Ceremonies are a large part of the Navajo culture.  A ceremony can by a joyful celebration of an accomplishment, or a reverent time of prayer and reflection, often intended for healing both body and spirit.  

“Whenever possible the resident will return home to be with their family for a ceremony,” says Barbara Brown, owner and administrator at Winslow Campus of Care. There is much preparation that goes into the ceremony for the entire family, she says, and the staff makes every accommodation possible.  “It is a true commitment of love and respect.”

Part of the Routine

In Navajo tradition, it is common to use ash as a means of protection. What most residents do at Winslow, says Brown, is take the ash and sprinkle it on themselves in the morning. The center keeps an ash bucket available, and nurse brings it to share with the residents.  

“Residents will ask her: ‘Did you bring ash today?’” says Brown. The center also has a Garden of Life outside, where corn is grown. Corn pollen is very sacred, as Brown and her staff learned from residents. 
Brown recalls and instance when she thought a resident had dandruff. When she asked a nurse about it, the nurse let her know that it was corn pollen intentionally put on the resident. 

The residents go out in the morning and take pollen off of the corn and sprinkle it over themselves as a blessing, a way to start their day. “For us to learn that has been very important,” she says. “We now know to not clean it off, but allow it to be present.”

At Winslow, the pollen is harvested and kept in a sacred pouch, says Brown. When the harvest is finished, residents may carry the pollen with them so it is always nearby. “It’s a sacred thing,” says Brown. 

Eclipse Protocols

The recent solar eclipse was a tremendous opportunity for Winslow staff to learn and honor Navajo  traditional customs.  Several weeks prior to the eclipse, Winslow’s activity director educated the entire staff on basic eclipse protocols. “There are dozens of customs including not eating, leaving your hair unbraided, and not drinking any fluids during the eclipse,” says Brown. 

We strive to honor and respect our elders in every way possible,” says Brown. “To hear and learn what is important to them and to create a culture that is honest and true to their heritage has been a forty-five year-old mission of our family and staff.”​

Read the November 2017 cover story.​