Organizers surprised at turnout for youth conference
(Times photo – Krista Allen)
By Krista Allen
Western Agency Bureau
TS'AH BII KIN, Ariz., Sept. 19, 2013
(Times photo – Krista Allen)
Martha Tate says, "We stole him from Navajo Mountain Chapter last March. He's originally from Ts'ah Bii Kin."
An impressive rostrum that was built just for the occasion is outside.
Geraldine Chee says the three diligent Public Employment Project workers made the platform in one week using existing boards that the chapter had.
Meanwhile, each of the PEP workers arrives. They're asked to arrange chairs and set up the public address system.
Across the highway Elaine Manheimer, 58, stands with a clipboard. She's worried that no one will participate in the fun walk that she has organized. She's wrong.
Manheimer's eyes gleam with satisfaction when a swarm of children and teenagers huddles around her clipboard to sign their names and their T-shirt sizes. More runners and walkers show up including Eleanor Joe, 61, and Lindsay Sampson, 30, from the pharmacy department at Inscription House Health Center.
"See! So many people! This is my second page!" exclaims the excited Manheimer.
While the two-mile course was grueling for some of the participants, it's just another exercise for Joe, who was the first runner to finish the course.
"Going down was easy, but coming back up was hard," says Joe.
"I've never been able to keep up with her," said Sampson who finished second.
"She's getting better though," adds Joe.
Both women say they run for 35 minutes every day during their lunch hour and have been participating in the Just Move It events across the Navajo Nation.
Unlike the participants who walked or ran the course once, Colin Begishie, 9, runs the route twice, emulating "The Flash" possessing super-speed.
"I like to run," says Begishie as he huffs and puffs.
"People of Ts'ah Bii Kin like to go running and walking," says Manheimer who walks from her home to work (one mile) and back each day. "They're really active folks."
Roy and Susan Tate, 78 and 72, respectively, walk up. They write their names on Manheimer's clipboard and set out on the course.
"Nizaadlá hé’! (It's far!)" exclaimed Roy when he returns. "Béésh náábali bika' hasisna' (I climbed the windmill - stock tank)."
Roy and Susan are no strangers to physical activity. To keep fit, they routinely ride their horses down the nearby canyon to check on cattle.
"Mom outran me when we were trying to turn the cows back this summer," says Martha Tate of her hardworking parents who've been married for 56 years.
A total of 61 people participate in the Fun Walk.
"I'm so happy," says Manheimer.
Later, Council Delegate Jonathan Nez (Shonto/Navajo Mountain/Oljato/Ts'ah Bee Kin) arrives along with eight bicycle riders.
The intergenerational conference begins with a Pledge of Allegiance and an opening prayer. The theme is "Remembering the Teaching of our Elders."
"Welcome young people," says Martha Tate, the Ts'ah Bii Kin Chapter president, during her welcome address. "Ahxéhee' for joining us."
Because youth from the communities of Dá'deestl'in Hóstaa, K'ai'bii'tó, Naatsis'áán, and Sháá'tóh’ have joined the inaugural conference, Martha Tate encourages them to take an active role in their communities.
Jonathan Nez talks of 'ats'iis baa'láháyáá (taking care of your body) during his keynote address.
Nez's talk is interrupted when the trail riders arrive.
Grazing committee member Jerry H. Begay, Jimmie Black and Roy Smith of the Dusty Trail Riders each introduce their groups.
Nez continues his talk by distinguishing two types of teaching: Knowledge base and wisdom.
"Knowledge, meaning your education ... kindergarten through Grade 12," says Nez, targeting his address at the youth. "Wisdom, which you cannot gain anywhere else except within your home, within your community."
"When you blend those two, that's power!" adds Nez. "Power to change yourself, power to change your family and power to change your community for the better."
Nez says to expose children to the Navajo language, "Go to a chapter meeting. That's full Navajo language immersion program because it's all done in Navajo."
Folks of the Ts'ah Bii Kin Senior Center, after Nez' keynote address, line dance to "Cupid Shuffle," a 2007 hit by the rhythm-and-blues artist Cupid.
"Let's do the Cupit Shuttle!" shouts one of the women as she tries to encourage her group that she practiced with to take the floor. "Helen Tsosie! I see you hiding! You're not hiding!" As the music begins, the group starts swaying their hips.
"Louder!" shout some of the dancers. "Turn it up!"
When the song ends, the group requests the song again, however they are told to wait until later.
Time is then allotted to Frederick Sherman, the senior environmental specialist at Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency, who talks about the illegal dumping problem.
At noon, blue corn mush, fry bread, mutton stew, and watermelon come out.
Attendees engage in breakout sessions after lunch specifically structured to educate people about changing for healthier lifestyles, diabetes and prevention, farming and gardening, felting wool, grazing permits, Navajo food literacy and sovereignty, and horsemanship and farriery.
"What we've been taught in the past, about taking care of the land, taking care of horses, livestock, using sheep for instance, you use the whole thing, the meat, you use it for wool, you use it to make a living off of," says Chee, the Ts'ah Bii Kin Chapter vice president, of the successful conference. "Taking that and bringing the younger generation together with the elders and showing what we did in the past, today, and how we can use that for our future."
The distinguished list of presenters included Gloria Begay of the Din4 Community Advocacy Alliance, Jerry H. Begay, Thomas Bryant of the LDS church, Jimmie Black and Roy Smith of the Dusty Trail Riders, Erin Wilson of Moencopi Day School, and the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project.
Chee pronounces the conference a success.
"When we first started planning it, we were kind of (asking ourselves), 'Will people support it? Will they come out?' As it got closer to it, it really was getting more exciting," says Chee. "It surprised us that (many) people came out for it."
Contact Krista Allen at email@example.com.