A Navajo Night Chant in Photographs
December 13, 2017 10:14 AM   Subscribe

The most sacred of all the Navajo ceremonies, the Yébîchai cheremony, aka the Night Chant , is a healing ritual that takes place over many days. Masked figures chant and perform ritual dances around the ill person in a sweat lodge, to restore "order, harmonize and re-establish and situate social relations." Sandpaintings (2) and Ye’b’tsai-tsa’pas, circle kethawns, are also employed to help heal the sick.

Some of the figures represented in the Night Chant represent members of the Holy People of the Third World in the Navajo tradition , including:
Haashch'ééłzhiní, Talking God, who was white; Tó Neinilí, Water Sprinkler, who was blue; Hashch'éoghan, House God, who was yellow; and Haashch'ééshzhiní, Black God, who was the god of fire.
Over a hundred years ago, Edward Curtis documented the masks and the performers of this rite, which was likely staged for his benefit. The photographs have recently been colorized by Frédéric Duriez.

Colorization is not without its controversy, but modern color restoration experts believe that if done well, it can enhance historical images.

Edward S Curtis Previously

Colorization Previously
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr (4 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I showed Curtis's photos to Navajo students, they know their rocks and places. The photos could have been of contemporary Navajo youth. Their gestures and horse riding skill and ease, even some of the clothing, had not changed at all.
posted by Oyéah at 12:30 PM on December 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Fascinating fpp. I didn't watch the clip of the chanting though as I don't feel entitled to see such a sacred service. The photos and details were amazing
posted by biggreenplant at 10:39 AM on December 18, 2017

biggreenplant, I actually posted the chant that was included on the the Voyager Golden Record, and it doesn't have video. After your post, I wondered about the history of the recording, and it apparently was recorded by ethnomusicologist Willard Rhodes (1900-1992), who worked with the US Office of Indian Affairs. Apparently either Rhodes or Alan Lomax requested the chant to be included on the record.

It probably was recorded under colonial coercion, but it was also likely that they staged the chant for Rhodes, like they staged the masks for Curtis.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 8:30 AM on December 19, 2017

Oh that's cool. Thanks. And sorry as I didn't mean it like a critique of this beautiful post
posted by biggreenplant at 9:24 AM on December 19, 2017

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