HoskieBenally is a Diné (Navajo) spiritual leader, who resides in the town of Shiprock, New Mexico.Hoskie spent much of his childhood with his grandpliving in the traditional ways practiced for thousandsof years by the Diné. His grandfather was a sheepherder, and his grandmother a weaver of rugs. Hisbiological father was a medicine man who worked in a Uranium mine, and although he died whenHoskie was only three, Hoskie has continued the healing traditions of his lineage. But this path cameunexpectedly to Hoskie, when at the age of 22, he went blind within a matter of weeks from RetinitisPigmentosa.Initially, Hoskie turned to alcohol, as depression from losing his eyesight overwhelmed him. But it wasthis loss of sight that would help him find his true direction. “A medicine man told me when I was goingthrough depression, through some alcoholism, ‘you have a purpose here on Mother Earth, and throughthis visual impairment either you can find your purpose in life and accept your visual impairment, or youmay continue to fight it and let alcohol destroy you.’ That made a lot of sense to me. I believe this is thepath I’ve been chosen to walk, so I no longer question my visual impairment, but I look at it more as ablessing in finding my purpose in life.”One year later, Hoskie was offered a job at a youth treatment center, and today he directs Our Youth,Our Future, an intensive outpatient treatment center for Native American youth with chemicaldependencies and related mental disorders. Hoskie led the transformation of this program from aWestern-based Alcoholics Anonymous curriculum to a bi-cultural program, with Native Americanteachings and philosophies at its core. He is committed to helping Native youth from all areas of thecountry, and believes that a strong sense of identity and a cultural foundation is vital for true healing.“Spirituality to us is a way of life. Spirituality to us says that every day is a ceremony from the time youget up to the time you go to bed. And as we look at the rising of the sun, you know it’s a new day. As wemove throughout the day it’s a ceremony.”Tribe: The Navajo (Diné)A Sacred Relationship
A Navajo’s relationship to the land begins at birth when his or her umbilical cord is buried in the ground.In this way, the newborn makes a symbolic transition from being nourished by their natural mother to alife of nurturing by Mother Earth, the spiritual mother. In addition, the child’s afterbirth is offered to ayoung piñon or juniper tree, creating a sacred bond the two will share throughout their lives. Thusbegins the sacred relationship between a Navajo and the land.The Navajo refer to themselves as the Diné, or The People. According to their own history, the Diné havealways lived between the four sacred mountains which reside in the four sacred directions: To the eastBlanca Peak in Colorado, to the south Mount Taylor in New Mexico, to the west the San Francisco Peaksin Arizona, and to the north Hesperus Peak in Colorado. Each of these mountains represent the spiritualand social laws of the people, and the Diné adorn themselves just as the mountains do, with the whiteshell to the east, turquoise to the south, abalone shell to the west, and black jet to the north. Thesemountains, and the homelands within them, were given to the Diné by the Creator, and they believethey have a responsibility to remain upon and care for the land and its occupants.This story of creation is recounted in the Blessingway Ceremony, which is the cornerstone of the Dinéway of life. In the Blessingway, the major deity of the Diné, Changing Woman, created the four originalDiné clans from her body. (Today, it is estimated there are over 140 clans among the Diné.) She thengave detailed instructions about history and religious practices, such as the consecration of a family’shogan, the traditional Diné dwelling.Lands and LanguageThe Navajo Nation is the largest federally recognized tribe in the U.S., with approximately 225,000members and a land mass of 25,000 square miles (16.2 million acres). Navajoland, or “Diné Be Keyah”, islocated in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, and while the Diné live on part of their ancestral lands, thetribe still faces constant environmental contamination from nuclear waste companies, and alleged land-stealing and forced relocation by the U.S. Government and Peabody Coal.The Navajo language belongs to the Athabascan group of languages, which includes the Eskimo (Inuit)and Apache. While the language has a smaller vocabulary than English does, it uses its uniquedescriptive qualities to portray elaborate images. For instance, “ké” is Navajo for “shoes,” and tires for acar are called “chidi’bi’ké”, or “the shoes belonging to the car.”
Most of the elders today understand and speak only Navajo, while most of the generation under 30speaks only English. Even though Navajo is being taught at schools on the reservation as a secondlanguage, it is rapidly disappearing as the tribe’s native language. Many Navajo feel that languagepreservation and revitalization is one of the most important issues the tribe faces today.“The Five Sacred Medicines”Listen to Audio (Real Player Required)Listen to Audio in Navajo (Real Player Required)as told by Raymond Keeswood, NavajoDownload Real Player Back to topIntroductionMy name’s HoskieBenallyJr, and I’m the Chief Executive Officer of Our Youth, Our Future, Incorporated.Our program primarily provides chemical dependency treatment to Native American youth between theage of 12 to 19 years of age. Our program’s based on a bi-cultural philosophy, which means that weintegrate Western therapy with Native American philosophy, teachings, practices and belief systems.Because we believe that these young people that come into our treatment center need to go back tohaving self pride in being Native American Indians. We feel that with the bi-cultural philosophy, we’reable to help them begin to have self pride in their heritage, in their identity, and go back to theirspiritual roots. And as Indian people, we know that our spirituality is something that’s very important inour life.The Five Sacred MedicinesMother Earth and Father Sky had their differences at one time. And Mother Earth was saying ‘Everythinghere on the ground and every living thing that walks on the ground belongs to me and are under mycontrol’ and Father Sky said ‘If that’s the way it’s going to be, then everything from the air on up is undermy control’. So they had their differences and they decided that they weren’t going to interact for fouryears.
And during that time the air began to change. It got real thin, there was no rain. A lot of Creation beganto disappear, the vegetation, some of the two-leggeds, four-leggeds and some of the creepy crawlersand eventually there was not very many left and these others all began to vanish.And so they said there were four plants, there were four plants and a bird left. And they withstood allthis dryness, lack of moisture, thin air. And so they went to Mother Earth and told Mother Earth, theysaid ‘You know because of the difference with Father Sky we’re the ones who are suffering.’ So MotherEarth said ‘We need to give message to Father Sky that we need to make amends and we need to bringthings back to the way they were and make corrections on our own selfishness.’And so they decided that’s what they would do. And so they sent this bird up to Father Sky. He flew wayup, kept flying until he disappeared. And then about four days later, they say from the south direction,they saw a rain cloud and they heard thunder. And the second thunder got closer, third thunder cameup almost above them and then fourth thunder right above them. And when they heard that thunderand saw that lightning, out of that lightning came this bird, flew back down to Mother Earth and broughtrain, brought them moisture, brought the change in the air, in the atmosphere. And everything began toget moist again, everything began to breathe easy again, and all the creation that had been lost and hadvanished began to reappear.And so they said the ones that had survived was a cedar plant, a tobacco plant, a yucca plant and a sageplant. And then this bird they said was the eagle. And they said, so from that day on, the Creator andMother Earth and Father Sky told these survivors that because of your ability to survive, because of yourcourage, your stamina, and your resilience you are going to be in the ceremonies of all the Indian peopleacross all Indian land. And they said that’s why today we use the tobacco, cedar, yucca, sage and we usethe eagle feather.And a lot of our young people, when we, you know, they come in, we burn cedar for them, they want toknow why. Why do we use tobacco? So when we teach them that we teach them the story. So the nexttime they use cedar, you know, you breathe in that, you breathe in that, you breathe in that smell ofcedar, what you’re saying and thinking to yourself is I’m going to be a survivor, I’m gonna haveresilience, I’m gonna have courage, I’m gonna have stamina. Same way when we smoke tobacco, thesame thing, when we take a pipe or we take corn husk and fix tobacco like that and we smoke it, that’swhat we think to ourselves. And when we use those eagle feathers, the same way. We bless ourselvesand take the energy off of it and we take that that spirit off of there and we think about these things.arents,