By Kristi Maxwell
Ben and Shirley BeGay shared the customs and culture of the Navajo People with the Emery County Historical Society on Thursday. Arizona native Ben, a control room operator at the Hunter Power Plant, and his wife Shirley, Emery County Archive Director and originally from New Mexico, were both part of the Indian Placement Program.
The Indian Placement Program was a program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1947 to 2000. Through the program, LDS Native American students were placed in Latter-day Saint foster homes during the school year where they would attend public schools and become assimilated into American culture.
Shirley’s presentation included Navajo traditions, music and food. She explained how their houses, the Navajo Hogan, are built in harmony with the universe and all living creatures on earth. When the Hogan is finished, a medicine man blesses the home and it becomes a sacred dwelling.
Ben discussed Navajo ceremonials and how individual things are blessed. The Navajo thank God and Mother Earth for all things. He also explained that Navajo medicine men have excellent memories. Sometimes, there are 300 songs to a single ceremony. If one word is incorrect or a song is in the wrong order, the ceremony has to be restarted.
The presentation and items on display were very informative and educational for those in attendance.