A New Look at Navajo Social Organization1


  • 1

    I am indebted to Fred Eggan, Sol Tax, David Schneider, Oswald Werner, Victor Turner, Terrence Turner, John Collier, Jr., and Merlin Myers for their assistance in helping me formulate the ideas expressed in this paper. I am particularly indebted to Sol Tax for encouraging me to publish this paper. The influence of David Schneider and Fred Eggan on the theoretical orientation of the paper is obvious.


The concrete social system of the Navajo is ordered by the conceptual or symbolic system. The central symbol of Navajo social organization is motherhood. The symbolic meaning of motherhood is found in life, reproduction, and subsistence. It is expressed in affectionate care and in the giving or providing of food. The basic unit of the concrete social system of the Navajo, the subsistence residential unit, is organized, structured, and integrated by the symbols of motherhood.