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.

Gólizhii

In contrast to the Navajo word for the “pet that defecates (all the time; everywhere)”, or dog (łééchąą’í), is the animal that is known for urinating.

That would be the skunk, gólizhii or gólízhii.

Lizh is the part of the word that forms the root for the verbs “to urinate.” Attached to that word is the nominalizer (-igii, -í, -ii; makes a thing out of an action), or lizhii.

The first part of the word for dog, łéé-, is though of as identifying a pet animal. That is replaced with gó in this case as skunks aren’t kept as pets – or at least it’s not common practice. As for gó itself, the reason isn’t entirely clear. When the variant goh (go’) is a root, as opposed to a leading particle, it typically refers to something that is falling, or flowing.

It’s not hard to imagine the justification for calling a skunk the peeing animal.

Łééchąą’í

Also shortened to just łééchąą’, the Navajo word łééchąą’í refers to domesticated dogs.

Inside this word is the separate chąą’. This is a word meaning ‘excrement, feces, poop, etc.’.

This, like many other Navajo words, is intended to be an easy, yet unique, descriptor. So the entire word is saying, in not a vulgar sense, ‘the pooping pet.’ It is perhaps a remark on the relative lack of discretion on a typical dog’s part when “doing business.”

[See mósí for cat.]

Shą́ą́’tóhí

Shonto is a Chapter of the Navajo Nation located towards the Utah border in Arizona. It’s Navajo name is shą́ą́’tóhí (sháá’tóhí, sháátóhí).

The first part of the word, shą́ą́-, is similar to the particles found in the words shádí’ááh (south, in the sun’s direction, on the side of the sun – at it’s highest point) and sháńdíín (shandiin – sunlight, sunshine).

The next part, -tóhí, is a word derived from (water).

Together, they are translated as “sunshine springs.”

The terrain supported a steady spring that sustained early sheep and livestock camps and farming. It would later be a crucial location for Navajo people pursued by the U.S. Federal Government for relocation to Fort Sumner (Hwééldi). Today, Shonto and the surrounding Chapters see an average 3 million tourists annually. As with nearly all Navajo Chapters, economic development while maintaining the cultural heritage of the people is a major community focus.