Identity and Healing in Three Navajo Religious Traditions: Sa’ah Naagháí Bik’eh Hózho

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Abstract

In this article, we elucidate how the Navajo synthetic principle Saah Naagháí Bik’eh Hózho (SNBH) is understood, demonstrated, and elaborated in three different Navajo healing traditions. We conducted interviews with Navajo healers and their patients affiliated with Traditional Navajo religion, the Native American Church, and Pentecostal Christianity. Their narratives provide access to cultural themes of identity and healing that invoke elements of SNBH. SNBH specifies that the conditions for health and well-being are harmony within and connection to the physical/spiritual world. Specifically, each religious healing tradition encourages affective engagement, proper family relations, an understanding of one’s cultural and spiritual histories, and the use of kinship terms to establish affective bonds with one’s family and with the spiritual world. People’s relationships within this common behavioral environment are integral to their self-orientations, to their identities as Navajos, and to the therapeutic process. The disruption and restoration of these relationships constitute an important affective dimension in Navajo distress and healing.