July 30, 2008

Rediscovering the Navajo Language

Putting a language into perspective

New Mexico first state to adopt Navajo textbookState officials formally adopted Yazzie's book, Diné Bizaad Binahoo'ahh, or Rediscovering the Navajo Language, on Tuesday in Santa Fe. While other books on Navajo language exist, state officials say New Mexico is the first to adopt a Navajo textbook for use in the public education system.

About 10 school districts in New Mexico provide Navajo language instruction. Out of seven American Indian languages that were taught in the public school system during the 2006-07 school year, 5,024 students were learning Navajo.
And:School districts in New Mexico, as well as U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, can review Yazzie's book and decide whether to use it starting in the 2009-10 school year. The book will be accompanied by a compact disc with the voices of Yazzie and her brother, Berlyn Yazzie, a former educator and administrator on the Navajo Nation.

In the Navajo culture, certain topics—such as how to build a hogan or cradle board and how to care for cattle and horses—should be addressed by men. Other topics, including the preparation of food, clothing and caring for children, should be addressed by women.
And:Each chapter of the book, which Yazzie said is suitable for students of all ages, begins with a cultural lesson and guides readers through verbs, sentence construction, clanship, clothing, formal education, telling time the Navajo way, the reservation, Navajo teachings, corn fields, livestock, textures, shapes and the Navajo government.

It also includes pictures of people who have lived on the Navajo reservation, which stretches into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. Yazzie said she looks forward to students sharing the book with Navajo elders and "pretty soon conversation will be sparking around fires."

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