Conference Explores Educational Sovereignty for the Navajo Nation

by Barbara P. Mink

More than 70 Navajo teachers, administrators and counselors from four states convened at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, on June 20 and 21 to explore challenges and strategies for promoting educational sovereignty for the Navajo Nation.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Timothy Benally set the tone for the conference by challenging the participants to examine the structure and politics, and also the curriculum necessary to move toward true educational sovereignty for the Navajo Nation.
Dr. Manley Begay, Jr., from Northern Arizona University and a member of the board of trustees at Fielding Graduate University, delivered the keynote address on “Navajo Nation Building: Challenges and Hopes for the Future.”

Navajo graduates from the doctoral program of the Fielding Graduate University presented their research related to infusing Navajo values, culture, language and history into the curriculum and advancing education opportunities in the Nation. Major sections for discussion at the conference included Navajo goals for Navajo education; Navajo culture and principles; effective classroom instruction; and higher education and professional development.

A consistent theme explored by both the speakers and the audience of Navajo educators was how education can be better aligned with the Mission of the Department of Diné Education which is “to provide lifelong learning for the Navajo People and to ensure the cultural integrity and sovereignty of the Navajo Nation.” Specific research was presented on how to integrate weaving, Navajo creation stories, drumming and singing into the curriculum.

Dr. Tommy Lewis, Superintendent of Schools for the Department of Diné Education, spoke about teacher education and what is being done to improve teaching, learning, and student academic achievement.

“Attaining the highest level of education including certification and licensures are critical for our teachers,…

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