NavajoWOTD

jéékał

deaf or hard of hearing

jeh kah-lth

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.

gólízhii

skunk

goh lih zhee

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 lizh_ii_.

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

dog

lth eh chah ih

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, sunshine springs

shahh toh hih

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.

dił

blood

dih-lth

The Navajo word dił refers blood.

In earlier Navajo society, blood was not the basis for determining one’s relations among the Diné — that was the purpose of clans. Today, the Navajo tribe issues Certificates of Indian Blood that measure blood quantum of enrolled tribal members. Naturally, Navajo families are beginning to rely more upon blood relations than clan relations.

Besides the literal aspect of dił, there are some implied meanings in ceremonial usage. Dił, being red, is often grouped together with black (if you can recall, the fire god is also called “the Black God” when translated to English). There is also the name for the traditional Navajo First World that is known as Red world. It is symbolic in many cases of both fertility and of destruction, and the cycle as a whole.

There is also the the traditional Navajo story of a group of animals that asked woodpecker to kill the owl. It is said that the animals that wear red on their coats, like the reddish-colored bellies of some squirrels, were part of that group, the red being the blood of the owl.

A modern understanding and examination of blood and genetic diversity has led to the discovery among Navajo people of a rare hereditary condition known as xeroderma pigmentosum. This condition is significantly more common among Navajo than the wider population (about 1 in 30,000 vs. 1 in 250,000).

As you may now see, dił is one of many Navajo words that are evolving to encompass a contemporary meaning. Although direct translations are becoming common practice, the underlying implied meanings of Navajo – and for that matter any indigenous – words can be lost in translation.

Without a broader understanding of dił, it would be hard for one to tell why dił is part of the word for the stars and the rest of the universe – yádiłhił.

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