Naashá

The Navajo word naashá is a 1st Person Singular verb that means “to walk around”. You’ll remember it from the “Introducing Yourself in Navajo” post.

Most Navajo action words have 9 different forms (12, if you count the ‘second’ third person form) that reflect the point of view and the quantity of those engaged in the action. Additionally, there are different conjugated forms of the same action depending on “tense”, or more specifically the state of an act – not started, started and ongoing, started and completed, repeating, and so forth.

Here is the conjugated verb “to walk around” – which is an ongoing act (like English “present tense”):

  • naashá – I walk around
  • neiitʼaash – You walk around
  • neiikai – He/she/it walks around
  • naniná – We two walk around
  • naahʼaash – You two walk around
  • naahkai – Those two walk around
  • naaghá – We three (or more) walk around
  • naaʼaash – You three (or more) walk around
  • naakai – They three (or more) walk around

The earlier post is an example of one of it’s uses. With “[place]-di dę́ę́’ naashá” you can express where you are from. You’d literally be saying “From [place] I walk around”.

“Phoenixdi dę́ę́’ neiikai.” (From Phoenix she walks around; She is from Phoenix.)

Introducing Yourself in Navajo

These few lines are used to introduce yourself in front of groups. In Navajo, it wasn’t very common for people to include their name when they met new groups of people. Often, it is more relevant to state the clans and the places one is from, or where they live.

Starting the introduction off is a greeting:

  • Yá’át’ééh (It is good; welcome; hello)
  • shik’éí dóó shidine’é (my family and my people, friends)

Following that is usually the name of the person (we’ll use Fenton as an example here):

  • Shí éí Fenton yinishyé (I am called Fenton)

The name you say should always be your real name; any nicknames or titles shouldn’t be included. Following this are the clans.

In Navajo culture, every person has four clans in the following order: the mother’s first clan, the father’s first clan, the maternal grandfather’s first clan, and the paternal grandfather’s first clan. In English, many people will shorten this part to just “I am ___(mother’s clan)___ born for ___(father’s first clan)___.”

This is how this is said in Navajo (the italicized words are clans):

  • Tódích’íí’nii nishłį́
  • Hashk’aan Hadzohí bashishchiin
  • Tł’ááshchí’í dashicheii
  • Hooghanłání dashinalí

And then following all of this is the phrase:

  • Ákót’éego diné nishłį́ (In this way, I am a Navajo male)

The feminine version is:

  • Ákót’éego diné asdzáán nishłį́ (In this way, I am a Navajo woman)

If one has a heritage that is not part of the clan system, that clan can be substituted with the word a different heritage. For example, Naakai Łizhinii refers to those of African descent – literally it means ‘the black/dark ones that walk about” – or Bilagáana (white people), Naakai dine’é (Mexican people), Kiis’áanii or Oozéí (Hopi), or any other heritage.

The way this clan system is structured results in the mother’s clan being carried forward always, whereas the father’s clan cycles out after two generations.

Towards the end are the places one is from. This is commonly expressed in two ways: where one currently lives, and where one is originally from. The pronunciation presents it in this way (place names are italicized; -di means “at”):

  • Beesh Sinildi kééhasht’į́ (I reside at Winslow, where the metal lays)
  • Tsin Názbąs déé’ naashá (From Trees In A Circle I walk around)

(These two statements are joined by ndi, which equates to “but…”)

And then to close off the introduction is:

  • Ahéhee’ (Thank You! I am grateful!)

This is the basic introduction in Navajo.

Bįįh

The Navajo word bįįh refers to the deer.

It is held that early Diné people hunted deer, and from these created buckskin clothing. The leather was also used in creating kélchí (kéłchí) – or moccasins – and the feminine variant ké ntsaaí.

Very little was wasted when it came to hunting and capturing animals. Deer provided sustenance and also imparted a mark of skill to hunters of bįįh. 

In Navajo tradition, the First Woman and First Man (Áłtsé Asdzą́ą́n and Áłtsé Hastiin) were formed partly from deer hide. There are also hunting stories that convey experiences of early hunters through struggles and subsequent encounters with talking spirits, which impart knowledge to the hunter.

There are also several deer clans, such as Bįįh Bitoodnii (Deer Springs), Bįįh Yáázh Dine’é (Little Deer People), Bįįh Tsoh Dine’é (Big Deer People), Bįįh Dine’é Táchii’nii (The Deer People of the Red Running Into Water clan). Some of these clans are of Hopi descent.

 

Diné Bizaad yee Nidaazbaa’ígíí

In Remembrance of Navajo Code Talker Albert Smith, here is our post for ‘Navajo Code Talker’ from August 14.

Today is a special day: National Navajo Code Talkers’ Day. As such, we bring you the Navajo word for ‘Navajo Code Talkers.’

  • Diné Bizaad – Navajo, it’s (their) language
  • yee – with it, or by means of it
  • nidaazbaa’ – plural for of ‘he/she/it went to war’
  • -ígíí – particle that converts the verb nidaabaa’ and the phrase as a whole into a noun, or adverbial/adjectival component.

NavajoWOTD.com is, in large part, an homage to the late Keith Little, who passed a month before we began posting our words. It remains, now, a tribute to the Speakers who leave behind a valuable lesson: that our Native languages are powerful tools for shaping our identity as a People.

The Navajo Code Talkers’ service during WWII and afterwards invigorated the movement to preserve the Navajo language in a time when off-reservation boarding schools embraced a brutal policy of banning students from speaking their native language.

The Navajo language and the Code derived from it was a powerful weapon in the Second World War. But that same code became a saving grace for the language as a whole.

Ahéhee’ shicheii, hagoónee’.

Jééhkał

The Navajo term jééhkał is a way of saying that there’s been a loss of hearing. It is used to describe both those that are hard of hearing and those that are completely deaf.

Sometimes, someone that has no physical hearing impairments can be called jééhkał if they do not listen – as in take the advice of those more experienced.

The term nijééhkał means “you are deaf/hard of hearing.” In combination with Yaadilah, one may say out of frustration to another, “Yaadilah njééhkał!”

There is also shijééhkał and bijéékał (or jééhkał by itself) which denote the first person and second person, respectively.