The Families Behind Witherspoons' Nizhoni Herefords

The Family of Jacquine and Flora Belle Nabahe

    Witherspoons' Nizhoni Herefords came into existence as a result of the convergence of the Nabahe family with the Witherspoon family in the persons of Gary and Nellie Witherspoon.  This was dynamic, complementary asymmetry at work.   This is a principle and pattern that Gary has written about in genetics, art, linguistics and cultural anthropology.

    The Nabahes and their ancestors have lived in the American Southwest for many centuries.  They are of the Diné Nation.  They are also known as the "Nihokáá' Dine'é" (People of the Earth's Surface).  They were born of and from the Earth.  Their principal deity and creator is Changing Woman "Asdzáán Nádlééhé", the inner form of the Earth.

The Seasonal Cycle of the People of the Earth's Surface

She is known as Changing Woman because of her capacity for infinite regeneration, renewal or rejuvenation.  Changing Woman's annual cycle of regeneration is exhibited on the surface of the Earth in the Earth's seasonal cycle of regeneration.  She created the four original clans of the Diné Nation, and she taught the People of the Earth's Surface how to live in a state of "Hózhó" (beauty and harmony).

Juanita Nabahe Weaving at the Nabahe Mountain Home in 1969

    The name "Nizhoní" is a variant of the  word "hózhó".  As opposed to the general and holistic meaning of "hózhó", "Nizhoní" means something in particular is 'nice, good and beautiful', which describes the kind of cattle we try to breed.  That is why we used the word Nizhoní in the name of our ranch, and that is how our contemporary ranch is built on the ancient traditions of the People of the Earth's Surface, the children of Changing Woman.

Asdzáán Nádlééhé and the Origin of the Nihookáá' Dine'é

Changing Woman created the four original clans of the People of the Earth's Surface.  As such, she is the premier Matriarchal Ancestress of the contemporary Witherspoon/Nabahe family.

Flora Belle Nabahe at 80+ years of age

Born 11/16/1907 to Hastiin Neez Biye' (father) and Binibahé (mother), Flora Belle of the Táchíí'nii Clan married Jacquine Nabahe of the Bit'ahnii Clan on November 11, 1925.  This was the beginning of the Nabahe family into which Nellie was born.

Jacquine Nabahe with Grandsons Dwight (baby) and Rolf in 1965

Jacquine Nabahe was born May 10, 1908 to Nabahe Yazhi Biye' (father) and Deibahe (mother).  His father's clan was Kiyaa'áanii.  Jacquine and Flora had 12 children, eight sons and four daughters.  Nellie was the third daughter.  Her older sisters are Jean and Juanita, and her younger sister is Gloria.  Her brothers are Anthony, Truman, Chee, Joe, Alfred, Kenneth, Paul and Jacquine, Jr.

From left Alfred, Truman, Nellie, Kenneth, Juanita, Gloria, Joe & Anthony

The Nabahes have 29 grandchildren and 55+ great grandchildren (see below).

Grandchildren of Jacquine and Flora Nabahe in 1990

    The Nabahes were farmers and pastoralists.  They raised corn, beans, squash, melons and several other crops in the New Mexico desert by very skillful techniques utilizing natural flood plains for irrigation.  They also grazed cattle, sheep, goats and horses on their several thousand acres of range land at Naschitti, New Mexico.  They grazed their livestock on the valley floor in the winter and took their livestock to Long Lake on K'osgáí Mountain meadow pastures in the summer.

Nabahe Mountain Home: Nellie's Birthplace

    Nellie was born at the Nabahe mountain home on June 26, 1936.  She is the expert in farming and raising livestock in the current Witherspoon family.  This way of life is deeply imbedded in the traditions of her family and ancestors, and she experienced it first hand as a child in the Nabahe family.  Nellie grew up in Navajo tradition.  She never spoke anything but the Navajo language until she was sent to boarding school at 8 years of age.  Although Nellie completed the boarding school curriculum, she did not receive a high school diploma.  Nevertheless, today she reads faster and more often than her academically trained husband.

Nellie at the Intermountain Indian Boarding School in 1954

   Navajo families are headed by women, and Nellie's family was headed by a strong, intelligent and kind woman named Flora Belle Nabahe.  She gave the family strength, leadership and stability.   Although the Nabahes represent a very large family, they gather together frequently to celebrate and honor each other.

Above is a family dinner in honor of Nellie's return from her mission in Hawaii.  Nellie is second from left and her father is the first person on the right.  Others at the table are her brothers and sisters and some of their spouses.

    Below is a 1996 family and community celebration in honor of April Nabahe who had just graduated from Medical School.  Dr. April Nabahe is the daughter of Alfred and Eleanor Nabahe and granddaughter of Jacquine and Flora Nabahe.

From just left of center:
Angela (a lawyer and neice), Eleanor (mother), Dr. April Nabahe (white dress) and Alfred Nabahe (father).

Navajo clans are matrilineal, so Nellie and her children are of the Tachiinii clan of their mother and grandmother.