October is an important month for the Navajo people, as it signifies a shift in iina (life).
In the Navajo language, October is “Ghaaji’,” which means “half” and is the time for the separation of the seasons when the yellow of warmer months and the white of colder months stand back to back, meeting halfway.
It is during this time that Nihima Nahasdzaan (Our Mother Earth) is preparing for change and provides her protection for those beings seeking shelter during the cold months.
Ghaaji’ is the end of harvest season and time when foods such as melons, corn, squash, and beans are prepared and stored for winter.
Food storage is very important and families go great lengths to ensure proper preservation through drying, grinding, smoking, and the use of underground root cellars.
It is a common sight to see Navajo women holding an ear of corn and feeling the firmness between their fingers.
By sight and smell they quickly determine what that ear is good for — replanting, stewing, grinding, baking, or roasting.
Winters in the Southwest are not as harsh as they are in the Dakotas; however, they are still harsh.
A great misconception is that Arizona is always warm, which is simply not true.
Arizona’s diverse topography means a wide range of weather conditions throughout the year.
The Navajo live in varying elevations, some as high as 10,318 feet!
The coldest temperature recorded in Arizona was -40 degrees, and it isn’t uncommon for parts of the Navajo reservation to reach below zero during the winter months.
The colder air that Ghaaji brings signifies the sacred time that the Navajo deities are preparing to come out for winter ceremonies, song, and dance.
When the new moon occurs in Ghaaji, the Navajo new year begins and offers a chance for personal reflection and renewal of one’s iina.
Here is to the new year and the hope for blessings, healing, and prosperity for us all.
May we all become better human beings, community members, and relatives. Ahehee’.