In the News
Salt Lake Tribune Monday, Dec. 20, 2021
The first snow marks the beginning of the shoe game, or Keshjee’, for the Navajo (Diné). It goes like this: Two teams, which represent day and night animals in the Diné universe, have balls made from yucca root that they hide in moccasins behind a sheet representing the sky.
When the sheet comes down, the other team walks or dances across the space to guess where the yucca balls are. When a team correctly guesses, they are given some yucca strands. The team that gets all 102 yucca strands, which equates to a life span in Diné culture, wins. Participants take on the identities of animals and sing songs about them during the ceremony.
The Keshjee’ happens in a hogan and recalls the time in creation when day and night animals were planning the natural cycles of life. Traditionally, the game has been a teaching tool for young Diné to learn about their culture.
For Diné college students who are away from home, it’s hard to find space and community for ceremonies like Keshjee’.
Now Diné students at the Utah State University Blanding campus will have a place to play the game and to meet: a hogan. Made of dirt and cedar, the hogan is built in a traditional manner and faces the eastern light, the first light a family sees in the morning.