How I Keep My Navajo Culture Alive


Yá’át’ééh. Shí éí Charmayne Murphy yinishyé. As most know already, I am Native American. But specifically, I am a full-blood Navajo or Dine’ (the people.) I am originally from Crownpoint, New Mexico which is a small community on the Navajo Reservation. I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2009 after I graduated from high school.

As a child, I learned to love my Navajo traditions and teachings from my parents and grandparents. I grew up learning how to take care of the home, the animals, and myself at a very young age.

We didn’t have running water or electricity. The nearest grocery and clothing store was a one-hour drive from home. We took care of the animals such as horses, cows, sheep, chickens, dogs, and cats. We also chopped wood for the winter season. During this time, the only distractions we had were the dogs going after the chickens or finding the perfect spot for the tv and radio antennas to get a clear picture or sound.

How I Keep My Navajo Culture Alive
My grandpa would tell us “go outside” if we were bored. Or he would put us to work pulling weeds or clearing out the sheep and horse manure from the corral. There was no time for sleeping or fooling around.

But now that I live off the reservation, it is up to me to continue our Navajo traditions away from home.

In the early mornings, before the sun rises, we say our prayers facing East. This is our blessing to be able to wake up with the sun and the Holy people. We offer our white or yellow corn pollen to Mother Earth.

I do my best to teach my kids the Navajo language. I am not fluent at all, but I can understand to an extent. What I do know are some basic Navajo categories that are easy to learn. I share these with my kids by repeating each of them multiple times, letting my kids say it for themselves, and repeating it back to me.


1 – tʼááłáʼí

2 – naaki

3 – tááʼ

4 – dį́į́ʼ

5 – ashdlaʼ

6 – hastą́ą́

7 – tsostsʼid

8 – tseebíí

9 – náhástʼéí

10 – neeznáá


Horse – Łį́į́

Cow – béégashii 

Dog – łééchąąʼí

Cat – mosi

Chicken – naa’ahóóhai

Bull – dóola

Sheep – dibé

Goat – tłʼízí

Coyote – ma’ii

Bear – shash


Red – łichííʼ 

Blue – yágo dootłʼizh

Yellow – łitso

Black – łizhin

White – łigai

Purple – tsédidééh

Orange – łitsxo

Green – táłʼidgo doołʼizh

Pink – dinilchííʼ

Brown – dibéłchiʼí

We use these short phrases daily.

Hello – Yá’át’ééh

Good morning – Yá’át’ééh abíní

Goodbye – Hágoónee

What’s your name? – Haash yinilyé?

Come here – Hágo

Come eat – Íyą́

What are you doing? – Haʼátʼíí baa naniná?

Yes – Aoo

No – Dooda

Thank you – Ahéhee

Mother – Shimá

Father – Shizhé’é

All Navajo people are born with a clan that comes from their parents. It is important that we know our clan, so we don’t marry or have children with someone we are related to. If we meet someone, one of the first things we ask each other is about our clans. This represents us individually, but if one of our clans is the same, it would be the same as being in a relationship with our own cousins.

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I like to teach my kids the true meaning of our traditional foods and clothing. I cook blue corn mush, Navajo frybread, and Navajo tacos and burgers. My favorite is making Navajo cake that we cook in the ground. We also go back home to the Navajo reservation to help butcher sheep and feast for special occasions. Each of my kids has their own traditional outfits that are usually worn for Navajo ceremonies with our turquoise jewelry. This represents the respect and harmony in our prayers.

Here are some photos of the process of making Navajo cake.

How I Keep My Navajo Culture Alive

How I Keep My Navajo Culture Alive

How I Keep My Navajo Culture AliveI truly cherish my Navajo traditions, and I continue to practice and teach my kids what I learned as I grew up. I need to teach and instill my Navajo traditions in my kids because when they grow up, I want them to know where they came from. They will one day need to take care of themselves and have a family of their own, and I’d want them to also teach their kids about our culture.

So, I teach them to prepare them for the future. To give them the foundation that our Navajo culture and traditions are always there to protect us and heal us.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.