Nicole Neidhardt / The Key(s) to Time Travel

Nicole Neidhardt, The Key(s) to Time Travel, 2023, digital illustration

The Land is a time machine . . .

. . . and place names are the keys.

Keys to unlocking new (ancient) worlds. Keys interwoven with the Land and our ancestors through layers of time, earth, story, wind . . .

Place names in their own unique ways open portals to the worlds those names were birthed. Our ancestors spoke (speak) those names. We still speak those names. Our descendants will speak those names.

These place name keys are the four Sacred Mountains that hold Dinétah within their borders: Tsoodził (Turquoise Mountain); Sis Naajiní (Whiteshell Mountain); Dook’o’oosłííd (Abalone Shell Mountain); Dibé Ntsaa (Black Jet Mountain). All of these Sacred Mountains have anglicized colonial names now—I can’t remember them, and I don’t need to. The Diné place names were here long before and are deeply engrained in my heart and mind. 

The names of the Sacred Mountains are powerful keys. They connect us to our ancestors, to the Land, to Creation Stories, to Diné Bizaad (the Navajo language), to cultural teachings stemming from these mountains, to Diné epistemologies on how to live in balance in this world as a Diné. 

We can learn from Diné time travellers how to care for and respect these place names. How to time travel with them through the Land as time machine.

At dawn, I pray with corn pollen at the foot of Sis Naajiní. . . . My ancestors stood (stand) here laying down corn pollen prayers on sacred earth. I look up to the beautiful silhouette that is the eastern sacred mountain. Sun rays spill over, landing on my face. Time to travel. Setting my intention, I give breath to the mountain’s name, “Sis Naajiní . . . ”

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