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ERIC Number: EJ912984
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 23
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0161-6463
Power, Prayers, and Protection: Comb Ridge as a Case Study in Navajo Thought
McPherson, Robert S.
American Indian Culture and Research Journal, v34 n1 p1-23 2010
Beginning in 2005, a five-year survey of cultural resources began to unfold in southeastern Utah along a prominent sandstone rock formation known as Comb Ridge. This visually dramatic monocline stretches a considerable distance from the southwestern corner of Blue Mountain (Abajos) in Utah to Kayenta, Arizona, approximately one hundred miles to the south. The sixty-six-square-mile Utah portion of the ridge and the object of study, lying between the San Juan River in the south to Blue Mountain in the north, offers a particularly rich landscape in which humankind has interacted during prehistoric, historic, and contemporary eras. The author's role in this venture was to provide ethnographic and ethnohistoric background for the field crews interested in the various cultures frequenting Comb Ridge and its environs. He turned to John Holiday, an elderly chanter, or medicine man, for much of the Navajo view of what this rock formation means to his people. This emic approach to what Native Americans think of the land and its sacred geography is an important concept to understand. Based on previous discussions with Navajo elders, the author realized that Comb Ridge would prove to be polysemic and multivocal. Although this is undoubtedly true of other sites on land embedded with Navajo thought, there was no missing the importance of this place in Utah Navajos' teachings. The richness in variety became apparent once the study got underway. From it came connections that tied this rock to major ceremonial knowledge and stories as well as Navajo classification and land use. John, as primary consultant, was more than willing to share this information and insight. John focused on snakes, lightning, arrowheads, wind, bears, the San Juan River, and boundaries. These seemingly unconnected things melted into a cohesive perception anchored in power, prayers, and protection. (Contains 87 notes.)
American Indian Studies Center at UCLA. 3220 Campbell Hall, Box 951548, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1548. Tel: 310-825-7315; Fax: 310-206-7060; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Utah