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Navajo or Dine – Which is Correct?

Navajo or Dine – Which is Correct?

The Navajo Nation is the largest Native American nation in the USA. They are also known amongst themselves as the Dine, and the Navajo name has, at times, caused some controversy.

The Navajo Nation has been known throughout the USA (and the world) by this name since 1969, before which it had been called the “Navajo Tribe of Indians”, which is widely considered as an offensive and outdated moniker. This now defunct label was implemented by the US government via treaty with the Navajo in 1868.

Navajo – Origins of the Name

The word “Navajo” derives from navahu’u and is the Spanish adaptation of this Tewa word. It translates loosely as “place of planted fields in the valley”.

The first Spanish settlers in the region, who recorded the native peoples they encountered, referred to the Navajo people as los Apaches de Nabajo, which translates as “Apaches who farm in the valley”. This demonstrates that the early Spanish settlers in what is now Arizona recognized the cultural and historical similarities and connections between the Navajo and the related Apache peoples.

Dine – Origins of the Name

Dine, pronounced “di-nay”, is a Navajo word meaning “The People” and derives from the Athabascan language. It also means “man” and “people of the Earth”. Traditionally, this was the name used by Navajo people when referring to themselves and they believe that this was the name given to them by the Great Spirit.

The issue with the name “Navajo” today is that it was bestowed upon the tribal nation by the Spanish while they occupied and controlled the traditional Dine lands – and it has always been considered “foreign” for that reason.

Furthermore, the “v” sound does not even exist in the traditional Dine language.

Recent Debate over the Name

In early 2017, a bill was presented to change the name of the Navajo Nation to the “Dine Nation” on the basis that “Navajo” is not a Dine word.

Following much debate throughout the Navajo Reservation, from Arizona through parts of New Mexico and Utah, it was determined that the tribe’s name will currently remain as the Navajo Nation.

Delegates on the Navajo Nation Council defeated the bill on the basis that altering the name would be confusing to both tribal citizens as well as non-Navajo outsiders after 300 years of use.

Navajo Jewelry and Blankets at Indian Traders

Indian Traders is very proud to support local Dine - Navajo (as well as Pueblo Hopi and Zuni) silversmiths and other artisans from the southwest, with our very wide array of Native American bracelets, necklaces, and other jewelry, Native American blankets and throws, and more.

Browse our store to discover the stunning craftmanship and unique traditional designs from these talented artisans