by bazhnibah special for the times
kinaaldá – is it a lost tradition or a renewal of a Navajo tradition?
At the beginning of our brilliant fourth world, the changing woman, or asdzáá nádłeehé, initiated the first kinaaldá. A kinaaldá is the “rite of passage” for a Navajo girl to become a woman.
According to Navajo stories, the changeling woman was discovered as a baby on top of a misty sisnaajini, or mount. white, by deities.
The changing woman was taken to the pomo governor, or ch’óołii’í, where in four or 12 days she became a kinaaldá. The deities of the first man and the first woman decided that she would have a puberty ceremony in the hope that she would be a saint and she would be able to reproduce children in human form.
the ceremony was simple. prayers were said. songs were sung. protocols were established. changeling woman was named white shell woman after or during the ceremony.
what does she have to do with today’s kinaaldá?
The changeling woman is believed to be a prominent female deity who changed humanity in the Navajo creation stories. she represents the ideals of Navajo women. she embodies beauty, strength, generosity and humanity. so, to honor her and her saints, this navajo puberty ceremony continues today.
kinaaldá is an important event, if not the most important, that changes the life of a Navajo girl. It is not a ceremony only for the four days, but the girl is taught her role as a woman since she is born and continues throughout her life.
at birth is recognized by the saints. her as a child, her parents welcome her into her family, and as she grows older, they teach her the Navajo way of life.
Traditionally, a Navajo girl during her first menstruation period would have her kinaaldá immediately. today, families prepare and take action weeks after menstruation.
the girl, before kinaaldá, has a role of girl and is discovering the transition to woman. the phases in the period of adolescence can be both confusing and intriguing for the girl, who is not yet a woman. she is still a child with set expectations. In Erickson’s eight stages of development, stage 5 is the adolescent phase in which the child is said to have identity versus identity confusion.
It is a moment of self-discovery or “finding oneself”. consequently, the transitioning girl must let go of the old identity and recognize new roles and responsibilities as they arise. These new roles and commitments can be anxiety-provoking, but with the support of family, peers, and the community, the girl becoming a woman will come to terms with her new training.
the kinaaldá is the perfect initiation rite for the Navajo girl.
The Navajo Puberty Ceremony is highly recommended for those who have experienced the traditional Navajo practice of Kinaaldá. the girl in four days goes through intense psychological, physical and spiritual changes. these changes continue throughout their adult life, but at a slower rate.
The entire family, relatives and community are participants in the life-changing event. Your support is significant for the Kinaaldá and each other, as they all share a commitment to rigorous and transformative tradition.
It is said that a kinaaldá becomes a generous and well-developed person after going through the ritual. she will be protected and strong for adversities later in life.
Just as the changeling woman is defined by her name, so the Navajo teenager will transform into the spirit of asdzáá nádłeehé through her rite of passage.
For young Navajo women seeking a harmonious life with a career, family, and leadership role, the kinaaldá must continue as part of Navajo cultural traditions.
bazhnibah, also known as ruth kawano, is a retired registered nurse, a former nurse from the us. uu. captain of the public health service, former u.s. air force captain and former flight nurse. she is currently a writer-photographer.