Navajo Cultural Etiquette

14 04 2010

“I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)

Cultural etiquette is an important aspect of our witness, and building trust with the Navajo people. During our discussion, these are some of the things that Eleanor Smiley said were issues that affected how the Navajos might view Korean missionary groups.

1. Handling Girls – Boys should not be overly affectionate with young Navajo girls. This includes hugs, carrying them, and especially, lifting girls onto the shoulders. It is OK to display limited affection toward girls, but being too affectionate can be interpreted in much the same way that making illicit advance toward a girl would be interpreted.

2. Making Eye Contact with Elders – Eleanor mentioned that some of the older people might feel disrespected when you make continual eye contact with them. When carrying out a conversation with an older Navajo, eye contact should be brief and as much as possible, indirect.

3. Killing Snakes – It is the Navajo belief that snakes should not be killed near the house or place of residence. They should be taken a distance away from the place where they’re caught, and then killed.

4. Do Not Mention “Fox” in discussions – Navajos believe that foxes hold bad omens. Many of our common American idioms like “Sly fox” translates very badly into Navajo–so I was told.

As a general rule, always remember that we are guests in their homes. Therefore, extend the same courtesy you would to anyone who invites you as a guest into their homes.

I will update the list as I receive them from Eleanor.



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