Yaa'at'eeh and Hagoo'onee' are our greeting and parting words. They would be your Hello and Good bye. What they actually mean, as explained to me by the exceptionally wise and knowledgeable Phillip Bluehouse, is deeper and more spiritual than hello and good bye.
Yaa'at'eeh can be translated to mean, "The universe is." When we greet each other with this word, we are saying to one another, therefore, that we are still here. We are acknowledging our tie to all that exists, including realms inaccessible to us due to the vast distances that separate them from us or due to our lack of intellectual or spiritual maturity. Not only that, we are acknowledging our insignificance, our relationship with, and our dependence on this universe that is.
Hagoo'onee' can be translated to mean, "Until our minds meet again." Navajos never say Good bye. It suggests that this farewell is the end; the phrase is too final. We are not allowed to determine either our own or someone else's destination. Hagoo'onee' implies that there is always the possibility of a reunion, even if that reunion is not a physical one.
I fell in love with my Navajo people all over again when the meanings of just these two common words were explained to me. There is so much wisdom in our language. We do our children and ourselves an injustice when we dumb the translations down to what we think the word's English equivalent may be.
Our ancestors are not only aware of their exact place in this inexplicably vast universe, but they also believe in a realm beyond the physical, where our "minds" will always live. They view the universe as existing now and know it will not always, and I don't sense any fear of the unknown. Like the universe and us presently, the unknown just is.
The raised handprints in this piece were an experiment. I had to discover for myself a way to make the handprints three-dimensional. I initially wanted to make them all one color (black) so that the viewer would have to touch the design to “see” it, forcing the viewer to become a part of the piece, but I wasn’t brave enough. Perhaps, next time.
|Yaa'at'eeh / Hagoo'onee'|