Shiprock — Anthony Lee stood in front of people gathered in a room at the Healing Circle Drop In Center and drew a Navajo wedding basket on a dry eraser board.

Lee, who teaches Navajo culture and tradition, drew the basket then explained its role in a traditional Navajo wedding ceremony during a presentation that focused on the protocol and process for the traditional ceremony.

His presentation on Tuesday was part of the Navajo Wellness program offered at the center in Shiprock, where Lee has volunteered for three years.

The idea for the presentation started after Lee attended his niece's traditional Navajo wedding two weeks ago.

He started his presentation by talking about the Holy Ones and why the wedding ceremony was created for the Diné.

Marge Bluehorse-Anderson speaks on Tuesday during a presentation about traditional Navajo wedding procedures at the Healing Circle Drop In Center in
Marge Bluehorse-Anderson speaks on Tuesday during a presentation about traditional Navajo wedding procedures at the Healing Circle Drop In Center in Shiprock. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times)

"We're going to create this bond in the holy way," Lee said, explaining why the ceremony is performed.

Lee talked about the making of the traditional corn mush for the wedding. It is prepared by either the bride's mother or her grandmother.

"They're the ones who are supposed to prepare it. Not the neighbor, not the cousin — Doda ('No' in Diné) — not those guys," he said.

After the mush is prepared, it is poured into a Navajo wedding basket for the bride to carry into the hogan.

Another ceremonial element is when the groom and bride rinse their hands. Lee said an uncle or elderly male member of the bride's family is appointed to perform the ceremony.

This individual carries in the water which is held in a traditional pot. The water is poured onto the groom's hands then onto the bride's hands.

"Again, that is the blessing from First Man and First Woman when they first had that marriage," Lee said.

Marge Bluehorse-Anderson was among those who attended the presentation.

Bluehorse-Anderson was married in 1986 in a traditional Navajo wedding that was performed by her father, who was taught by her nálí (paternal grandfather).

She further elaborated on Lee's explanation about the role corn mush has in the ceremony and recalled that she and her husband were told that the mixing of the cornmeal and water represents bringing life together.

She added that the groom and the bride use their five-fingers to pick up the mush from the wedding basket.

"This is you and you want to go through all the stages of life. You're a five-fingered being, you're an Earth surfaced person ... and that is the make up of you," she said.

It was further explained to her that in addition to the groom and bride, only the immediate family members were allowed to eat the mush.

Those family members were included because they are the support system for the couple, she said.

"You come with good thoughts and good intentions," Bluehorse-Anderson said about the ceremony.

Betsy Yazzie also attended the presentation and explained that when she married her husband in a traditional ceremony, her father gave her some stirring sticks and then gave her husband a fire stick and an axe.

"It is his responsibility from there to build you a home," Yazzie said her father told her husband. "He didn't come to our Navajo wedding but he gave us all the tools."

Another piece of advice came from her uncle, who told her that they would not receive everything. He said, as a couple, they will learn how to build and create their life together.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.