his rear tail feathers, and striped from the tail feathers. Navajos were created from a perfect ear of corn, white corn for male and yellow corn for females. The first corn was called “Hono tahnii” and was created before the first world of the Din4.

Different colored corn is planted to honor deities by using it as an offering. Red corn for Haashch’44[ch77’ (Red God), blue for the T0 neinil7 (Water Sprinkler), pink for the Naay44’ Neezgh1n7 doo T0 Ba’j7shah7n7 (Hero Twins), variegated for multiple deities, and striped for Haaashch’44h Y1[t’& (Talking God) and Haashch’44h Hooghan (House God).

Navajos have had contact with the Puebloan people from the earliest of times, trading meat, tanned hides, and wild food for corn, squash, beans, and other goods. According to oral history, the Holy People introduced the Navajo to agriculture. Navajo people depend on corn, squash and bean agriculture for food. Corn alone was a powerful agent of change. Corn and agricultural knowledge are embedded in the Blessing Way, Night Way, and other ceremonies. Corn pollen, white corn meal, and yellow corn meal are offerings in prayer and ceremonial life. In the Coming of Age teaching, young boys are taught that they have two hands; one in which to hold a bow, and the other a planting staff. With a bow, men hunt game; and with the planting staff, they plant corn. The Navajo started to apply dry-land farming methods to small “hidden gardens.” Rain became an important element to Navajo life with the coming of agriculture. Today, corn is still an important part of life and considered a traditional cultural item. Navajo people love steamed corn, kneel-down bread, and winter squash.

According to oral history, Turkey gave watermelon, cantaloupe, and pumpkin to the Din4 from seeds that fell from both of his armpit feathers. Irrigation made successful farming yields, especially along the Chaco, Cottonwood, and Pinabete Washes. One example of an irrigation project is the San Juan River’s Fruitland Irrigation Project.

Some elders still watch the constellations and heavenly bodies to decide how they will go about daily life, and the Navajo plant in accordance with certain positions of the constellations. The Pleiades played an important role in determining the timing for planting and harvesting.