moving across the landscape

Pinabete Arroyo, Wild Ram Spring, & Cottonwood Wash


In the beginning, according to the creation stories of our people, the Din4 were created here between the Four Sacred Mountains and we did not come from anywhere else. Different versions of oral tradition tell of varying aspects of our ancestors’ arrival that are associated with our origins here. Many Navajo believe that, based on oral tradition, our ancestors have been in the Four Corners region of the Southwest forever. Other oral traditions suggest that the ancestors of the Navajo arrived after the Anas1z7 disappeared because of the monsters. Another viewpoint, based on oral tradition, is that some Navajo ancestors lived with the Anaas1z7 and survived the destruction of the monsters (Begay 2003; Kelley et al. 2007:26; Kelley and Francis 1994, 1998; Warburton and Begay 2005).

This section provides information on clans whose members were located in the T’iis Tsoh Sikaad area. Clans with members that occupied sites in the T’iis Tsoh Sikaad area include Naakaii dine’4 (Ramah Band origin – gypsy Navajos constantly moving around about the clan), T[‘11shch77 (Red Streaked, Red Bottom), Naneesht’4zh7 T1chii’nii (Charcoal Streaked, Zuni), ‘Ash88hi (Salt), Kinyaa'n1anii (Towering House), T1chii’nii (Red Forehead), Ta’neesdzahnii (Tangle), T0’ aheedl7inii (Water Flows Together), Hasht[i’shnii (Mud), and T0 d7ch’7inii (Bitter Water).

Below is a map that includes the approximate locations of some of the clans related to this project. You may click on the map text to read more about each clan.


These clan origins are associated with the Blessing Way teachings, which depict the clans as the central culm of a great corn stalk that forms the core Navajo oral tradition and ceremonialism. The root of the great corn stalk represents the coyote stories associated with the hunter-gatherer origins of the Navajo people. Branching out from the Blessing Way stalk are the other chant ways, songs, and stories.

Water Flows Together

The Navajo people arrived in Dine4tah at T0; Aheedl8 (the confluence of the Los Pinos and San Juan Rivers, where Navajo Reservoir is now located). The children of Kayah stayed at this place after the other Navajo people were let into the surrounding canyons and become known as the T0’aheedl7inii (Redhouse 1985:2-8 cited in Kelley and Francis 1994:166).


Nakaii Dine’e
Mexican, People Who Move About

After the Mexicans captured a Navajo girl, a man from the T0’aheedl7inii clan captured a Mexican girl in retaliation. The people thought of exchanging the Mexican girl for the Navajo girl because the girl’s mother missed her greatly. Instead, the Navajo girl escaped, so the man from the T0’aheedl7inii clan kept the Mexican girl. The Mexican girl founded the Naakaii dine’4 clan (O’Bryan 1993:119). One researcher suggests that the T0’aheedl7inii man mentioned above was Jih11 (Motion of a Rattle) who lived west of the Chuska Mountains in the 1700s, and captured a Mexican girl from San Mateo (Mitchell 1978:188; O’Hara 2004).

Also suggested is that members of the N00da’& Dine’4 (Ute) clan raided a Mexican village near the modern city of Socorro. They captured a woman, made her a slave, and married her to a clan member. She founded the Nakaii Dine’4 (Zolbrod 1987:309).

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Red Streak, Red Streaked, Red Bottom, Red Cheek

Members of two Apache clans came to the Navajo from the south. One clan became known as the T[11shch7’7 clan and the other became known as the Deeshchii’nii (Zolbrod 1987:308).

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Several clans raided a pueblo called Sei Bee Hooghan (House of Sand) located near a salt lake. A group of people from the Ts4n7j7kin7 (Honeycomb Rock) clan captured two women from the pueblo and kept them as slaves. The women bore offspring who formed the !sh88h7 (Salt) clan (Zolbrod 1987:338).


Towering House


In the days before horses, our ancestors came to settle with the Anaas1z7 who lived at Kin Yaa’1 (Towering House). There, the Anaas1z7 had turkeys. A turkey shook its feathers and all types of corn came out. Our people took the corn, and the Kin Yaa’1 people were the first of our clans to plant it. Later, there was a dispute with the Anaas1z7 living there, and our clan moved on (Barbone 1982).

Kinyaa’1anii was one of the first four clans created by Asdz33 N1dleeh4 by rubbing skin from her breast (Lapahie 2010). As the clans were about to leave, Asdz11 N1dleeh4 gave them five animals to protect them, the Great Snake, Fearless Bear, Gentle Deer, Upright Porcupine, and the Mighty Puma, and gave the clan a wand of white shell (Zolbrod 1987:181). Hopi members of the Asngyam clan (Tansy Mustard) could have been incorporated into this clan after the late-17th century (O’Hara 2008:11). Kinyaa7 is also part of the Hailway origin (Linford 2000:225).

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Naasht’ézhí Dine’é

A second group of Zuni came to the T1b22h1 Clan, and came together with the first group. They left the Zuni villages due to the scarcity of food. Together they formed the Naasht’4zh7 clan, which means Black Horizontal Striped People (Zolbrod 1987:337).


Náneesht’ézhí Táchii’nii
Zuni, Charcoal-Streaked Division of Tachii’nii

The origins of this clan are uncertain. It is a division of the Táchii’nii clan, and one translation of the clan is that it is of Zuni origins (York 1983).


Red Forehead, Red Running/Extending Into the Water

A group of people arrived from a place called T1chii7 (Red Extends/Runs Into Water) after escaping the naay44’ (wind of fire). No one was certain how they had escaped but they were then considered holy people. These people formed a large group, so they were divided into two clans, one called T1chii’nii, and one called K’ai’dine’4 (Willow People). Through time, the two clans stayed close and the names of the two clans are now interchangeable (Zolbrod 1987:307). This group could be descended from Anaas1z7 who lived in the Grand Canyon and survived the naay44’ that destroyed the other Anaas1z7 (Begay and Roberts 1996:208); O’Hara 2004:11).

Some researchers suggest that the T1chii’nii clan was formed by survivors of the destruction of Taalahoghan (the Hopi village of Awatovi) in A.D. 1700, who settled at T1chii’7  Spring at the headwaters of Polacca Wash (Red Soil) (Brugge 1993; Ishii 2001:149; O’Hara 2004:10). This group of people had originally come to Awatovi from the San Francisco Peaks and formed a distinct group in the village prior to surviving the destruction of the village.

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Tangle, Badlands, Rough Land Formation

This clan was said to be related to the Spider People because their teeth were like spider webs (naaneeshzhah) (Lynch et al. 1987:24). The Ta’n44sdzahnii people lived near Ch’0ol77 (Gobernador Knob) at a place called Ta7n44szh located in the San Rafael Canyon area (Linford 2000:216; Towner 2003:205).

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Hasht[‘ishnii was one of the first four clans created by Asdz33 N1dleeh4 from skin rubbed from under her left arm (Lapahie 2010). As the clans were about to leave, Asdz33 N1dleeh4 gave them five animals to protect them, the Great Snake, Fearless Bear, Gentle Deer, Upright Porcupine, and the Mighty Puma, and gave the Hasht[‘ishnii clan a wand of red stone (Zolbrod 1987:317).

Another account reveals that Asdz33 N1dleeh4 gave the Hasht[‘ishnii people a porcupine, a jet cane or wand, a basket, and images of talking prayersticks. The color of water derived from using the jet cane was brown in color, which is where the clan name derived (Mitchell 1978:181). Another account says that the owner of the jet cane had brown skin so the clan was called Hasht[‘ishnii (Mud) (Wyman 1970:458).


T0 d7ch’7i’nii
Bitter Water

T0dich’7inii was one of the first four clans created by Asdz33 N1dleeh4 from skin rubbed from under her right arm (Lapahie 2010). As the clans were about to leave, Asdz33 N1dleeh4 gave T0dich’7i’nii a fearless bear and a wand of haliotis shell (Zolbrod 1987:317; Mitchell 1978:181). The wand was used to provide a water supply but it was too bitter, so they were called T0d7ch’7inii clan (Mitchell 1978:181; Wyman 1970:458).