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Tale of the Navajos

Tale of the Navajos(1949)

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Around 50,000 Navajo, the largest tribe in the United States, live on 25,000 square miles near Monument Valley on the Utah-Arizona border and make their living as herdsmen. One young Navajo, Ziki, is apprenticed to a silversmith, with whom he studies the art of making the silver and turquoise jewelry that has spiritual significance for his people. The Navajo especially prize blue turquoise because it is the color of the sky that is home to the friendly gods. In hopes of placating the gods and ending a long drought that threatens the sheep on which the Navajo depend for their livelihood, Ziki's sister wears a blue blouse and all the family jewelry. Ziki's oldest sister spins wool in the traditional way, which was taught to her by Spider Woman. She sells the blankets that she weaves at a nearby trading post. Jimmie, the trader's son, is Ziki's best friend. When Ziki remembers that his grandfather knew about a pasture far away in the mountains, the two boys seek his guidance. Ziki's grandfather, who is waiting to participate in a healing ceremony, tells the boys the following story that happened to him years earlier: He travels with two friends in search of a rich land above red cliffs, which can only be reached through a rainbow of stone. They find a cache of sacred turquoise near the home of the "mystic people," an ancient tribe of cliff dwellers. Because they know that the spirits of the dead, or chindi, haunt the stones, they leave them behind. After grandfather's two friends fall to their death, he leaves without discovering the mountain pasture. His story finished, grandfather advises the boys that they should make the journey in reverence, being careful not to disturb the spirits of the dead. He then gives them an eagle feather to guide their journey. Following grandfather's instructions, Ziki and Jimmie pass Winged Rock, which in ancient times was the home of the bird monsters. When the monsters were killed by the Twin Warriors, one monster was turned into an eagle and now provides feathers for warriors. As they travel, the boys see a coyote, the mischief maker, which can mean either good or bad luck. They pass a blue bird, which indicates good luck. They ride by stones and rock formations that embody Navajo history. After crossing the river, Jimmie and Ziki arrive at Canyon de Chelly, where many Navajo took refuge from Indian hunter Kit Carson. On the canyon walls they see petroglyphs drawn by an ancient people. They continue to follow grandfather's directions to the red cliffs where the mystic people lived. Watched by owls, who sometimes carry the spirits of the dead, Ziki and Jimmie discover the pot of turquoise which grandfather described and, remembering that the spell of the chindi can only be removed by a special ceremony, they leave most of it behind. With great effort, they continue up the cliffs. One night while they sleep, the evil raven steals the eagle feather from Ziki's headband. Because grandfather warned them that they would lose their way without a feather, the boys must replace it. The feather must be taken from a live bird because a found feather might be chindi. With the help of the new feather, the boys find a rainbow-shaped rock. On the other side, they discover a wonderful pasture with lakes, grass and flowers. Ziki and Jimmie return home and lead the sheep and the tribe to the new pastures. A special ceremony is held to banish the chindi from the turquoise, and Ziki is able to use it to make new jewelry.