Shawna Begay holds Nanabah, a boob who will brilliant in a TV appearance she and Charmaine Jackson are developing to advise the Navajo, or Diné, accent to children. (
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Although I grew up in Shiprock, N.M., on the Navajo reservation, both my parents were affected to appear boarding schools in the 1950s and were not accustomed to allege their own Navajo, or Diné, language.
Like abounding Navajo affiliated members, my parents, Robert and Genevieve Jackson, were traumatized by the acquaintance of actuality abused or punished if they batten Navajo. I wasn’t aloft to allege my language, my parents told me, so that I would be added acknowledged in life.
Growing up, I was hardly anxious of my cousins who were chatty in both Diné and English. My grandma Rose Jackson acclimated to acquaint me I had alone one ear and that was for English. And during my childhood, abounding added Navajo kids in academy didn’t allege Diné either. Because it was important to me I took Navajo accent classes at the University of New Mexico in 1998, and alike afresh it was advised a adopted language.
Today my language, like best aboriginal languages, is in crisis of actuality lost. And yet, our accent plays a cogent role in American history. “Code talkers” who batten Diné secretly transmitted letters for the U.S. aggressive during Apple War II. The 13 actual cipher talkers were afresh accustomed at the White House. The abatement of the Navajo accent added amercement our abode in American culture, and it portends the accident of our stories, traditions and history, as well.
Focusing on accouchement is acute to extenuative the Diné language. While there are 7,600 acceptable Diné-only speakers and about 169,000 Navajo-English chatty speakers still in the United States, the accent will not survive if accouchement are not acquirements it. Just as we advice accouchement apprentice English and Spanish through educational programs like “Sesame Street,” shouldn’t we do the aforementioned with Native American languages?
Being Navajo or Diné, which means, ‘the people,’ additionally comes with a continued history of assimilation, bigotry and abolishment of a chase of people. Our Diné language, accustomed to us by the Holy People, is sacred. Like best citizenry who accept survived today, I call it as walking in two worlds, the acceptable apple and the avant-garde world.
We accept over 300,000 Navajo enrolled affiliated associates who alive on and off the better Native American reservation, or acreage base, in North America. Our acreage extends into three states, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, and is beyond than best East Coast states.
One of the obstacles I begin in my adventure to apprentice my accent was award added bodies with whom to allege it calmly on a circadian base aback active in a big burghal or alike visiting our homeland.
My baby acquaintance and colleague, Shawna L. Begay, who additionally grew up on the catch in Window Rock, Ariz., didn’t apprentice to allege our accent either.
“I never abstruse the Navajo accent and I was never aggressive to apprentice the Navajo accent as a child,” she told me. “As I got older, I accomplished how admired our accent is to the alimentation of our Navajo Nation.”
Shawna and I met at the 2007 Sundance Blur Festival, aback she was a anchorman for the Navajo Times. She was interviewing me about my role as a Navajo-speaking woman in the abbreviate blur “Conversion.” Ironically, it was about how religious missionaries scoured New Mexico, Utah and Arizona affiliated acreage aggravating to catechumen Navajos and added Native nations they came beyond to Mormonism or Christianity.
Several years after we ran into anniversary added afresh while alive for the Navajo Nation government. Shawna told me she was activity to acknowledgment to academy to get her doctoral amount to apprentice added about extenuative our Diné language. Her doctoral apriorism was “Developing a Navajo Media Guide: A Community Perspective,” which focused on our Diné language, and our cultural and acceptable ways. We had talked about her abstraction for developing a TV boob show to advice accouchement apprentice our Navajo language, ability and traditions. Her research, the aboriginal of its kind, gave us a foundation to accomplish our dreams.
So we teamed up to aftermath the first-ever Navajo puppets TV appearance alleged “Diné Bí Ná’álkid Time” or “The Navajo Movie Time.” It is geared against 4- to 6-year-old preschool acceptance to advise them the Navajo language. We will use puppets created by Navajo artisan Jason Barnes, including Nanabah, a 5-year girl; Gah, the Diné chat for rabbit, and Dlóó, which agency prairie dog, forth with added beastly characters. The appearance will account their adventures throughout Navajoland. We’ve launched a GoFundMe page to advice accession money for the project.
We both accept that media is a able apparatus that can be acclimated to advise school-aged accouchement and about anyone absorbed acquirements the Navajo language. In today’s agenda age there are assorted opportunities to advance amusing media to document our history and abate the Navajo language.
If you attending around, you will see kids on cellphones and tablets, watching television and YouTube. Their connected use of agenda media assertive us that it is the easiest way to advise and ability our adolescence today.
“Media has become the new anatomy of storytelling and through it we can accomplish acquirements objectives,” Shawna concluded. “Mass media has been apparent as adverse to aboriginal agency of activity by demography abroad adored time from acquirements from elders. As our altered cultures abound and change, adaptations can action to ensure the adaptation of aboriginal languages.”
Through both our avant-garde and cultural adventures over the years, this activity has brought us aback calm and we are bent to advice save our Diné accent for our elders, families, adolescence and our future. We achievement our adventure will affect our Diné affiliated associates and added aboriginal peoples to become complex in extenuative all our affiliated languages.
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