Ílį́įgo naalyéhé

The Navajo words ílį́įgo naalyéhé together refer to jewelry.

The first word comes from the particle ílį́, which denotes value, worth, or genuineness (in a word like ílį́k’ehgo it means ‘with respect’ or ‘respectfully’).

Naalyéhé means property, or goods, in Navajo and is literally ‘that which is carried [about]’.

So, ílį́įgo naalyéhé is like saying a good with particular worth.

Navajo jewelry is regarded for featuring turquoise stones worked into silver, which reflects the style of the region. Squash blossoms adorn necklaces that range in style from pendants to heavy chains that are fully embellished to the back of the neck. For earrings, men tend to have simple turquoise stones while women have more intricate and striking designs. Concho belts featured designs carved or stamped into flat pieces that lay against the leather strap. Bow guards can also feature heavy silver and turquoise accents.

The old Navajo silversmiths learned to work metal and stone using techniques spread by early Spanish settlers via other tribes in the Southwest. It was common for tools to be fashioned out of scrap metal, such as railroad spikes or pieces of old engines. Raw materials were bartered for but only when absolutely necessary. Additionally, coins from back in the day were common ornaments in bracelets and belts.

See also:

Azee’ neikahi

Azee’ is a Navajo word that refers to medicine.

In most cases azee’, used in combination with any number of descriptors, creates a reference to a clinical environment. This means that medical terminology and diagnostic terms will sometimes repeat azee’ across many words in the same sentence.

Neikahi (or sometimes neikáhí, or néikáhí) describes the act of carrying in a nominalized form, or “that which …”, and used together with azee’ means nurse.

Azee’ neikahi is the general Navajo term for a nurse, which may sometimes be expanded to include emergency staff or paramedics, or similar specialties (but may also have their own descriptors).

Note: The 1972 edition of Basic Medical Navajo by Alan Wilson adopted this terminology for nurses, whereas the 2001 printing of The Navajo Dictionary on [of] Diagnostic Terminology by The Diné Center for Human Development didn’t include an explicit term.

See also: Azee’ ííł’íní (doctor, or the one that makes medicine)

NavajoWOTD will return on Monday!

I am excited to announce that regular postings will return after a months-long hiatus.

Navajo Word of the Day began at my home, as a small way to spread understanding of Navajo culture. Posts were scheduled every morning at 2 AM so that east coasters would wake up to a new word. It wasn’t long until messages came in demanding pronunciations, which I started recording on my old iPhone and uploaded to SoundCloud, where they could be easily played and downloaded. The Twitter account followed, and the Facebook page, not long afterwards. It wasn’t until a year later that I had made enough money from advertising to invest in a good microphone for clearer audio, which I bought off of Craigslist (risky, I know; in fact, I bought a bad microphone but the company graciously exchanged it).

As I started to understand the issue of language perpetuation (I prefer ‘perpetuation’ over ‘preservation’ since it implies an active effort from within, as opposed to an external effort), I saw an opportunity to apply my background to the issue to see what could be done. But I developed a fast-growing cancer and began chemotherapy treatment in an effort to save my lungs and to slow the metastases. I had made a huge commitment to a lot of people, and I failed until now to follow through completely. Looking back, I see an even greater need to continue this website than before.

Here are a few things you can look forward to:

  • new daily words
  • a Navajo Language explorer mobile app
  • your perks (for the crowdfunding backers)
  • a revamped ClanMaker app
  • a revamped Lexicon app
  • new opportunities for you to help spread awareness of Navajo issues (such as cancer awareness, historical events, and Navajo education)
  • and more.

Having just turned 22, and having to deal with cancer, it’s important that I fulfill my obligations. I am thankful for your support, which has made this a website nothing but a joy and healthy challenge. I realize now the meaning of the word “hózhóó’ógo” – not ‘slow’ but ‘with care’.



Updates on NavajoWOTD – a Navajo language learning community

Yá’át’ééh, shik’éí dóó shidine’é; hello friends and supporters!

Thanks a bunch for sticking with me the past few months. Unfortunately, last week I was diagnosed with cancer and will begin treatment this week in Phoenix. This means a few things have been delayed for supporters of the Indiegogo project, but I continue to work on getting those out to you as soon as possible.

In the meantime, it’s been far too long since you’ve had a Navajo word. Which is why I am now looking for writers to help pick up the schedule. If you believe you can write for NavajoWOTD, and would like some coffee money, send me an email with your experience and capabilities (computer access, recording, schedule, fluency, etc.) at byron@navajowotd.com. Please include a sample of how you would write a typical NavajoWOTD post.

Again, ahéhee’ for joining this community of Navajo language learners. I look forward to the next year as we continue to grow.

– Byron

Creator, NavajoWOTD

Remembering Hwéeldi, the Navajo Long Walk: Why I am walking 500 miles to Bosque Redondo


My name is Byron Shorty, and I am Navajo.

My ancestors were from the Western part of what is now the Navajo Nation in Arizona. We are the indigenous people, or Native Americans, or American Indians, that inhabited this part of America for centuries before the Colonial Era. What is now Flagstaff is the area we lived, under the San Francisco Peaks which we call Dook’ó’ooslííd (glimmering snow).

During the Civil War Era, my ancestors were targeted for systematic relocation through forced marches, scorched earth campaigns, and outright treachery by the American government. This saw entire clans removed and escorted to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. It was there that the American government intended for us to remain – on a barren holding site – forever.

Through the work of Diné (Navajo for “the People”) leaders Barboncito, Armijo, Delgado, Manuelito, Largo, Herrero, Chiquito, Muerte de Hombre, Hombro, Narbono, Narbono Segundo and Ganado Mucho, the Treaty of Bosque Redondo was created on June 1, 1868, which allowed for the return of my ancestors to their homes. This came after years of captivity in which food shortages were common, conflicts between tribes and the Army escalated, drastic changes in diet leading to malnourishment, and more, ravaged the survivors of the walk to Bosque Redondo.

This moment in our history as Navajo people defined a new era of sovereignty that was paid for by our ancestors and their determination to live independently in the Navajo homeland. They fought and died to keep our way of life intact, and they have created an opportunity for future generations, like mine, to take hold of the inherent right to self-governance. We, the Navajo People, are the descendants of survivors and are heirs to a cultural history that promotes strength and harmony, and a drive to reclaim what could have been lost.

My walk to Bosque Redondo, called Hwéeldi in Navajo, is to remind ourselves of the struggle and of the ability to overcome drastic threats. In this modern day, we are faced with legal battles in dealing with rights to natural resources, societal battles against substance abuse and suicide, economic woes growing out of a history of oppressive outside influences, and more. But just as equally powerful has been our ability to remain a family, and to retain the identity that our ancestors fought so hard to pass on. If we are to secure our futures toward a more beautiful way of life, we must be willing to go that extra mile to remember that we must each make the decision to work towards helping each other. We must remember our ancestors’ strength and resolve to provide for our futures.

I have done what I can, which is what this site reflects. I enjoy – I am passionate about – sharing my Navajo culture with the world. The language, in all my years of studying it as a native English speaker, truly does have the power to give one an entirely different perspective. There is structure and nuance – all of the things that make a language beautiful – that impact the thought process in indescribable ways. And that is what I hope to share.

We must acknowledge a reality, though. The number of Navajo speakers is rapidly declining. A great number are elderly in age, whose children experienced great pressure against speaking the language they grew up with. It is all too common that people were embarrassed to be associated with rural Navajo life, and therefore made the decision to separate themselves. Younger generations feel the pressure to learn the Navajo language, but find it difficult because there is the generational gap that inhibits the passage of comprehension from parent to child. Often all the grandchild wants to do is to be able to speak to the grandparent.

Census numbers tell us that there are approximately 150,000 speakers left. But these speakers are represented by the generations in their mid-40s and later. Elderly Navajo maintained the societal norm of having as many as 8 children throughout their lifetimes, and the generation they gave birth to is the shifting point in that norm. Now, with a modern family typically having only 2-4 children, if any, the sheer number of young Navajo speakers is extremely low, which results in a much lower percentage compared to the older generations who speak Navajo.

So what might seem as a healthy number turns out to be an element left over from before the transition to English language usage. The threat to the survival of our language remains, along with it the survival of the cultural knowledge that has been passed on orally for centuries. We are at a crucial point in our efforts to revitalize the Navajo culture after decades of mistreatment, and we need to recognize that we must be willing to do more to overcome the challenge of learning the Navajo language, and carrying our history forward.

So I am walking to remember our past, to recognize our progress, to promote our futures, and to do everything I can to build upon the legacy of our ancestors. It is my hope that you will support me.

Ákót’éego Diné nishłį́.


Byron S. – NavajoWOTD, Creator