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The story of the Navajo tribe and their language

Fortunate & Lya's museum project


06. Game

05. Video

04. Basic Navajo

03. Influence of the Westward Expansion

02. Language Origin

01. Basic Facts



Basic facts

  • About 170 000 speakers
  • Spoken in southwest of US, especially in Navajo nation
  • Most widespread Native American language above the US-Mexican-Border
  • Part of the Apalachean group of languages
  • Navajo people call it "Diné bizaad" (people's language)
  • Navajo is the Spanish adaptation of the Tewa Pueblo word "Navahu'u", which originally described a large area of cultivated land



The Bering land bridge

Around 6-4000 BC the ancestors of the Navajo people migrated from Eurasia to North America through the Bering Land Bridge, which existed at that time. They travelled all the way down to an area that is now the part of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.


Dook'oostííd(San Francisco Peaks)
Tsoodzit (Mount Taylor)
Sis Naajaní (Mount Blanca)
Dibé Nitsaa (Mountain Hesperus)

The sacred mountains

According to Navao Mythology, their homeland lies between 4 sacred mountains, representing four cardinal points and four colours. They called it "Dinétah" (among the people).


Influence of the Westward Expansion

The long walk

Because of the need of the American government to expand its territory, in 1864 they drove out the Navajo people from their homeland and relocated them to the area of Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The Navajo called this the "Long Walk".


Dook'oostííd(San Francisco Peaks)
Tsoodzit (Mount Taylor)
Sis Naajaní (Mount Blanca)
Dibé Nitsaa (Mountain Hesperus)

The Peace treaty

In 1868, both parties finally signed a Peace Treaty, which granted the Navajo people a protected Reservation on their old homeland, but was significantly smaller than their old terriory. Following this, the Navajos travelled back.

Due to the Westward Expansion, settlers and Natives were in conflict, but also contact with each other. The result can actually be seen in the language. There are a lot of Native American words in the American English Language. Examples include:
  • Food & Animals:
  • Skunk (from squuncke) - Massachusett Tribe
  • Squash (askútasquash) - Narragansett language
  • Geographical Terms:
  • States: Illinois, Delaware, Massachusett, Iowa, Kansas, Alabama, Missouri, Connecticut
  • Cities: Miami, Montauk, Mobile, Biloxi, Cheyenne, Natchez, Wichita
  • Rivers & Lakes: Erie, Huron, Missouri
  • Mountains & Deserts: Apalachee, Teton, Mohave, Shasta

How did the english language respond to the contact?

How did the Navajo Language respond to the contact?

In contrast to the inclusion of words to the English language, Navajo didn't include English words or terms. Instead, the Navajo people invented new words to describe new objects and later even countries and states.


Basic Navajo

  • Yá'át'ééh - Hello
  • Yá'át'ééh abiní - Good morning
  • Ahéhee' - Thank you
  • Haash yinilye? - What is your name?
  • Shí éí ... yinilyé (yinishyé) - My name is ...
  • Ní - you
  • Shi - I
  • Ąąʼ haʼíí baa naniná? - How are you?
  • Bízháneeʼ - lucky
  • Hágooshį́į́ / Hágoónee' - Goodbye
  • Shizhé’é - father
  • Shimá - mother

Navajo phrases

Grammar Fun-facts

Navajo puts nouns in differet categories according to which, their place in a sentence is determined. Verbs can also take the place of our adjectives (e.g. nitsaa (to be large)).The verb to give changes based on the shape of the object (11 shapes).



This is what Navajo sounds like.

A song in navajo

Translated Lyrics: In a serene state, the dawn comes, In a sacred state, the dawn comes The dawn comes upon Mother Earth, With all good things, the dawn comes Dawn comes upon the wide open spaces, Dawn comes upon the mountains The dawn brings prayers and songs, The dawn brings the bluebird I am all rested in the early dawn, My whole being is all rested in the dawn The dawn brings the thinking process The dawn brings the planning process The dawn brings life from here forward, The dawn also brings forth spirituality The dawn brings long life happiness, The dawn brings life until old age



(Do you speak Navajo?)

Diné bizaadísh dinitsʼaʼ?