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Daughter denied language, culture classes, mother says


Navajo Times | Pauly Denetclaw

Kimberly Wahpepah and her daughter, Noami Sherman, during the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission public hearing on April 2 in Gallup.

Kimberly Wahpepah wanted her daughter to be enrolled in Navajo language and culture classes at her elementary school. The school denied her request.

Wahpepah’s daughter, Noami Sherman, 7, has a learning disability and a diagnosis of speech delay. The school told her that putting Noami in Navajo language classes might “confuse her.”
Wahpepah saw this explanation as an excuse by the school.

“They didn’t want to deal with her,” she said in an interview during the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission hearing on April 2 in Gallup.

The commission is working to assess the mistreatment of Native American students by border town schools.

According to the Indian Education Act, the state of New Mexico is bound by law to “ensure maintenance of native languages.” The state is also supposed to “ensure equitable and culturally relevant learning environments.”

However, due to Noami’s learning disability and speech delay, she was denied her right as a Navajo student to attend culture and language classes for a year.

Wahpepah wanted Noami to learn her language because it’s a big part of Navajo identity. This is something the school administration didn’t understand and wasn’t sensitive to, said Wahpepah.

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About The Author

Pauly Denetclaw

Pauly Denetclaw is Meadow People born for Towering House People. She was raised in Manuelito and Naschitti, New Mexico. She was the co-recipient of the Native American Journalist Association's 2016 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Reporting. Denetclaw is currently finishing her degree in multimedia journalism from the University of New Mexico - Main. Denetclaw covers a range of topics including genetic research, education, health, social justice issues and small businesses. She loves coffee, writing and being with her family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Her handle is @pdineclah


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