Navajo Hogan - Exterior Covered with Dirt

Navajo Hogan - Exterior Covered with Dirt American History Native-Americans and First Peoples  Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs Visual Arts

This image depicts Philip Johnston—the individual who suggested that a Navajo-language-based code could be extremely effective during WWII—visiting members of the Navajo Nation at their hogan. 

We learn, from Navajo Arts, why homes like this were built by a people who mostly live outdoors:

...the Navaho is a partial nomad.  Never until now has he really felt himself able to settle down anywhere.  He had few or no possessions and his home, therefore, needed to be only a temporary shelter which he might have to leave at a moment's or an hour's notice.  Hence, why should he make it beautiful, and have his heart grieved at being compelled to forsake it.

Then, too, the Navaho does not regard the hogan as a white man does his home. The latter lives in his house and goes out of doors as his business or his pleasure demands.

The Navaho, on the other hand, lives out of doors.  That is his home.  He uses his hogan as a convenient place of storage and a stopping place, with the addition, of course, in winter, that it is a comfortable sleeping place which he can make warm.


A Navajo hogan is usually round, with the opening always facing East. There is a special meaning for each direction, in a hogan:

  • East—where thought exists
  • South—where organizing exists
  • West—where life exists
  • North—where uplifting (satisfaction / confidence / hope) exists

We can listen to a story about the hogan, in the Navajo language (with English translation), where the four parts (East, South, West and North) are in focus:

Every hogan has the same focus on East, South, West and North. We learn more about it from R. Rapoport’s “The Pueblo and the Hogan: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Two Responses to an Environment” (quoted by Irwin Altman and Martin M. Chemers in Culture and Environment, at pages 178-79):

The position of objects and people in the hogan, and all seating arrangements are strictly laid down .... The hogan is divided into spheres reflecting the important directions of east, south, west, north, zenith and nadir which are associated with sacred colors.

Each part of the hogan is sacred and the House Blessing Way names many parts: the rear corner, center, fireside, side corners, doorway and surroundings of the hogan.

The all pervasive sun symbolism is seen in the “sunrise path” inside the hogan along which people must move. Women are always on the south side, men on the north. The male head of the family and important visitors, such as the officiating medicine man, face the doorway. The bodies of the dead must be removed through a hole in the north wall. It is significant that all forms of the hogan have this identical arrangement.

Click on the top image for a better view.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Jun 05, 2020

Media Credits

Image online, courtesy U.S. National Archives.



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"Navajo Hogan - Exterior Covered with Dirt" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Jun 05, 2020.
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