Four get Greyhills' first honorary diplomas

By Krista Allen
Western Agency Bureau

TUBA CITY, May 23, 2013

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(Times photo – Krista Allen)

The respected Navajo Code Talker Dan Akee, 90, turns his tassel during the Greyhills Academy High School graduation on Friday in Tuba City. Four individuals received honorary high school diplomas.

D espite having different titles from Navajo Code Talker, to traditional healer, to foster grandma, to pioneering hipster - all had one thing in common last Friday as four community members received honorary high school diplomas from Greyhills Academy High School.

"They are, in my view, outstanding people in the community," said school Superintendent Tommy Lewis as he presented the certificates. "The reason why we did this is to challenge the young people."

Those four who were honored include:

Dan Akee

Dan Akee, 92, Coalmine Canyon, started school at Tuba City Boarding School when he was six years old. Unluckily, tuberculosis, an infectious bacterial disease, caught him off guard. At that time, he was put in a sanitarium in Kayenta, Ariz. where he taught himself to read and write to the equivalent of Grade 10.

During World War II, Akee heard the Armed Forces were recruiting Navajos, but he couldn't pass the physical. According to the Veterans History Project, Akee later volunteered again, passed, and became a member of the Code Talker team attached to the 4th Marine Division.

"He came back with a Purple Heart, and several years ago, he was given a Silver Star award by former President George W. Bush," said Lewis.

Norris Nez

Norris Nez, Sr., 85 and originally of Coalmine Canyon, never went to school because he held a firm belief in the Diné teachings and knows nine different ceremonies.

He once testified before Congress concerning the San Francisco Peaks controversy, and even testified before congressional courts relating to the sovereignty of the Navajo people.

"He did that all because of his firm belief about the Diné way, and he's offered a lot of spiritual support for families everywhere," said Lewis.

Bessie C. Yazzie

Bessie C. Yazzie, 70, from Bodaway-Gap is a very quiet individual, but she has been a foster grandparent at Greyhills Academy for the past 10 years.

"And many times, she's come here even through stormy weather," said Lewis. "Sometimes she catches a ride, hitchhikes, and she might get dropped off by the junction and she would walk all the way over here."

Yazzie attended school in Sedona, Ariz. for 10 days when she was a child. Since her family moved back to the reservation, she had to withdraw. She never returned to school.

"She is a very humble person and enjoys working with children," said Lewis.

Lois G. Yazzie

Lois G. Yazzie, 90, from Cameron, Ariz., was one of the first female basketball players at Tuba City High School. She is known for her leadership skills because she served as a chapter official.

"She has served on prestigious board of directors and advocated for the quality education for Diné people," said Lewis.

The idea to award honorary diplomas all started when Lewis attended a March 7 board meeting.

"I suggested that maybe we could do that. I put it on the table for consideration. People didn't really know what I was talking about. They thought it was sort of a weird idea," explained Lewis.

Nevertheless, that weird idea became a reality when the four individuals donned silver caps and gowns and walked down the aisle along with 48 Knights who have not yet earned their noble ranks like these fierce leaders.