at Canyon de Chelly, Arizona
Interview by Chara Nelson | Photography by Alex Cowie
Framed against the backdrop of deep golden canyons, red mesas and mountains of pondersosa pines, Navajo Medicine Woman, Sheila Goldtooth, takes the reader back in time in the ancient Navajo Way. Much of Native Tradition is based on the idea of harmony—with nature and with self. For Navajo healer Goldtooth, a life out of balance can lead to disharmony and manifest in illness. But imbalance can be realigned through the sacred chants and songs of her healing tradition, called the Blessing Way, passed down from her mother’s brother and the generations before him. Goldtooth tends to the women and families of her Arizona community, performing puberty or coming of age ceremonies, but is well known throughout the area for her strength in treating all those who need to be brought back into harmony. Goldtooth was born and raised in Round Rock (Tsénikani), Arizona, north of Canyon de Chelly. She grew up tending sheep and cattle with her uncle and learning about healing herbs from her aunt. Tradition and a closeness to the earth and nature were essential to her upbringing, all part of the path that led her to become a healer.