Exploring what it means to be a Diné woman

Woman singing with microphone

Navajo Times | Adron Gardner
Singer/songwriter Chucki Begay provides musical entertainment for guests during the 9th Annual Celebrate Women conference in Shiprock on July 21.


Katrina Lee and Bessie Sandoval have different perspectives on what it means to be a Diné woman.

Lee, 20, was an outsider looking in, while Sandoval was an insider looking out, and the two perspectives met at the 9th Annual Celebration of Women Conference in Shiprock on July 20.

Throughout a day filled with workshops and presentations, the two and about 187 other participants shared their points of view.

Sandoval, 82, who has attended many of the conferences before, said she wants to understand what Navajo women today are like.

“I’m still wanting to learn how do these other people think of these things?” she said. “I have a lot of concerns too about families and … broken homes. It’s still trickling down. I want to hear what these people think. Is there a remedy for it?”

Woman singing, with Pendleton handbag over shoulder.

Navajo Times | Adron Gardner
Comedian Chizz Bah entertains the crowd during the 9th Annual Celebrate Women conference in Shiprock on July 21.

Sandoval may not have received answers to her questions but she got an idea of what Diné women today think – which is exactly what the conference was about.

The conference, put together for Navajo women by Navajo women, was organized by Sisters in Circle from Shiprock, an organization that focuses on empowerment of women, especially those in domestic violence situations.

Sisters in Circle founder Shirley Montoya said, “If we can get our sisters to be strong enough and say ‘I’m my own woman, I’m the strong Navajo woman that people talk about, I am strong’ … just to encourage.

“Like the sisters here, the facilitators, we come together as a group,” she said. “We’re working mothers, working grandmothers, some work for the tribe, some work for IHS and nonprofit organizations, and we care about our communities, and we want a well and healthy community for our children.”

The nearly 200 participants — Navajo women, children, and a few men — gathered at the Shiprock Youth Complex for the one-day event that centered around the theme “Knowing Myself In My Family and Community.” Sessions featured topics such as longevity, Diné healthy breakfast and motherhood, just to name a few.

In the afternoon, participants were entertained by guest speaker and Navajo singer Chucki Begay, as well as Shiprock comedian Chizz Bah.

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Categories: Community

About Author

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi

Sunnie Clahchischiligi has been the sports writer for the Navajo Times since 2008. She has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of New Mexico. Before joining the Times, she worked at the St. Cloud Times (Minn.), the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sports Illustrated Magazine in New York City and the Salt Lake Tribune. She can be reached at sunnie@navajotimes.com or via cell at (505) 686-0769.