New Year Reflections: A Navajo Perspective

JMRoessel Sunset

I miss Diné Bikeyáh most in the fall and winter seasons. There is a special connection I have to my land in the winter time when it receives its first dusting of snow.  It’s not solely the look of the land but what the transition signals. The change in seasons means the continuation of key parts of our culture. It signals our ability to tell our sacred origin stories again. I look forward to playing string games with my uncles and all the joking which will ensue. There are also “normal” winter things which just feel better at home. The making of s’mores in my backyard may feed my sweet tooth but often feels incongruous next to my pool and palm tree.

In Navajo we call October, Ghąąji’ meaning “the joining of seasons”. It marks our new year and the time we harvest the crops of the summer and begin to prepare for the winter’s ceremonies.  It is a time for us to cultivate the richness around us as we anticipate the hardships winter will bring.

When I moved to Phoenix to attend college, I promised myself I would return home at least once a month. It’s a promise I have only broken a few times as the demands of work have taken precedent. My winter trips home are what I long for mostly because it’s when our ceremonial cycle reaches its pinnacle with our YeíbicheÍ ceremonies. Held traditionally from the time of the first snow until the first lightening comes. Attending Yeíbicheí ceremonies offers an instant connection to my family and community. Everyone comes together to support the healing of the patient with whom the ceremony is held. As with all our ceremonies, it is a time for us to connect with one another.

I dream of home in the desert. It’s the desert which sustains me and quenches my thirst to be home. It’s the desert which distracts me from what I miss. As the seasons change, I plan the style changes I will make – more scarves, autumnal hues, boots and tights. But most importantly, I look for openings in my calendar so I can travel home to see family. “Being Navajo” is a continual transformation as I am always learning what more I can do. In a world filled with such complex beauty and chaos it is easy to assume the lessons are just as intricate. But the truth is simple – we are wondrous beings with an inherent need to connect to each all we need to do is just show one another we are important by being present.

Published by Jaclyn Roessel

Jaclyn Roessel was born and raised on the Navajo Nation. She is founder of the blog Grownup Navajo. She co-founded the blog Presence 4.0, a Native style blog. She also co-founded the multi-media project schmooze: lady connected. Owner of the card company the Naaltsoos Project, Roessel is a philanthropist, American Indian advocate and museum professional.

7 thoughts on “New Year Reflections: A Navajo Perspective

  1. I envy you of the way you connect to the changing seasons and the land, as well as each other. Here in Britain we have lost this, and are all the poorer for it. Though there are individuals who attempt to re-connect.

  2. Jac,
    I appreciate the knowledge and insight you have acquried through all of the teachings, converstations, and living of everyday life among your family. I am blessed to call you my daughter. You ignite the memories of our life together. I look forward to more…your mom.

  3. This was such a delight to read. I could picture it all, so lovely. I especially liked this sentence, “It’s the desert which sustains me and quenches my thirst to be home.” Yes! that is exactly what it does, well said. Thank you for sharing.

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