What are Navajo Hogans made of?

Hogans were the traditional dwelling of the Diné (Navajo) and there are two different types of hogans, the male hogan and the female hogan. The male hogan is rounder and has a short framed entrance structure that opens to the outdoors facing east. Inside, it has a main support typically comprised of three heavier logs and and an square opening on the roof/ceiling to see the sky and stars. These three main logs are forked to be able to support each other and the rest of the hogan. In addition to being a dwelling, male hogans also have a ceremonial purpose. Also, after it is constructed, the inside of a hogan is blessed before it is put to use with cornmeal or corn pollen at the main posts in a clockwise manner.

Both the male and female hogans are used as dwellings though. Traditionally, hogans were built without any nails or any supporting materials but, if used, they are sparingly used in the construction of hogans nowadays. The outside of a hogan is covered in clay to provide further insulating from temperatures extremes, especially to keep the hogan cool during the hot months. The wood that's typically used for a hogan is juniper wood due to its resistance to decay and availability. The logs for the structure are carved, sanded, and shaved as needed for the structure.

The female hogan is a bit more fancy and is a six or eight-sided structure. Modern female hogans are built somewhat like a log cabin with a modern roof while others have a wood, clay roof and a log cabin-like structure. The old-style structures were made out of stone and/or wood and clay. A female hogan is akin to a one-room house with a section for beds, a kitchen, and a living room area. In the middle of the female hogan is a heating source, typically a wood stove. If there is only one hogan available, the female hogan is used for ceremonies instead of the male one. A female hogan may or may not have an opening on the ceiling/roof. Some modern female hogans also have room extensions to them.

There was a time when the Navajo were moving away from hogans as dwellings, sometimes due to government influence, but the trend towards hogans began rising in popularity in the 90s. Especially as Navajo-owned businesses, specifically for the supplies to build hogans, began taking hold. These businesses also provide jobs for their communities and opportunities for the youth to gain some construction experience.

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