Reading in Kinship Part II: Hastiin Klah 

In part one of this post, I outlined a framework for reading I call reading in kinship. This post is a continuation in that it’s an  introduction to one of many of my nádleeh relatives/teachers.  I recently read excerpts from a biography of Hastiin Klah[1].  

Klah is  frequently referenced as an example of a prominent nádleeh in Diné history, they are also just as frequently referenced as a gifted hataałii (he learned a ceremony in its entirety by the age of ten and was an expert weaver).  A prodigious healer with an encyclopedic mind full of ceremonial knowledge.  In my own process of learning about myself as a nádleeh/dlibaa Diné in the Glittering World it’s wonderful (and crucial) for me to imagine Klah, living freely as nádleeh (Klah spared from a Western “education” where he likely would have experienced gender-based violence, instead his mentors were his mother’s female and male relatives), it’s important that I can see photos of him, that I know he has a story that I can access and deepens my understanding of myself.   

I also know that Klah’s story is exceptional, nonetheless, his life is a sign post for me more than 150 years later.  It was under his uncle’s mentorship that Klah memorized his first full ceremony, his mother and sister taught him how to weave, his aunt educated him on the flora of Dinétah.  How wonderful to be fully embodied and embraced all his life.  It’s obvious to me Klah’s intellect was functioning on a level I can only gawk at with an open mouth, add to that Klah’s drive to learn, help, heal, and teach were admirable to say the least.  After studying the Night Way ceremony for twenty-four years, Klah put up his own sheep and invited basically the whole Rez to come out and see just how well he’d learned and executed the ceremony[2].  In true nádleeh fashion (imho), you planned and executed your own coming out party for the whole Rez!  

One of my favorite things to do now is to read descriptions of who Klah was, how he was in community,  I’m learning from him in that way.  Ahé’héé.  Yes, I’m grateful for Klah and what he accomplished in his life, and what he shared, I’m learning from his work today.  I’ve claimed him as an elder/relative, I wonder what his experience was like beyond what I see and read in books, photographs, and articles. What was he like when he wasn’t busy with his work, when he had down time, what did Klah do for fun?   I wonder, mostly, what Klah would have shared about his knowledge of himself as a nádleeh?  In all his studying, what did he find out about himself?  What did you keep just for himself while he informed on our ceremonies? 

I know I can’t fully trust how a non-Diné person would even begin to perceive you (utilizing the limited tools of Western notions of gender/sexuality), then attempt to write about you in the English language, “it leaves out your aesthetic” as my partner aptly stated.  So…I have a lot of questions.  A lot.  But I’ll end here, knowing the learning is on-going. 

Ahé’héé for reading and hágoónee’![3]

[1] Hosteen Klah. Navaho Medicine Man and Sand Painter.  Newcomb, Franc Johnson, and KLAH, Hosteen. Norman, Oklahoma 1964.  I would not recommend this title (I skimmed most of it), however, it was helpful in gathering historical background.  Note: I use the hastiin spelling here. 

[2] There’s a description of the ceremony and the planning that went into it in the title mentioned above. 

[3] Carrie House (you’ll learn more about them in my next post) translates hágoónee to “we are parting in a mutual agreement that the dialogue will continue”.  From Two-spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality.  University of Illinois Press, Chicago  1997(pg.227).

Leave a Reply

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: