Gender and Healing in Navajo Society

Thomas J. Csordas

in Religion and Healing in America

Published in print December 2004 | ISBN: 9780195167962
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199850150 | DOI:
Gender and Healing in Navajo Society

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The Navajo are among the three largest indigenous tribes in North America (the Cherokee and Lakota, or Sioux, are the others) and as a people possess a land and natural resource base larger than that of any other tribe. Ritual healing, in the context of either traditional Navajo ceremonies, Native American Church peyote prayer meetings, or Pentecostal Christian revivalism, is a prominent feature of contemporary Navajo life for both men and women. Navajo women have been recognized as having relatively high status and considerable social power in relation to men, yet they are only infrequently encountered among ceremonial practitioners of the prestigious chantways. This chapter is a step toward understanding the motivation and experience of those Navajo women who do become healers. For contemporary Navajos, the issue of gender per se—that is, of women in relation to men—is in some sense subordinate to the pivotal issues of the healer's identity as a Navajo and in relation to biomedical professionals of the dominant society.

Keywords: Navajo; women; ritual healing; ceremonies; revivalism; prayer meetings; gender; society; chantways

Chapter.  6842 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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