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Guest Column: A unique partnership — Diné College, Navajo Times present Diné bizaad section

By Rex Lee Jim

This column is the only time I will write in English to help introduce the Navajo language section of the Navajo Times.

File photo
Rex Lee Jim

We are going to restart the Navajo language page in the Navajo Times in this week’s issue.

This is a new and unique partnership between the Navajo Sovereignty Institute of Diné College and the Navajo Times, along with all future contributors.

Our first introduction to the Navajo language is a four-page tabloid designed by the staff of the Navajo Sovereignty Institute. The producer/editor is David Delmar.

This tabloid will be written entirely in the Navajo language and there will be four sections to this publication. It is called “Nihiinee’,” and it is being introduced as a special section of this week’s Navajo Times.

The first page will be fiction and nonfiction writing articulating challenges we face and celebrations we rejoice in.

This means you can write a poem, a short skit, an essay, or a letter addressing critical issues like how horses wander out onto roads, get hit by vehicles, and the vehicles are damaged or sometimes people are killed. Or how horses are used for therapy and in ceremonies to heal.

This section will promote critical and creative thinking.

The second page will focus on some aspect of Navajo heritage and culture.

This section will highlight who we are as a people, the songs we sing, and the new cultures we embrace like the powwow and gourd dances.

It can be about planting, and how the songs, prayers, rituals and stories associated with it can be used for promoting mental health. It could also portray our rich cultural activities associated with the four seasons, the months, and the various stages and growth of life.

This section should allow us to think deeply about who we are as a people and the journey we are on.

The third page will focus on Navajo language games, comic strips, crossword puzzles, and coloring pages. These activities should be fun and challenging, and will help to introduce new words and concepts.

These activities must promote creative thinking and be innovative ways to learn Navajo.

The fourth page will focus on teaching the Navajo language whether it’s grammar, new vocabulary, new ideas, or learning to think in Navajo.

Eventually, we would like to publish the Navajo language page or pages four times a month in the Navajo Times. We plan on devoting the first week to the elementary level, the second week to junior high or mid-school, the third week to high school, and the fourth week to the college and university level.

We would also like to turn these monthly/weekly pages into a booklet at the end of each year for contribution to schools and other interested stakeholders.

We hope to publish weekly in the near future but we are starting monthly for now. We will do what we can to make this a holistic approach to learning the Navajo language, making it fun and challenging, advancing the Navajo language at different levels creatively and critically to address what challenges us.

We must all work together to keep the Navajo language pages going in the Navajo Times.

For suggestions and contributions, please submit them to Rex Lee Jim at rljim@dinecollege.edu or Lorencita Marshall at lowillie@dinecollege.edu.

We look forward to working with the Navajo public to revive the Navajo language.

Rex Lee Jim is the executive director of the Navajo Sovereignty Institute at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona.


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