Navajo medicine man

Navajo medicine man

By George Joe

Many people ask: “How can I find a medicine man?”

When a non-Indian asks this question, I do everything possible not to burst out laughing. It’s even funnier when they are serious about it. Now, it’s one thing when they are a professional researcher, but not when it’s some curious person.

But for those who really want to know, you can contact the Navajo Medicine Men’s Association, a non-profit organization that began its existence in 1970.

The medicine men who are also called singers, haatáli, are very important in traditional Navajo life.

A few years ago, a cultural specialist for the tribe had a contact list of medicine men from across the Reservation who specialize in certain ceremonies. So as a Navajo, if you wanted to know who can perform a Beautyway ceremony from a certain region of the reservation, they would give you their name and possible, their contact information. If you are a non-Indian, I’m sure they would give you the information too.

But even if you do track one down, a medicine men might not speak English. And if you do find one willing to help you, you must be able to answer a question they will definitely ask, which is: “What is your ailment?”

How are they dressed? The older, traditional ones often wear a headband, a turquoise necklace, bracelet, and have their hair tied-up in a traditional hair bun. The younger medicine men, wear modern clothes, short hair, and usually have a cell phone at their side while performing ceremonies. Plus, they speak English and are more open to a conversation with you because they speak English. The Navajo people do have medicine women who perform ceremonies, but there are some they cannot conduct for traditional purposes known unto them and fellow healers.

General cost of services – Beautyway Ceremony, dowry is about $350 – $500; Crystal gazing ceremony about $100; Blackening Ceremony about $250.  However, there are some who charge higher. This does not include supplies and materials that depend on each ceremony, such as; arrow head, deer buckskin, Navajo pottery, blankets, and food.