Many people think that the only bread that the Navajos make is “Fry Bread” but there is a bread they make in the fall at harvest time called “Kneeldown Bread” (some call it Navajo Tamales).
This bread is made of corn; not your ordinary corn, which is sweet corn, but a corn that is grown by the Navajos. First, the corn is shucked. Then, the kernels are scraped and then ground. Years ago, the Navajos would grind it on their knees, so it became known as “Kneeldown Bread.” Now, they have grinders that are easier to operate.
After the corn has been ground into a paste, it then is put in the husks then wrapped with another layer of the husks.
Normally it is baked in the earth, but for our purposes, it was baked in the oven.
This was an important bread for the Navajos, since the winters were hard, and the food became scarce. It was necessary to eat things like corn which is high in calories so as to make it through a hard winter. Often they will eat it during the winter, sometimes putting pieces in the stew to add the flavor of the corn.
Although it is a tasty bread, we have to remember that the Navajos use corn pollen to pray at noon and night. Corn pollen is also used during the “Blessing Way” and other ceremonies where cleansing needs to take place.
All the Grandma’s enjoyed helping to make this bread, and all remembering how they too used to make it.