Diné day camp: off the couch and into culture

Navajo Times | Adron Gardner
Richard Begay demonstrates arrowhead knapping for campers during Youth Culture Day Camp at Assayi Lake July 13.

ASSAYI LAKE, N.M.

On a nice sunny day, the Tséhootsooí Medical Center hosted the 2nd Annual Navajo Youth Culture Day Camp to get kids off their couches this summer.

“The kids are out of school,” said Emerson John, camp organizer. “Last year we had a few kids and we got good compliments from parents about the camp.”

John works for the hospital in the Health Promotion/Disease Prevention program, which is aimed at promoting healthy living and fitness.

“You have high blood pressure, heart disease … we try to prevent this,” said John.

The camp was also aimed at teaching Diné culture and activities.

This year’s camp attendance is estimated to be 31 students, according to John.

Miss Navajo Ronda Joe hosted the tsiyeel (hair bun) workshop and helped the students with their hair buns.

Some of the children were down by the lake under a canopy, listening to John tell lessons and give stories about taachei (sweat lodge) including Dyami Toledo and Jadeyn Benally, both 10.
“We were listening to stories about the sweat lodge,” said Benally.

Navajo Times | Adron Gardner
Campers play a game of touch football during the Youth Culture Day Camp at Assayi Lake July 13.

“We also learned about the Holy People,” added Toledo.

Both said they learned a lot about the sweat lodge and John’s stories and lessons were helpful.

The workshop stations at the camp included weaving, traditional food presentation, flint knapping, Navajo basket weaving and a moccasin-making workshop.

The camp was held on the east side of the lake, by the picnic grounds surrounded by vehicles used to shuttle in most of the kids. John said parents were responsible for dropping off and picking up their children.

“It helps with parent involvement,” added John.

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