The Rainbow Story
The “Rainbow” in our project name is tied to an origin story of T’áá Dibé—the First Sheep. This is the story as told by Nikyle Begay:
Growing up, my maternal grandfather would tell me that we “once” had sheep. Being young, confused and surrounded by sheep already; I wasn’t making any sense of this.
So, he explained. The sheep emerged with us during our journey throughout the previous worlds. But we became greedy and lost our way. So, the Holy People took them from us. We hunted wild game, as well as tended and harvested crops, but nothing sustained us like the First Sheep.
We prayed for the return of these sacred animals, we remembered them. We sang their sacred songs, gathered and smoked their tobacco, we also collected and consumed their herbal medicines. In our present world, the Holy People took notice of our repentance and again bestowed upon us T’áá Dibé—the First Sheep.
The Holy People scooped handfuls of different colored clouds to form their bodies. White day clouds were used to form white sheep. Dark night clouds were used to form black sheep. Storm clouds were used to form blue and gray sheep. Yellow twilight clouds were used to form tan sheep. The Rainbow People—the most beautiful beings—took red clouds at dusk to form brown sheep. The Holy People prayed and sang upon these cloud beings, until they turned into tiny stone fetishes, then placed them in a corn pollen filled pouch.
The Holy People traveled on a Rainbow and brought this pouch onto Mother Earth and it was presented to the humans. During this presentation, the sheep herbs, tobacco, precious stones, shells, songs, and prayers were recited and combined to give the little stone fetishes life. Of all, the brown sheep was the most beautiful and sought after. So, the Rainbow People and the Sun God said that those sheep will be theirs to bestow and that they would bless herds only every so often with them.
From that point forward, we Navajo had become reunited with our sacred sheep. And soon became very prolific with the pastoral lifeway. This time, we didn’t become as greedy nor did we lose our spirituality. My ancestors created songs that retold the stories of our journey with sheep and incorporated them as sacred songs into the Beauty Way ceremony.
Most traditionalists still practice herbal and tobacco blessings on their herds of sheep. To restore harmony to the sheep and land, as well as to promote a healthier animal. Diné be’iiná—Sheep Is life.