Friday, January 9, 2015

The Navajo Chindi, Part ll

This is the story of the Long Salt family a Navajo clan who were cursed by a chindi--an evil spirit--set upon them by one who was wronged. This case is well documented.

This evil spirit pursued and exacted its revenge on the Long Salts for over 100 years.

An Angry Spirit

The families’ ordeal started in 1825. One member became ill when he could not sleep. He was having nightmares.

The angry spirit of a man he had killed was tormenting him because he was slain before he could sing his death song.

The man’s brothers told him that he should let it go for he had killed this man in a fair fight--recognized by the tribe-- so it was not his fault.

But the man felt he would surely die if something was not done to appease this troubled spirit.

The Long Salt family sought help from an old, blind priest from the Tsegi country. This priest then held a 3-day b’jene or sing over the afflicted brother.

On the final day the ill man sighed in relief, he stated his gratitude for the troubled spirit had departed and he now could sleep peacefully.

The old priest requested the Long Salts butcher 5 sheep for him as payment. His request was fair for the powerful Long Salt Clan numbered in the 100s and had many sheep.

But the two Long Salt men who were assigned to slaughter these sheep had other ideas. The old priest’s village was a considerable distance from their flocks so taking a short cut they butchered 5 wild antelope instead. They felt the priest being blind would not know the difference.

The elder Long Salt that presented the 5 carcasses to the priest was also unaware that antelope had been substituted for the sheep. The two men had cut off the heads and the legs at the knees so he was deceived as well.

The Long Salt Curse

A few weeks after the payment an older member of the clan died suddenly even though he had not been ill. Then a young robust male died for no reason.

As the Long Salt members and young widow mourned these deaths in song they began to feel something was not right. Soon after a pattern began.

Every few weeks another member would become ill, waste away and die. It became obvious to the wiser members that a chindi had been set against them, but why?

The two men who had substituted the antelope finally came forward and confessed. The family council agreed that they must ask the old priest how they could rectify the situation.

The priest told them he had become angry when he discovered the deception. He acknowledged that he had set a chindi against them--its task was to eliminate them one by one.

They explained they had not meant to cheat him. They begged him to call off the avenging spirit.

The old priest believed they were sincere but warned them that to uphold his reputation he would have to appease the spirit world. The Long Salts told him they would pay whatever the price.

The priest sent them away stating he was tired and needed to figure out what a proper compensation would be. He told them to return in 10 days.

Unfortunately, when the Long Salts returned they were informed the old priest had died. They asked his son if he knew if his father had called off the curse before he died.

To their horror, they were not able to determine if the curse had been lifted. By the time they returned home, several members of the family lay ill and dying.

1925 Interview

In a 1967 August/September issue of the Frontier Times, John R. Winslow wrote he had met the last surviving member of the Long Salt clan in 1925--100 years later.

He talked to Alice, a slender teenager:

“Curiously, anyone marrying into the family met the same fate as a blood Long Salt. Alice’s mother died when the girl turned seven and she was attending the Tuba City boarding school at the Indian agency. Alice’s father became skin and bones, dying two years later. The remaining three Long Salts--Alice’s two uncles and an aunt--were ill, crippled, and helpless. Friends cared for them, watching them fade into nothing before their eyes.”

A Navajo man named Hosteen Behegade adopted Alice. He swore to protect her from the chindi’s mission. He kept them on the move hoping the spirit could not find them.

But in the winter of 1928, still wandering, a blizzard hit the Hogan they were staying in 3 miles from the trading post at Red Mesa.

Alice was found dead the next morning. The final revenge had been exacted. The curse was complete.

In Part l of The Navajo Chindi read more about Navajo death customs and lore that surrounds this evil spirit.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for this great article!