The traditional home of navajo is not a tipi or teepee like the plains Indians, nor is it square like the long house of the Iroquois. The traditional home of the dine (navajo people) is a hogan, which is a round structure with only one room that is made of the earth and an entrance always facing east. The hogan for the dine serves as a place of shelter and protection, a kitchen, a workspace, and even a place of worship. A hogan, in its form today, first came from the dine people when they began to arrive into the southwest in the 1100s. Before, the dine people were members of the Athabaskan-speaking people of Canada as nomadic people. They lived in temporary homes that were built of materials from the earth, similar to the Navajo hogan. As nomadic people, they slowly migrated southeast from Canada through the plains and then southwest. They settled in the four-corners region of the southwest where they evolved their temporary homes into permanent structures.
|Hogan displayed at Heard Museum|
Where did it originate from?
The name "Hogan" is pronounced ho-gahn. The pronunciation actually derived from the Navajo language. To the dine, a home is called hooghan (pronounced ho-won) in the native language and this is where the term, "hogan" originated.
Why is the hogan round?
The dine people, just like many other indigenous groups in the world, have a connection with their surrounding. They believe everything in the environment from birds, trees, animals, water, earth, air, and humans have a connection and a balance. The balance between all these elements allow for peace and harmony in the world. The traditional home of the dine, or hogan, serves as a representation of this balance.
The dine have always believed the earth is round and that everything in this world is connected within a circle. The hogan is made into a circular home because of this philosophy. Within the circle, unity and balance is brought to the people and to the world. When you enter a hogan, it is taught that you should move around the home in a clockwise manner around the fireplace, which usually sits in the center of the home. This philosophy teaches the different cycles in the world, for example, the cycle of the day from early morning to night sky and the cycle of life from childbirth to elder years.
Why do all the doorways face the same direction?
It is also told by dine that in the early morning before the sun rises in the eastern horizon, all of the Deities are around to bring forth a new day to the world. The doorway of a dine home always faces east to welcome the Holy people with all their blessings and the new day into their lives.
Why does the hogan have a dirt floor?
Having a dirt floor keeps the dine on mother earth. It helps them to have a strong connection with the land. The walls of the home represent everything on the land, on the mother earth, such as trees, mountains, animals, and humans. The dome-shaped roof represented the sky and everything that is placed up there like the sun, moon, and stars. Within the hogan there is also air, fire, and water, which are all needed to sustain life. The representations within the hogan help the dine to remember who they are and how to maintain a balance to keep unity, peace and harmony among all.
Male & Female Hogan?
There is a male hogan and female hogan. A male hogan is more of a cone-shaped home built mainly of logs and mud. A male hogan is easier to build, and allowed for temporary use, which benefited the dine people when they traveled or conducted ceremonies away from their home. The male hogan was one of the original hogans that the dine constructed. From this hogan, the female hogan originated. A female hogan is more typical of what you will see in modern times. It is a round home with a dome-shaped roof. It took more time to build a female home and was considered more of a permanent structure. A female home is used for everyday living and ceremonial use.
When the dine people were still members of the nomadic Athabaskan-speaking people of Canada, their homes were very simple and basic. After arriving in the southwest, the first hogans were constructed as male hogans, which still allowed the dine to live as nomadic people. Later, the dine decided to build permanent homes in the form of female hogans with the dome-shaped roof. At that time, hogans were all constructed of materials that were available in their surrounding environments such as logs, stones, adobe, mud, and dirt. Since that time, hogans have been evolving. Today, you will find log hogans with modern roofing styles and electricity, and even hogans that have been built like modern homes with a wooden frame. The hogan has become so popular that its round, ocatagonal shape is now used to construct business, government, and school buildings. In modern society across the Navajo Nation, it is common to see a group of homes built in one location around or near a hogan. This usually represents one family or group with close ties. Many of the younger generation have adapted the western style of living and build square homes and mobile homes. But many of them still have a hogan that is built next to their home. They mainly use the hogan for ceremonial use so that they keep themselves and their family in balance with nature. This is the reason there is at least one hogan within a family's residential area. It also shows the change in generation within the family where the elders live in a hogan while the children and extended family live in modern homes.
|Modern Hogan at Navajo Nation|
No, a hogan does not always have 8 sides. It does not really matter how many sides a hogan has, as long as it has a circular shape. A hogan could have 5 or more walls to make the round shape.
Is it cold or hot in a hogan?
If a hogan is built correctly, it would be the coolest place to be in the summer and also the warmest place in the winter. The temperature in a home could differ by 20 degrees from the outside temperature. The materials used to create hogan are from the earth and allow for great insulation.
Why are there no restrooms in a hogan?
Many hogans today do not have running water or electricity and are still used in the same manner as a hogan several hundred years ago. There are no restrooms because of water. An outhouse would also be located a distance away from the hogan serving as the restroom.
Are hogans just an empty room?
Most hogans are furnished with items needed, such as a place to sleep, cook, work etc. Before the adaption of the western style living, dine people used items such as sheep sking for bedding. Today, you may find beds, couches, tables, wood stoves, refrigrators, terlevision sets, and many other items that you would have in a modern home.
Source : Canyon de Chelly National Monument