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Navajo Prophecy

 Rocky Ridge, Arizona -- Sarah Begay was sitting in the small house she shares with her 96 year-old mother, Irene Yazzie. Suddenly, Yazzie, who had not spoken since a recent stroke said, "We're going to have company." 

"The next thing I knew there was a loud boom overhead and then a whistle. It sounded like someone was talking outside so I went out to see what was going on and saw two white-haired, older Navajo men," said Begay in Navajo. "I got scared and started to go back into the house when one of them said: 'Don't be afraid, we are here to help you, You already know what we're here for.' " 

As Begay stood near the men, she said, she was stricken by "a power of some sort" that prevented her from asking any questions or looking directly at the pair. They told her they were sent to warn the Navajos that if they lost their traditional ways, they would be in grave danger. She remembers one saying, "We're not receiving prayers." 

A few seconds later the two men vanished, leaving behind footprints and a circle of corn pollen. Corn pollen is sacred to the Navajo way of thinking and is used in prayers and blessings. 


Begay, 61, told family members and friends about the incident, and word quickly spread across the nation's largest reservation. During the next two weeks, cars and pickups from all over the reservation traveled to Sarah Begay's house, located about 75 miles north of Flagstaff. At times her dirt road has had a mile of traffic congestion, caused by more than 6,000 people who have come here. 

"They brought their medicine bundles and ceremonial paraphernalia and began praying at the site where the two men left footprints," said Katherine Joe, Begay's younger sister. 

Others came to be healed. A blind man said Wednesday that he was there with the hope "that what happened to Sarah's mother will happen to me." The encounter also grabbed the attention of medicine men and women -- known as singers -- and tribal officials, including the Navajo Tribal President Albert Hale. 

Hale issued a memorandum Thursday allowing tribal government workers a four-hour leave to visit Rocky Ridge and to make prayers and offerings. In tribal governments, there is no mandatory separation of church and state. "By now, everyone has heard of the Rocky Ridge appearance of the Deities," Hale said in the statement. "This is a significant event to Navajo people everywhere." 

Begay said she was not sure what she saw May 4. Later, a group of medicine men told her the two visitors were the holy people Talking God and White Body. Sam Begay, a 66-year-old traditional adviser and a member of the tribe's Government Development Commission, said what happened at Rocky Ridge is the fulfillment of a prophecy warning that Navajos would forget their ways. 

"We were told long ago that the gods would return when we began fighting amongst ourselves, stopped talking to one another and bad things were happening...we've done this to ourselves," he said. "Most of us [Navajos] are too lazy to have cornfields. The only thing that has been happening is wind and dust blowing in our face every day" 


Navajo medicine men will begin performing a purifying ceremony for Sarah Begay as soon as helpers complete a structure. Some leaders, including Hale, have suggested a permanent shrine. This complicates the situation because the Begay's home is on land awarded to the Hopis under the 1974 partition of lands disputed by the Navajo and Hopi tribes. 

"I asked President Hale when he came here to defend me if the Hopis come in and try tear this structure down," said Begay. The Hopi tribe did not return telephone calls Thursday. Despite the number of people visiting Begay's home, and the interest from across the reservation, there remain messages that this is a Navajo-only event. A sign near the home- stead makes that clear: Please be respectful. No Cameras. No non-Din`e' [Navajos] 


Editor's Note -- in the wake of this event, Hopi (B.I.A.) Indian police road-blocked the area during the annual sundance in Mid-July hosted by Leonard Crow Dog, which was been going on for many years. It seems the Begay's home is on land which the Hopi claim is theirs, and the Feds are backing them up. How sad! A personal friend of mine, Red Eagle, a mixed blood of Lenape descent, drove down to the Sun Dance and was turned back. He walked ten miles back and forth several times, since he was camped nearby and had no host to rely on for water. Turns out the Hopi set up a fence, but it only extended as far as the eye could see near the road, and Red Eagle was able to get through. Red Eagle said that Crow Dog was very upset, and vowed to call media attention on the situation. Red Eagle commented that would be turning one "arm-of-flesh" against another and would accomplish nothing. He suggested going to the Creator with it. Please understand that these particular Hopi were B.I.A. types, and don't represent the traditional Hopi beliefs. 





EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a question and answer interview conducted with the speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, Kelsey Begaye. 

1. What knowledge do you have of the visitation of the Navajo deities that happened at Rocky Ridge? 

I have not yet been approached by anyone, group, or delegation regarding the visitation at Rocky Ridge. I first heard about it through a conversation at Kaibeto Market on May 11, 1996 between two individuals, but didn't inquire about it at the time. By that next week, various stories were circulating about the visitation, but again, no solid information was being given. On may 16, 1996, I got a copy of a memorandum from President Hale regarding his declaration of Navajo Spiritual Unity Week. I have not made any plans yet to make a visit to Rocky Ridge. As of today, I only know by what I hear from different individuals and an article from the Salt Lake Tribune, Dated May 17, 1996. 

2. What do you think about the visitation? From what I've heard so far, I have respect for Mrs. Sarah Begay, and her 96-year-old mother in their claim to the story of the visitation. I think that this is truly a significant event to the Navajo people everywhere, and I may say, of every religion, then we ought to treat it as such. The visitation may have happened so that we can unite as a people, as a Nation, but not to divide us anymore than we already are. 

3. As the speaker of the Navaho Nation Council, what are some of the concerns brought to your attention regarding the visitation? 

Some concerns given to my office since May 13, 1996 are as follows: 

A. Since President Hale's declaration, too many people are at the site on a daily basis. 

B. The expense of hosting so many people is getting expensive. 

C. Water for livestock and the household have 

become scarce. 

D. Lack of funds to provide for daily visitors. 

E. The declaration is causing many concerns among other religious groups as to the suggested time off for only a certain group. 

F. Procedures used to declare time off for employees and there are other concerns, but there are no documentation to support them. 

4. How do you personally think this situation should have been handled? 

First, let me say that I am making my own personal comments on the subject. I come from a family of medicine people who at one time or another gave me advice and guidance prior to taking on the Christian faith. As a Christian, and as a Navajo, I have and show respect for other religions across Navajoland. 

Perhaps, upon the visitation, consultation with a family spokesperson should have taken place The a family decision could have been made as to how to handle the situation. Perhaps some confirmation should have taken place such as obtaining a Hand Trembler and a Star Gazer, once confirmed, the local Council Delegate and many other leaders could have been alerted of the situation. Upon that consultation, a decision could have been made as to who next to approach. One thing that might have been good was to embrace the visitation site so that nothing would be shared until an appropriate ceremony was conducted for the family. Once that was done, with the concurrence of the family and other spiritual leaders, the Navajo Nation Government would have been alerted through the Three Branch Chiefs. Another consultation would have taken place at that level and then a plan would have been formulated to handle the situation. 

5. How do you interpret the message given to the Navajo people? 

First of all, everyone that I've talked with so far has told me that a message was given with four passages: 

A. The Navajo people have neglected their prayers and offerings. One could say that we as Navajo don't pray as often as we should. The Bible does say that we are to pray without ceasing. This is most likely true in other religions. One could also say that the traditional Navajos don't go to the mountains to make their offerings like they should anymore; the Native American Church members don't offer Cedar as an offering like they should anymore; and perhaps, the Christians don't pay their tithes and make offerings as they should. I feel that as God's people, we are all precious jewels in God's sight and we are also the precious offering that is being neglectful. We should each do a self-soul searching and begin to find our place on this Earth and once again truly be a precious jewel in the eyes of our higher power as we understand him. Furthermore, we each have the responsibility of carrying forth our spiritual responsibilities. 

b. Neglect of Kè ' and clanship: The Navajo people are well known for the Kè' and clan system. It is sad but true that we no longer value it as we should. This is quite evident with all the problems we have, especially with our youth population. Our youth are exposed to gang violence, family violence, teenage pregnancy, and the list goes on. I have often pondered the subject, trying to pinpoint the cause and the contributing factors to the problems only to trace my findings back to the families and to our homes. Family unity is needed once again. Fathers need to take up the given responsibilities in raising their children; mothers have to take up the supportive roles and the children have to become teachable and be open-minded to the past, the present, and the future. Navajo family values once included happiness, well-being, peace, harmony, respect, responsibility, enlightenment, objectivity, subjectivity, and love to name a few. Of the few mentioned, LOVE, RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, AND PEACE stand out as areas we the Navajo people must address immediately. 

C. Neglect of culture and language: We as Navajos should always treasure our culture and our language. I can only agree wholeheartedly with this passage. We are Navajos with a culture and a language that make us who we are. Of course, with the help of the higher power. 

D. Neglect of Nature: This is quite evident by all the empty cornfields, litter along the high- ways, and our responsibility within our own communities in areas of land and respect for Mother Earth. Despite lack of rain, we must plant seeds with faith and once again resort to our prayers. 

6. Do you feel that the Navajo people need to pray more often? 

Definitely. We need not only pray more, but we need to unify in prayer a lot more as Navajo people. The notion that one group is better , or above the other, must stop. We must unify in prayer and together begin to address issues that face our Nation. Someday, we can truly say that we are the great Unified Navajo Nation. 

7. What would you like to see happen in uniting the Navajo Nation through prayer? 

We should have a Navajo National Prayer Day in which the entire Navajo Nation could come together in prayer. Due to time, I cannot go into how to do this, but I welcome any individual, group, or delegation to help me put this together. If you are interested, call my office at (520) 871-7160. 

8. What do you think about the four passages in the message? 

We need to remember who we are, children of the Holy people. We need to remember our relationship with one another and respect that system. We need to hold on to our cultural and traditional values to strengthen our homes, communities and the Navajo Nation. And we need to get back in harmony with nature and show respect and love to Mother Earth. 

9. Is it necessary to travel to Rocky Ridge or should people concentrate on praying at home and offering gem stones at the sacred mountains where their power bases are located? 

Since the concerns of the families involved, out of courtesy and respect, perhaps we should begin to slow down visitation to the site. What is important is that we continue to offer prayers in our homes, offices, communities, wherever we are. The Four Sacred Mountains are very meaningful to the Navaho people and for those who cling to the traditional belief should promote the practice of such doings. Maybe journeys to the Sacred Mountains should be made instead of to that site. Prophets and Holy Men of the Biblical times also went to the mountaintops to pray and make offerings. 

In closing I'd like to say that my comments do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Navajo Nation Council, Legislative Branch Staff or Offices and other religious groups. 


Navajo Visitation Report 
[From an article by Malcolm Brenner in The Independent.] 

GALLUP - A May 16, 1996 memorandum from Navajo Nation President Albert Hale substantiates widespread stories that an elderly Navajo woman living in Arizona received a visitation from two Navajo deities. 

The visitation reportedly occurred on May 5 at Rocky Ridge, near Third Mesa, on the eastern edge of the Hopi Reservation. President Hale declared the week of May 17-24 Spiritual Unity Week to commemorate the event. 

"By now, everyone has heard of the Rocky Ridge appearance of the deities," Hale said. "This is a significant event to Navajo people everywhere." Hale granted all Navajo Nation employees four hours of administrative leave during the week to visit the site for prayers and offerings. "I call upon the people of this great Navajo Nation to devote this week to prayers and prayer services," Hale said. "We must give thanks for the many blessings that we have, and to pray for our land, for abundance of rain, for our future and for our children." 

While it has gone unreported by local news media, rumors of the visitation have spread rapidly across the Navajo Nation, which is currently experiencing one of its worst droughts this century. Hale's memorandum was the first official confirmation that something had actually happened at Rocky Ridge. But traditional Navajos, who guard the secret doctrines of their religion carefully, are refusing to reveal any details of the visitation to the Anglo press. Even the tribally owned and operated Navajo Times, a weekly, neglected to mention the event in its May 16 issue. 

"I can't talk about it," is the response given over and over by Navajos when asked about the event. "It's too sacred to talk about," said Ray Baldwin Louis, spokesman for the Office of the Speaker of the Navajo Tribal Council. Louis expressed fears that the non-Navajo press would treat the event in a sacrilegious manner. 

The site where the visitation occurred was reportedly the scene of a major Navajo ceremony on the weekend of May 18-19. Only Navajos and their linguistic relatives, the Apaches, are being allowed to visit the site, but they are reportedly visiting by the hundreds to pray and leave offerings. 

The visitation is being discussed by almost every Navajo, from police officers and physicists to sheep herders. Versions of the event collected from different sources bear a striking similarity, suggesting a common origin, but the name of the woman who received the visitation remains unknown. 

The Independent has compiled a composite version of the story from widely-circulated rumors. The version may or may not reflect the actual events that happened at Rocky Ridge, but it is what Navajos are passing on by word of mouth. 

The visitation was witnessed by an elderly Navajo woman living with her adult daughter in a remote area near Rocky Ridge. The woman had not spoken for several years, reportedly because she had been struck by lightning. 

On the night of May 5, the woman began to speak in Navajo, asking "Have they come yet?" and "Where are they?" Although there was no sound of a vehicle, the family heard footsteps around their dwelling, and the old woman went outside. 

The woman saw a light come down from the sky and found she could not move. She found herself facing two of the Navajo Holy People, or Gods. One version of the story identifies the visitors as Haashch'eelti'i (Talking God) and Haashch'eoghan (Growling God). Another version identifies them as the Hero Twins Monster Slayer and Born-for-Water, who figure as demigods in the Navajo creation story. 

One figure was dressed in white; one, in blue. The beings addressed the old woman, saying that the reason the Navajo Nation is suffering from the drought is because the Navajo people are not honoring their traditional religious practices. They are not conducting their corn-pollen prayers in the mornings and are not using the Navajo language as they did in the past. 

Unless the Navajo people return to their traditional practices, the beings warned, the drought and other misfortunes would continue to befall them. Some versions state that the beings gave a time limit of four years before some type of major disaster occurs. Having delivered their message, the Holy People disappeared, and the woman found she could move again. Looking down, she found a circle of corn pollen on the ground with two footprints inside of it, one made by each of the Holy People. 

While the appearance of the Holy People has particular significance for the Navajos and related tribes, the general outlines of the event -- the remote location, nocturnal timing, the isolated status of the visionary, the lights, and the issuance of a prophecy or warning by the beings -- are characteristic of religious visions in general.