Nursing Homework Paper on American Indian (Navajos)

American Indian (Navajos)

  1. Overview

The Navajo Indians are among the 560 federally recognized Native American Indian tribes in the United States’ (U.S.) (Bregman, 2010, p. 171). They do not reside in villages as other Native American societies do. Most can speak both the Navajo and English languages.       

  1. Demographic

The Navajo Indians are the most populous tribe of all the American Indians recognized by the U.S. federal government. Their population is about 300,000 individuals, most of them residing in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah states on land approximately 27,000 square miles (Hirschfelder & Molin, 2012, p. 122). It is a largely rural population with a population density of about 7.1 persons per square mile, and an overall population growth rate of about 45%.  

  1. Health Care Practices

The Navajos make a distinction between symptoms and the cure, and have no difficulty accepting Western medical care that has proven effective in treatment, for instance, surgical procedures. They consider Western medicine as only effective in addressing the symptoms, and view the causes of illnesses to be supernatural, hence can only be cured through performing religious healing ceremonies to restore harmony and balance. The Navajos do not reject Western medicine, but instead reject the Western-trained healthcare professionals that show hostility and rejection towards traditional Navajo healing practices. Sometimes, the western trained physicians reject Navajo patients that have undergone a traditional healing ritual.           

  1. Risk Behaviors

The Navajos are at a particularly high risk for behavioral health problems, such as injury caused by motor vehicle accidents, homicide, and suicide. Their high-fat diet has contributed to high heart disease among its population. Death caused by alcoholism among Navajos is about eight times higher than that of the entire U.S. population (Bregman, 2010, p. 171).     

  • Genetic Susceptibility to Chronic Conditions

The Navajos appear to be genetically susceptible to diabetes, obesity, trachoma, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and kidney disease. Genetic susceptibility has significantly contributed to health disparities between the Navajos and other U.S. populations for decades.   

  • Nutrition

The Navajos’ diet has high-fat content, which is largely responsible for the high heart disease among its population. The significant increase in chronic illnesses among the Navajos is because of nutritional factors. Their common foods include fry bread and tortillas, home-fried potatoes, mutton, bacon and sausage, soft drinks, and coffee and tea, which provide 41% of the energy and 15-46% of macronutrients in the diet (C. Ember & M. Ember, 2004, p. 880).    

  • Spirituality

The Navajos view spirituality as inseparable from other aspects of life, such as health, beauty and harmony. Navajos heavily depend on spirituality in their healing ceremonies. They consider illnesses are resulting from not being in harmony with nature, from spirits of an evil person, for instance a witch, or even violating tribal taboos. Most of Navajos religious ceremonies are healing rituals involving songs, memorized prescribed prayers, sand paintings, ritual bathing using yucca, and offering of corn pollen (Peoples & Bailey, 2014, p. 390).     

  • Death Rituals

The Navajos greatly afraid of death and anything associated with it. Therefore, they have placed strong restrictions against touching and even speaking about the dead. Family members bury the dead in the shortest time possible without any public ceremony. Individuals that prepare and bury the dead often take part in a cleansing ceremony, and abstain from any activity for four days.


Bregman, L. (2010). Religion, death, and dying. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger.

Ember, C. R., & Ember, M. (2004). Encyclopedia of medical anthropology: Health and illness in the world’s cultures. New York: Springer.

Hirschfelder, A. B., & Molin, P. F. (2012). The extraordinary book of Native American lists. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Peoples, J & Bailey, G. (2014). Humanity: an introduction to cultural anthropology. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.