A traditional hogan.

photo by: Courtesy Chuck Coker, Flickr

September 2, 2015

[Preservation Glossary] Today's Word: Hogan

  • By: Nick Totten

A few years ago the American Southwest was my home, and I would often admire the rustic red landscape of the area. Throughout that area, I would see the little round huts that dot the land. These huts are called hogans (Navajo spelling is hoogan).

The Oxford Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases provides a simple definition of hogan:

Hogan, noun

A traditional Navajo Indian hut of logs and earth.

In recent decades, hogans have also been built with brick or cement. The hogan shape is used as a design element in more modern houses (e.g. two-story hogans, hogan-type entrance to a modern house). Even with modern developments, traditional log and earth hogans are being preserved throughout the reservation and remain an integral part of Navajo culture.

Word in Use: "When a winter hogan is to be built the site is usually chosen in a secluded or sheltered spot; the choice always being such as will permit the door to face east. The ground is leveled, and then a circle is drawn of the desired size; there being no general rule as to the diameter or height of a hogan." -- Uriah S. Hollister, The Navajo and His Blanket, p. 66.

Editor's note: The photo and text in this post has been updated to further clarify the definition of hogan.

Nick Totten was an editorial intern at the National Trust. He takes particular delight in historic museums and libraries. In addition, he enjoys performing music, playing with words, and appreciating the local sites and views on foot.

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