Why do you want my children? A Glimpse into Native American Citizenship

byBarsine Barney Benally


"Why do you want my children?" No matter what I do, no matter where I go, you will come in your fancy car, fancy suit and bring those worn yellow papers. We can hear you coming miles away, we can see you driving as you create a track of dust, recklessly you drive, with no regard to the land, the animals, the plants my livestock eat. You've knocked on my door before, and I said no then so you left with your fist in the air and unknown words you spat. You burned my home to the ground, you destroyed my crops, my food and set them to flames, you shot all of my livestock so that not one stood anymore. You left me homeless and hungry but I still held my head up high. Then you killed my husband, my father, my grandfather. Our provider, our medicine men and some of our leaders. Can't you see that my eyes are weary? I have walked far to do as you asked, I have walked over the barren hot land, through waters, over mountains covered in snow. I have walked till my shoes no longer had soles beneath them, I've walked past pregnant women whom you've shot and our sick elders whom you left behind to die, I have walked past death. You said that I would be protected if I followed the others, you said that I would be given a home, yet you lied. You said I would be provided food for my family, my relatives ,yet you lied. You brought us to a place far from the sacred mountains, far from the sacred sites where the holy ones live. To a place where there were no homes to give us shelter, no water to nourish us, no food to regain strength. We ate from the feces of your livestock, we were so hungry. We built our homes under ground, we were so cold. You raped my mother, my sister and still you let them die. You have given us nothing but broken promises and broken treaties.

I silently sit here, waiting, hearing, the voices still linger within me, the cries, the gun shots, the mourning. I was told stories, stories of other tribes who were not our own but who suffered the same walk we did. What can I do and what shall I say when another blue coat comes to my door? Should I run and leave my people behind? No. Shall I take out my weapons and prepare them for war? No. Then what must I do, and why again does he want my children? You have taken many children in your metal wagons. You have taken them far from our homelands telling us that you will educate them to be strong men. Yet you cut their hair, their spiritual knowledge. You take away their sacred name and call them some unknown word called, Tom. You've made them weak, impatient and disrespectful that they no longer know what needs to be done. You've made them so that they no longer understand what I say. Ashamed they lower their heads and they turn away unable to utter a word, lost and unable to identify me, to find their way home, you've left them with empty spirits.

Why do you want my children? My child is born from the Water That Flows Together clan, he holds the cultural songs of the Red House clan, he carries the cane of wisdom of the Salt Clan and is the protector of the Waters Edge people. My child is the child of the holy ones, they have given him the wind of life and with that he is marked as a sacred being. Tell me again, why do you want my children after you have taken all that I am? I stand before you now with nothing in my hand, but my language, my culture and my children. You have taken, destroyed and killed everything else.

I continue to build my fire, all that is sacred and holy, all that I need to sustain life to what it once was, is all within me. I look to my children and Beauty is within them, above them, below them. Beauty is before them, behind them and all around them. In beauty I want them to live. My children hold our way of life, our language, our culture. Again I ask, "Why do you want my children?"

Origin of Language

The Dine language is a sacred language. As it is a sacred language, translation from one meaning to a specific English word is never possible therefore making it difficult to create a precise English translation. At times there are no real words to explain the Dine viewpoint because, Dine believe that our thoughts and behaviors are manifestations of an inner wind. It is from this holy and sacred wind that language originates. One must first think then speak with reverence with all that is around for words have power. They have the power to heal and the power to inflict harm. Wind, "Nilch'ih," is of the sacred essence, it gives us life, it connects us with the universe and provides life to all things. As we are born, wind enters our body. It travels within us from the bottom of our toes and out from our head, through one set of fingertips and out the other, leaving its spiritual prints of life behind. As wind exits it leaves a print behind upon our fingertips, our footprints and a spiral upon our head. These are the marks of wind, of life.

Through wind, we were given our language. Holy wind informed Dark Wind, Blue Wind, Yellow Wind, White Wind and Glossy Wind that they would live in the folds of the ear and they would be able to speak to one another this way. It is through the direction of Holy Wind and the formation of wind that speech is possible and language is spoken. It is through our language that our culture is taught, respected and identified. Our sacred language is what the Dine use to communicate to mother earth and father sky, to all that is living in nature and the universe. Though wind is not seen, it is in our thoughts and through our thought we form words.

Student Needs

Students within the surrounding region of Fort Defiance and across the Navajo Nation are among the fifth generation of those elders who were apart of the Long Walk. Back then, language and culture was still very much intact. Today, you will rarely see a child walk into the classroom as a fluent Dine speaker. English has become the predominant and language everywhere. In rural areas far from the modernizations of technology you will find speakers, but again this is rare. For this purpose, as Dine educators and advocates, we have taken on the responsibility to bring language and culture back into the homes of our children. Through this, we hope that they will once again find self-identity, communicate with and understand their parents/grandparents, and accept the responsibility that is bestowed upon them; to be a carrier of the language and culture. With this task they will take on the greater task of being a new generation of citizens.

Unit Objective

The curricular unit I aspire to teach will increase preparation for overall understanding of the Arizona State Standards, national initiatives, and will work toward building a culturally based curriculum that includes the national core standards. This endeavor will bring an added dimension to our current curriculum, which fosters standard base teaching and research-based strategies. With the end in mind, the goal is to create and implement a structured learning experience using local resources for an immersion classroom.

I want students to understand the timeline of citizenship in America, through a compare and contrast of timelines of the Native American experience and other national narratives of citizenship. Through compiling narratives of our own throughout the units study, students will keep record of time and events, and places so that a sense of accountability and closure is shared among our community. The emotional devastation of the language shift still shadowing our schools, community and within the boundaries of our Navajo Nation must be heard. Is this a cause working against change within our schools? The question that lingers within is, are we truly equal? As a citizen of America, are we truly free?

Within the classroom, the historical timeline of the Dine is taught to even our youngest of children. Our Dine history is oral based starting from colonization therefore to create a library of historical resources to support its finding in Dine would be a start to greater possibilities. Immersion classrooms across the Navajo Nation hunger for bilingual texts, resources and material. A library of historical resources would be a magnificent starting point to embrace change. The curricular unit will not only help provide insight but provide a sense of structure to what I would like to create, a historical framework that will scaffold critical thinking among our students to look beyond westernized textbooks and open doors to their local resources. By reading narratives and interviewing people who experienced the change first-hand through, the use of their language and cultural upbringing. Let us begin this journey by first understanding our background information through the use of the Arizona State Standards.

Arizona State Standards

The State Board of Education in Arizona has adopted the Arizona Academic Standards as a framework that follows specific grade level educational standards in the area of math, reading, writing, social studies, science, physical education, art and foreign language. Students in kindergarten through twelfth grade are measured through the Arizona Instrument for Measuring Standards Dual Purpose Assessment (AIMS DPA) assessment tool designed to measure individual student intellect in specific subject areas indicating growth. The assessment tool defines exactly what students of Arizona need to know at each grade level and need to know before graduating from that particular institution so that they have the college readiness skills to succeed. The Arizona Standards are formatted so that there are three key areas. First, you have the overall definition of the strand (Example: Strand 3: Civics/Government). Second, you have the concepts indicating specifically what is targeted (Example: Concept 4: Rights, Responsibilities, and Roles of Citizenship-The rights, responsibilities and practices of United States citizenship are founded in the Constitution and the nation's history) . Third, beneath each concept you have a list of performance objectives that further defines the concept to be taught (Example: PO 3. Identify traits of character (e.g., honesty, courage, cooperation, respect, trustworthiness, responsibility, citizenship) that are important to the preservation and improvement of democracy.). With these identified performance objectives educators are now able to use these objectives as a guide to what must be taught throughout the school year.

The Arizona Department of Education also requires that each school align the state standards with the school's district curriculum. The state board of education then makes sure that each school (public or charter) in the state of Arizona is held accountable for a standards-based curriculum, standards-driven materials used toward instruction and a tool to evaluate and ensure that teachers are teaching to the standards. Each subject area has several strands of performance objectives to be taught. Objectives to be taught per subject area may vary from fifty to seventy-five depending per subject. Therefore concepts are divided into quarters so that all performance objectives are taught throughout the school year. By late April of each school year all students in 3 rd-12 th grade are assessed using the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards. Results of AIMS scores are then analyzed and this determines if schools across Arizona have met their yearly goal of making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

Teachers are also now going to be evaluated using an evaluation tool that measures teaching effectiveness in and out of the classroom. As an added incentive to ensure that standards are being met and integrated in classroom instruction, highly qualified teachers are given classroom site funds in four areas of instructional gain. With the passing of Proposition 203, the new English-Only law, Arizona also mandates that all schools across Arizona, including the Navajo Nation, prohibit ethnic studies programs. This change also includes immersion schools and therefore has made a tremendous negative impact on the target language of instruction at our school.

One important note about the Arizona State Standards in the area of social studies is that the standards lean more toward westernized history such as the Mayflower and the Boston Tea Party rather than the historical perspective the Dine share through oral stories. This leaves an erasure in history for the Dine prior to the sixteenth centuries because there is no written record. Through our standards, school curriculums are planned so that instruction follows per specified objective. This document has no mention of Arizona's diverse cultures nor does it have standards that teach any part of Native American history or government. For this reason our immersion school integrates the Navajo Nation Cultural Standards into its school curriculum as another means of bridging the gap between two histories. This brings us to the next vital resource used in supporting curriculums in immersion schools, the Navajo Nation standards.

Navajo Nation Standards

Another important resource in the Navajo Nation that is used within our immersion school is the Office of Dine Education, which offers the Navajo Nation Cultural Standards in the area of Dine Character Building, Dine Culture, Dine Government and Dine History Standards. This office promotes and offers its services to reservation Head-Start Programs, schools, colleges and universities on the Navajo Nation to integrate the Dine Culture and Language into instructional practices used within the schools on the Navajo Nations. The department offers assistance to schools in need of help in promoting Dine Language and Culture by recommending ways to integrate the cultural standards in school curriculums, assessments and cultural based activities. Unlike the Arizona State Standards, the Navajo Nation Cultural Standards were created specifically to target Dine students. These standards are also provided for Kdg-12 th grade classrooms. Here is an example of one of the K-3 rd Dine History Standards:

"PO 4:. Adoone'e nishlinigii bee k'e dishniigo binahji' shik'ei ei sheedahosin dooleel."

I will name my four clans in such a way that I will be recognized appropriately by people related to me." (Navajo Nation History Standards)

Performance objectives in the Navajo Nation Standards are all written in the Dine Language first, then translated to English. This helps specify what is to be targeted. Because of the complexity of the Dine language, there is never a precise English translation. The standard's meaning is often more complex than it is translated in English. In this standard on clanship, for example, it can also be defined as identifying one's self to all beings of the world so that all animate objects, spiritual or universal have a form of relationship with you. For example, students may relate to earth as Mother Earth and sun as Father Sun. The Horned Toad is greeted as grandfather. In this way, all forms of life become a part of your greater family. For this matter, children are taught never to be scared or frightened, for they are constantly protected and among family.

Standards such as these are geared toward emphasis on the promotion of the Dine Language and Culture and for this purpose Tsehootsooi Dine Bi'olta' (Navajo Immersion School in Fort Defiance, Arizona) utilizes this framework to coincide with the Arizona State Standards. Though the Navajo Nation Standards are accepted and provided to all Navajo Nation Schools, the State of Arizona has not adopted the Navajo Nation Standards as one of its resources for Native Americans. Therefore schools utilizing the Navajo Nation Cultural Standards must use creative ways to integrate both standards without changing the overall learning objective. With these two standards available, we now focus on the school that utilizes them.

Window Rock School District

The Window Rock Unified School District is a state public school on the Navajo Reservation that still is required to meet all mandates set by the state of Arizona. Within the Window Rock Unified School District there are seven sister schools. There is Sawmill Elementary, Tse Ho Tso Elementary, Window Rock Elementary, Tsehootsooi Dine Bi'olta', Tsehootsooi Middle School, Scouts Academy and Window Rock High School. All schools except for Tsehootsooi Dine Bi'olta' are English-only schools. Tsehootsooi Dine Bi'olta' is the only immersion school within the district that was planned to be taught in Dine. For this purpose, previously the WRUSD had two types of curricula within the district: a curriculum that would meet the needs of the mainstream English-only schools and another curriculum designed to meet the needs of the Immersion Program. At this time, immersion teachers in Kdg-8 th grade collaborated among grade levels to integrate a culturally based curriculum that supported the revitalization and maintenance of the Dine Language and Culture. Due to incoming mandates and the press on accountability, the WRUSD created one uniform curriculum for all seven schools in 2011-2012.

The creation of the Tsehootsooi Dine Bi'olta' Cultural Based Curriculum which was created by fluent Navajo speakers, traditionally knowledgeable teachers and, above all, certified immersion teachers with years of experience teaching in the immersion setting, was filled with rich culture and language relevant to Dine students. The continuous revision over the past eight years that was dedicated to meeting the needs of the Dine and creating a curriculum guide aligned with National Standards has been pushed aside and has been replaced with one district-wide curriculum anchored for English-only students to meet the expectations set by the State of Arizona. Though students, parents, teachers and school administration have the vision of an exemplary immersion school, state mandates beyond our control continually affect our school. Western progress toward an English-only uniform education is and will always be ten steps back for the Native American culture and schools such as Tsehootsooi Dine Bi'olta'. The silent impact of cultural genocide will always remain within the boundaries of our nation and impact those whomatter most: our immersion students.

Tsehootsooi Dine Bi'olta'

The Navajo school among the meadows as many community members know it to be, is also known as Tsehootsooi Dine Bi'olta'. The school is known across the country- for meeting Adequate Yearly Progress three years in a row and for the Dine speaking students out-performing English-only schools on AIMS DPA assessments. The Navajo Immersion School in Fort Defiance, Arizona, is located 7 miles away from the Navajo Nation capital in Window Rock, Arizona. It is one of many immersion schools on the Navajo Nation that began in 1986 during the Dine language movement. Through the concerns and wishes of the community, a survey was conducted in Fort Defiance with a high number of parents wanting a language/culture program within their community. Results showed true and the planning of the immersion program took root.

During this time of implementation, the children of the community who enrolled entered the school speaking and understanding the Dine language. This meant that out of a group of twenty students, eighteen came into the classroom fluently speaking Dine and only one student came in as a non-speaker. Fluency and conversational language was still very much intact and flourishing among the community and within the homes of these children. Though the program was placed in two separate schools surrounded by English-only classrooms, evidence of academic achievement was remarkably showing. Students in the immersion program were showing higher scores on the AIMS assessment. Parent involvement was constantly high, student scores were increasing and the students were progressing in the academic language. Continued positive progress in student achievement is what led to the decision that the two programs be brought together and a school be formed. This was the birth of Tsehootsooi Dine Bi'olta' (Dine Immersion School).

For the next three years Tsehootsooi Dine Bi'olta' was making headlines all over the Navajo Nation. For the first time, an immersion school where all academic subjects were taught in the target language was meeting AYP mandates with unbelievably high scores. Compared to the other five schools within the district, the regular mainstream English-only schools, TDB students scored higher on the AIMS DPA state mandated assessments. Not only were test scores high, parent involvement was sky rocketing, discipline was never an issue and absenteeism was at its all-time low. Visitors from all over the country began coming to the school, wanting to know the model, foundation, and curriculum used to create such success.

Once you walked through the doors you would first see a sign stating, "Please leave your English outside." In the school, Dine writing would fill the halls and classrooms and the environment was engulfed with rich Dine text. The songs, prayers, and academics were all being spoken in Dine and the words vibrated through the halls. Through the intercom you would hear the school personnel speaking Dine and teachers conversing in Dine. From the classroom to afterschool tutoring, intervention classes to enrichment classes, school workshops to professional development, Dine language was everywhere. The environment created and supported the Dine child so much that self-identify was glowing throughout the nation.

Today, in 2012, after the adoption of Proposition 203, the state regulates certain mandates that work against language and culture in schools. The English-only law resulted in educational change in the form of low test scores, lack of parent involvement, lack of student interest in school, high absenteeism, high student transfers and low morale. As of today, one hundred percent of enrollees entering kindergarten are now fluent English speakers and none, not even one, is a native speaker of Dine. This is where the importance of a culturally based curriculum becomes essential. Language is like a plant, without the proper seed, the proper care and nurturing, nothing will take place and the plant will fail to thrive.

Dine Language

You may ask, well why are we focusing on language when the topic is Citizenship? The Dine way of life is instilled within the language. The Diné language itself is intertwined and weaved together with culture, history, origin and holistic way of thinking. One cannot take away the other without losing its meaning. The Diné language is a sacred language which is a representation of who you are and, where you come from and is an identification factor to the deities of our Diné culture. Without the language we have no culture, without culture we have no home, without a home we lose our family, our connection to the land; without family we are lost. Self-identity becomes erased, cultural genocide ensues. For this purpose it is important to teach through the language and culture because the language is the language of the Holy People. With this knowledge, we now look at a way to integrate the culture into the lesson.

Integrating Language and Culture into our school using the Design and Delivery Approach

The WRUSD and Tsehootsooi Dine Bi'olta' follows the Design and Delivery of Engaging Lessons format for lesson planning. This format requires approaching a lesson so that lessons are scaffolded to the highest order of thinking. By first identifying the student-friendly learning objective, target questions at a level of low, middle and high are created so that student thinking levels are increased throughout the entire lesson. Lesson components are designed so that the teacher builds upon prior knowledge first and then guides students toward acquiring new knowledge. With the prior and new knowledge gained, students are then given the opportunity to apply their thinking skills to real world applications. In closing out the lesson, the teacher summarizes and generalizes key components of the lesson so that students have a sense of closure. Formative and summary assessments are also used to measure student growth throughout the lesson.

Content Objective

My objective with this unit is to bring rigor into the classroom by establishing questions that provoke higher order thinking, analytical discussions and verbal analogies that require inductive/deductive reasoning in the area of Dine History through the medium of the Dine Language. Therefore I have used the Higher Order Thinking verbs within my objectives to scaffold my curriculum unit so that one may lead into the next. The following are objectives per lesson leading to one complete unit on citizenship. Depending on the grade level and ability of the students, duration of lesson should take from a day to a week. This will carry out the unit to little over a month to complete. (Example: Lesson 1 = 1.)

  1. Students will identify her/his four maternal and paternal clans .
  2. Students will identify and construct a model to depict the origin of maternal clan.
  3. Students will analyze the Treaty of 1868 and the Declaration of Independence.
  4. Students will propose and theorize a solution to Native American narratives that examine how Native American students dealing with the struggles of citizenship.
  5. Students will determine reasoning of personal upbringing and evaluate where history has made great impact on their personal self as a Citizen of the Navajo Nation and the United States of America. From this they will then proclaim citizenship and take on the responsibilities as citizens.

Essential Questions

Each lesson will have essential questions that will allow students to discuss the topic, stories, narratives, video clips and/or interviews. The essential questions are divided into three tiers, level one being low, level two being middle and level three being high. These levels or target questions are devised to help scaffold analytical thinking to take place.

  • Haash doone'e nili? What are your maternal and paternal clans?
  • Doone'e nilinigii la haadee' yit'ih? What is the origin of your maternal clan?
  • Naaltsoos Sani 1868 yeedaa' hadiilyaa yee' ananidleeh nidoo'niidgo, haa'igi la lahgo at'eego anidiidliil? Ei doo dago biihdiidzo?
  • What does being a citizen of America mean to you?
  • Sa'ah Naaghai Bik'eh atiin ish bik'ehgo yinaal? Do you consider yourself to walk freely in the beauty way of life? What can we do to get us back on the right path?
  • If you were to recreate the Treaty of 1868, what would you have done differently for your people so that they are equal citizens of the United States of America?

Teaching Strategies

The curriculum unit is designed for the immersion student. Essential questions will be asked in Dine as will the discussions that take place. In order to incorporate higher order thinking skills and analytical discussions, prior knowledge and clarity of content is essential. Students need a variety of ways to comprehend fully what is to be discussed. Here is a quick summary of the lessons so that you see an overall connection between the lessons. (This connection in vocabulary will help become the prior knowledge in the next lesson.)

Lesson One will cover the importance of clanship and how this transfers over to relationship, acceptance and belonging to a bigger group. Understanding the vocabulary of "relationship," "acceptance" and "belonging" is very important because this will help define the role of citizenship in lessons 3, 4 and 5.

Lesson Two will focus on the stories of how the four clans originated and what defines the characteristics of that particular clan group. This will help foster prior knowledge and give the student a sense of which clan group they belong to and what similar characteristics they behold. It will also give them the responsibility of upholding the cultural teachings of the clan just as one upholds the responsibilities of the law. Again understanding the vocabulary; "belongs," "accepts" and "upholds" continue to carry through.

Lesson Three will consist of the Treaty of 1868 and the Declaration of Independence. Teachers will go over certain articles in the document that have an impact on students' future as citizens. This lesson will provide students with a sense of belonging to a greater group such as being included within a nation of people. This perception of being a part of a greater society and taking on greater roles will define the term "citizen." Vocabulary to be used will be united, upholding and abiding.

Lesson Four will provide a variety of narratives from not only the Dine nation, but other nationalities that share the common struggle in self-identity between two worlds. These resources will be in the form of literature, video clips and speeches so that a collection of scenarios that have taken place all over the nation is understood. The concept of "I struggled, I am left to take care of myself" should change to a perspective that "me" or "I" turns to "we"; that one person is not alone but a nation of people, from a variety of nationalities were impacted by this change as well. Vocabulary words we will focus on now are "united," "upholding," "adapting" and "accepting."

Lesson Five will conclude the unit through self-reflection on citizenship. How can we as female/male, as brother/sister, as neighbor/fellow citizens of a nations work together toward unity? Students will be provided with songs, poems and stories that originate from our cultural teachings of living in balance, in harmony and on the path of thinking through Sa'ah Naaghai Bik'eh Hozhoon.

By communicating thought and sharing personal experiences, narratives, documents and video clips students will begin to connect prior knowledge to acquired knowledge. Acquired knowledge then connects to real world application and cultural relevancy. For students to grasp and feel confident, they must be given support and positive direction through feedback. Remember that the target language is the top priority in an immersion setting, therefore stay in the language and never give in to any other language throughout your lesson. Visuals of vocabulary words must be provided. Use of hand gestures, facials, body movements, drawing pictorials all help aid the visual learner.

Lesson One – Importance of Clanship

This introductory lesson will help students identify the relationship and role of the female and male gender within the structures of family and where the student ties into these roles. To understand prior knowledge, ask students what are the roles of the female and male gender. List these down using a t-chart labeled Female and Male. Next ask the question of the role of mother and father at home. Share some pictures and visuals of the home environment. What do you see your parents doing? What do you know of their responsibility as being female and male? Again, list these down as tier two above the female/male gender role, which would be tier one. Next ask the role of the grandparents. What does grandmother do? What does grandfather do? Again, list these down as tier three above mother and father. As you list down the role, you will find that there is a distinction in the two. T-chart will turn into the resemblance of a corn stalk with six ears, see worksheet-1. You will find that throughout the tiers the female plays a certain role in life as do the males. You will also find that there are stages in life (childhood, adult and elder) and through these stages the role takes on a more important task until soon you are a leader.

Through Dine society, all living and animate objects are balanced with a female and male entity within ones being. The Dine are a matrilineal and matriarchal society, the female, woman, mother, grandmother is considered the head of the household. The male, the man, father, grandfather is considered the protector, provider, the cultural wise man, a medicine man.

The female role is to know the way of life, to celebrate the first breath, first laugh, first step, the puberty ceremony of rite of passage to womanhood and on to the unity of two, marriage and old age. The female is the keeper of the home, owner of the land and the one who keeps unity among the relations. She teaches nurturing, child rearing and all that involves family. She is responsible to instill the teachings of harmony and to create balance between the social, physical, intellectual and spiritual inner being. She holds the responsibility of her clan and their clanship roles.

The male role is to be the provider, the hunter, the seeker of wisdom. He is the one who protects the home and protects all that is sacred. He is seen as a warrior and a person who seeks truth. The male role is to discipline patience, endurance, prayer, songs, leadership and above all holistic thinking. He is responsible in teaching the Enemy Way of Life so that all things are kept sacred and in that way continued to the next generation.

It is recognized that every person has a part of them that is female and male. The Dark Wind which is male and Dawn Wind which is female. It is through this that the holistic thinking of Sa'ah Naaghai Bik'eh Hozho (Reverence, Harmony and Beauty) comes for the people of the Dine. It is through this way of thinking that makes our culture a critical component to our way of life. This is why we are still here, this is the only thing keeping us from fully blending into Western society, our Dine language is our identity.

Throughout this lesson, students may gather pictures of their mother, father, maternal grandfather and paternal grandfather. At this time, you will ask your students to identify who they are through clan. What are their four clans, who are their parents and what makes them who they are. If students do not know the answer, which many students will not, have them go home and ask their parents. The important objective is to connect yourself with the ties to others-you are your mother, father, grandparents. You carry on the genetic genes from the main women from these individuals, the features and the bloodline. Self-reflection must take place, discussion among the family must come to self-realization that you are not thinking for only yourself but your actions are a representation of your family.

Lesson Two - Clanship

Lesson Two will help students to understand further the meaning of clanship and the larger circle of kinship to the community. What is clanship? The Diné clan system has been around since the first four clans were set in place by the Holy People. These clans were originated to help identify the mother and where she comes from. The Dine are a matrilineal tribe. Each person is identified by who the mothers are (such as the biological mother, the fathers mother, the maternal grandmother and paternal grandmother) and these are identified through the four clans. It is through these four initial individuals that one will connect their relationship to others. A person may not necessarily be directly related through bloodline to a person of the same clan but are seen as distant relations therefore may be identified as the brother or sister to an individual. For this purpose, an individual may have several sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Clanship gives a sense of connecting to others. This may mean that a person who is not in any way a relative or distant family member, lives miles apart, can meet and call each other brother if they both have the same clan.

Through the clanship system, you will find that students are now relating to a bigger group of individuals. As we have started from the first four clans students will need to identify relationship to maternal and paternal family members by constructing a model, such as a family tree. Students will use a triangle to depict female and a circle to depict male. Starting from the maternal family, students will identify all aunts and uncles, their spouses and their children. Once identified, students will then need to label each relative according to kinship term (example: maternal aunt-shima yazhi, paternal aunt-shibizhi). Use following to help identify kinship;

  • Female- CircleMale - Triangle
  • Older Brother – shinaaiYounger Brother – shitsili
  • Older sister – shadiYounger Sister – shideezhi
  • Maternal Aunt – shima yazhiPaternal Aunt – shibizhi
  • Maternal Uncle – shiyaazhPaternal Uncle – Shizhe'e
  • Maternal Grandmother – shimasaniPaternal Grandmother – shinali
  • Maternal Grandfather – shicheiiPaternal Grandfather – shinali hastiin

The Dine clan system is so complex that even the female and male gender will relate to maternal and paternal family members differently. Such as a male greeting the mothers brother would say, shahastoi (my brother) and a female would say shiyaazh (my son).

When students have identified their family members they will then place each member in order of birth on family tree. Therefore, first born would be placed first, connected to their spouse if they have one and their children if any as well. Next, will be the second born and so on, until completion of family tree. As your students are creating their family tree, keep in mind that it is crucial that each person listed be identified by gender and to keep maternal and paternal aunts and uncles separate. For this reason, creating two separate family trees is important, one for maternal and the other paternal. As students identify each member, you will also remind students about the maternal clan and how all females on the maternal tree are of one clan and as such, you relate to all individuals with the same clan as your mother, also your mother or your aunt. All individuals with the same clan as your father's mother will also be related to you accordingly, thus creating a bigger group of relations. The teachings in Dine is that you never are to say, "I am alone" or "I have no family" for you have family all around you. Family is a strong bond, the foundation to k'e (kindship) and who you are, therefore, a great importance in the Dine value. Teachings of kinship help in the area of discipline, cultural knowledge, ties to relating oneself to the universe and has an impact on how you greet and present yourself as an individual to others.

Lesson Three - Treaty of 1868

Lesson Three will be a quick glimpse of Navajo history from the beginning of the first recorded document with Spaniards to the Treaty of 1868. Through this quick glimpse, it will help us understand some of the important events that led up the treaty of 1868 and why leaders of the Dine Tribe signed the treaty. First, we begin with the name, "Navajo." The term, "Navajo" is a name derived from the Spaniards, and is a degrading name to the Dine people.

A recorded observation of the Dine was in the seventeenth century August 1706, when Governor Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdez described the land in which the Dine lived. He saw them as mountain people and farmers as they lived amongst the mountains. The Dine people back then, lived as far as Taos Pueblo, Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Zuni, Rio Grande, along side the Colorado River and on westward near the Utah area. All of this, land had already been occupied by the Dine. Through three raids led in 1705 under Cuervo y Valdez's orders, the Dine were divided in all directions throughout Dinetah. This lead to a result of Dine expansion to all four corners of the region of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Though through territorial raids, not all Dine were taken captive and enslaved. One-third of the Dine people hid from the Spaniards in high regions of the mountains, canyons, cliffs, etc. It is these Dine who did not experience the Long Walk who did not carry out the agreement of the treaty.

Those who were captured had no choice but to be a part of the Long Walk for they knew if they hid, they would not survive one winter. Kit Carson also known as Rope Thrower to the Dine, had troops destroy everything in their path. Navajo hogans were burnt to the ground, crops destroyed, livestock shot, water wells contaminated and anything that could potential keep the Dine alive abolished. Families had nothing and only walked away with what they had in their hand at the moment of attack. Among the many who surrendered they were then told to walk over hundreds of miles to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Through this walk many endured sickness, hunger and fatigue that several did not survive the walk. Women who were pregnant had a hard time keeping up with the group as were the elders who needed assistance. Any person who slowed down the group was brought to the side and shot immediately, leaving only those that had strength to continue the walk. People walked with only what they were left and this was usually only the clothes on their backs and being merely barefoot. With only this they had to endure the harsh winters, freezing nights and mountainous terrain. Due to weather conditions and poor treatment many got sick and were again left behind to die. Very few of the Dine people lived through the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo, for this reason many elders do not discuss the walk. As the walk was occurring, there were still many bands of Dine who still had not been captured nor surrendered. These bands hid deep in the Canyons and mountains, never having to experience Bosque Redondo.

What is Bosque Redondo? Bosque Redondo, otherwise known as "Hweeldi" to the Dine is located in the state of New Mexico southeast of Albuquerque. It is the place where the Dine people were captivated for years before their release back to Arizona. The Bosque Redondo area was located in a wide plain area that had poor soil, lack of vegetation and completely bare of any use. Given no shelter or food, families had to make due with what they could. Many lived in brush covered holes and gathered what little sticks they could to build a descent shade house. Living conditions were poor and food was even worse. Americans had given them flour and coffee beans to eat but because the Dine did not know what they were or how to use them, they got very sick and died. The Pecos River itself was also the water source for the Dine and brought on sickness. The people grew hungry and many were now in rags. For years the Dine lived this way and many died.

Americans at this time did not know the amount of Dine people out there and the amount they were going to bring to Bosque Redondo. For them, this was too many people and they too did not know how to handle the situation. By 1867, American leaders began fearing that they had made a mistake in bringing the people to Fort Sumner. They called out to Dine leaders in hopes of solving the problems that occurred and it was through this that the hope to return home began among the people. Pueblo homes were built for the Dine but due to traditional teachings many would not live in it. Food was handed out but this still did not feed all the people. The structure in which the Americans wanted the Dine to live was not working and created only despair among the two. It was in the year of 1868 that General Sherman came and looked at the living conditions of the Dine. He saw hungry families, sickness everywhere and unimaginable living conditions that he asked to meet with the Dine leaders. He met with Barboncito, a Dine leader who was chosen by the people to speak on behalf of the people about the conditions at Bosque Redondo. Barbocito spoke about many issues relating to the Dine, the many that died, the many that were captured and taken away, the way of their Dine lifestyles and asked to only have all of this people return home to the four sacred mountains. It is with this that General Sherman agreed to have the Dine return home. Sherman took out a map and stated that it would be marked that within the Navajo boundaries the Navajo (Dine) would live forever. With this said, Navajo leaders signed the Treaty of 1868 and were released from captivity.

Over eight thousand Dine people started the walk home without hesitation. Upon the first sight of the tip of Mount Taylor, (one of the four sacred mountains) the Dine fell to the earth as happiness filled their hearts once more. Tears of joy fell and the songs of happiness filled the air, the Dine people were finally home.

Lesson Four – Narratives of Nationalities on Citizenship

America. What is America in your perspective? As people we have come far to become an American Citizen. If you were born in America, you are an American citizen, some of us are also Navajo Nation citizens. As Dine, people see things from two perspectives because we are Navajo Nation citizens and American citizens. Is there an underlying difference between the two? Is there a priority in which role comes first? Do we say that we are Navajo Nation citizens first, then American citizens? Or are we American citizens first because of the official document accepted by all people, the Declaration of Independence? We have all endured obstacles for a greater purpose but does this mean that our purpose is everyone's achievement? At most times our elders saw the positive side of a negative situation. For example, our former tribal council delegate Sam Gorman, gives us an understanding that lessons can be learned from hardship. As a young man, Gorman fought against education, he ran away, he didn't want to learn, nor did he care for the system. Today, he fights for education, he knows after living a life with very little education that without education, we would be helpless. Gorman illustrates that like a bird we have the choice to fly, or not to fly but it is the hand that controls that fate. What is that fate? Gorman states in 1953,

"A bird that is in the hand has had his wings cut off and cannot fly around like a bird should that has nothing wrong with its wings. Education is like that. The man who does not have education is one who cannot get anywhere, like his wing is cut off and he cannot fly around. It is the man who had an education who can get about freely like a free bird." 1

There are citizens of all types in our great nation. We have people who will fight for us and those who will fight against us, thinking that it is the right thing to do, not necessarily to cause despair. Others may think that they are fighting for the good of the nation but don't really realize the underlying impact of their decisions. Decision-making and leadership comes with being a citizen. Such as Lilly Neil in her 1947 letter to Mr. Beatty regarding the type of education Native Americans are given.

"…To be sure our White instructors are trying to get our Native language taught in school along with English, and confusing our little children, but will this fulfill their part in our treaty, even if they do succeed in getting our little ones to speak Navajo the broken White Mans way, Will this qualify our children to compete with their White Brothers? Positively No." 2 "[sic]"

Though her intentions are good, what is her overall purpose? As individuals we all have a responsibility to contribute back to society. If this may be within our families, our community or our nation, the responsibility to do good for the betterment of all still exist. Through Dine teachings, it is the success of the third generation within your family that you are seen as successful. In other words, it is through your grandchildren and there success, that you will be seen as succeeding. For this purpose, the Dine strive toward long term goals and view things so that unity among all people prevail.

Lesson Five – The Proclamation of Citizenship

As citizens we all have rights and responsibilities to uphold what is just. Just as we have responsibilities in the home, a brother is a care-taker of his younger sister, a father is the provider of his family and a grandfather teaches you ways of wisdom. These are examples of ways we take on responsibilities when we are a part of a family, or a group of people.

As citizens we also have rights. Our rights are written in the Declaration of Independence and within the Treaty of 1868. As citizens it is your obligation to learn, understand and abide by these rights. Nelson Etcitty a citizen of the Navajo Nation, used this knowledge to voice his rights as a citizen. Etcitty states in 1922 to Mr. Statcher,

"I HAVE as much rights to protect & defend my character as any one else & have lived up to the laws of the United States-I have & shall continue so on-I am courteous to every body-you included-The Indians you spake of you said did not like you because you disapproved of certain things like medicine men etc- That is not their reason at all. You do not understand the Indians or have their words interpreted correctly- its not two or three Indians but hundred who are dis-satisfied-They are all willing to learn & try to live & do right-If they have a chance." (Pg 131)

We all have rights, but it is through these rights that we must consider how we carry them out and live by them. The Treaty of 1868 may have ended many wars against the Dine but does not necessarily mean that the struggle to be Dine has ended. Each person, each ethnic group, every citizen has a right to be the unique individuals they are. Take what America has to offer you and build upon your knowledge, understand that you are a leader of today and that you too only need to be heard.


Ihimaera, Witi Tame. The whale rider. Orlando: Harcourt, 2003. Print.

Fontaine, Theodore. Broken circle: the dark legacy of Indian residential schools : a memoir. Surrey, B.C.: Heritage House, 2010. Print.

Walters, Anna Lee. Talking Indian: reflections on survival and writing. Ithaca, N.Y.: Firebrand Books, 1992. Print.


Iverson, Peter. For our Navajo people: Dine? letters, speeches & petitions, 1900-1960. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002. Print.

McNeley, James Kale. "Holy Wind Before Emergence." Holy wind in Navajo philosophy. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press, 1981. 7-13.

McNitt, Frank. Navajo wars; military campaigns, slave raids, and reprisals. [1st ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1972.


  1. 1. Peter Iverson, Ed. For Our Navajo People; Dine Letters , Speeches & Petitions 1900-1960.(Albq, NM, University of New Mexico Press, 2002), Pg 95
  2. 2. Peter Iverson, Pg 105

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