Kachina: Yeibichai

Although the Kachina is more often associated with the Hopi Indians of the Southwest, a few tribes have kachina dolls of their own, including the Navajo. The Navajo Yeibichai Kachina is sometimes called the Talking God, although in many ceremonies the Yeibichai does not actually speak.

Often referred to as the Grandfather of the Navajo Kachinas, the Yeibichai is one of the more enjoyable features of the Navajo Kachina Dance. There are male and female Yeibichai. The paternalistic male “speaks” through pantomimes, whatever he wants to make a point in the dance. He is the figure who starts the dance, acting as a leader in both singing and dancing. His dance steps are exaggerated and very lively, and they are often interspersed with comedy. One frequent comic action is acting out the desire for food — mountains of food. The pantomime requests lighten the mood and bring about enjoyment and laughter from the crowd.

The Yeibichai Kachina wears the traditional kiabab moccasins, and wool skirt, big bold silver and turquoise jewelry, green fir around his collar, a shamans purse, a rattle, headdress feathers, and a weapon, usually a bow and arrow. He lays down his weapon when asking for food and pulls out a burlap sack, which fits a mood of levity, rather than requests by force.

This Yeibichai pictured above was carved by Ronald Curtis in 2016. I bought it at Palms Trading in Albuquerque and I love it. The image below is a Yeibichai Rug, woven with five inner kachinas surrounded by a sixth kachina guardian rainbow protector. The Yei figures are reminiscent of the sand paintings of there supernatural deities.

Yeibichai Rug

A more full story on the Yeibichai can be found in books by Frank Waters and on the River Trading Post website: http://www.rivertradingpost.com/yeibichai.htm