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The First Laugh in Navajo Tradition

The First Laugh in Navajo Tradition
April 30
09:54 2015

smiley-face-wallpaper-016By John Christian Hopkins

When a Navajo baby laughs aloud for the first time, a First Laugh Ceremony is usually held.

Navajo poet laureate Luci Tapahonso recalled the first laugh from her grandson, Isaiah. She was teaching at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, at the time, and her husband, Dr. Robert Martin, was president of Haskell Indian Nations University.

Her daughter, Misty, had called to report the happy occurrence. This showed that Misty had consciously begun thinking of Ntse’kees, which is associated with the beginning of creation, sunrise and childhood, Tapahonso explained.

Isaiah had laughed once before, in his sleep, but as a baby he still lived in the world of Diyin Din’ee, the Holy People, then. This awake laugh came when his father tickled him.

Centuries ago, the Holy People decreed that Dine children be honored in this fashion, Tapahonso said. Before this genuine expression of emotion, children still belonged to – and lived among – the world of the Holy People, she added.

The first laugh marks the first step of the child moving away from the sphere of the Holy People to participation in the family network.

The First Laugh Ceremony is usually held within four days of the first laugh, and the person responsible for causing the first laugh is usually expected to host the feast.

The ceremony was first performed for White Shell Girl, who grew to become Changing Woman; she was the principle deity who created the ancestors of the modern Dine.

The First Laugh and the Kinaalda’, a coming-of-age ceremony for girls, are part of the Beauty Way, Tapahonso said.

Today, even Navajos living far away from the four sacred mountains can be comforted by praying at dawn and the Holy People acknowledge them because they are within the light of dawn.

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