Microbiome within the Circle of Life

byJolene Smith


This curriculum is a fifth grade science unit and can be taught in a general education or in an English Language Learning (ELL) classroom. I have taught an ELL for the past three years and have had 100% Navajo students in my classroom. My school district is on the Navajo reservation in the northeastern part of Arizona. The district has three schools, an elementary, middle and a high school. There are less than 2,000 students in the district with 99% Navajo student population and 70% qualify for free and reduced lunch. The school is located in a rural area and some of the students travel about fifty miles to get to school.

My curriculum unit includes the Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards – English Language Arts 3–5 which integrates History, Social Studies and an emphasis on Science and the Diné Culture. It covers the course of four weeks for approximately fifty-five minutes a day. The science portion encompasses bad microbes and bacteria that hinder an individual from walking the path of harmony (hozho) within the Circle of Life.

Also, the Diné Standards includes the Science, Social Studies and Health focusing on healthy self, disease prevention, culture and lifestyle, and identifying and avoiding potential hazards and situations. Although, this unit will be created for Navajo students, I hope other classrooms will be able to use the unit to integrate cultures from other tribes or ethnicities.

Two bacteria and virus illnesses that infected the majority of the Diné population during the early 1900's and into the 1950's were tuberculosis (bacillus), and influenza (RNA virus), two major diseases that impacted the Navajo population. These varied and dispersed sicknesses were a wake-up call to the U.S. government, who needed to recruit military doctors that were willing to reside on the desolate reservation and to treat sick Indians. These Anglo doctors had to learn the culture of the Diné people because the majority of the Diné did not readily visit the government clinics or hospitals. These doctors eventually trained young Navajo men and women to become Community Health Representatives (CHR) to convince sick Navajos to visit the local clinics. I will teach bacteria and viruses in depth to my students, as the background knowledge which is displayed on various charts on my classroom walls.

The human body has billions of microbes within and on the body. These good and bad bacteria and viruses help keep the body in check balancing when an individual is following the natural goal of living a long life. In the Diné traditional culture there is such a concept of living a long healthy life. The Circle of Life is a daily and long life concept our culture utilizes to stay on the circle path. Students need to know and use the Circle of Life concept because it connects to their past generation and history, present day life, and lives of their future children and grandchildren.

The Circle of Life is an intangible concept used in comparison to other concrete resources like the Navajo basket (t'saa'), the traditional Navajo home (Hooghan), our sand paintings (iikaah), jewelry (yodi naalyei), flags and seals (danaat'aa), and our Mother Earth (Nihima aszaan). These resources have the circle path, cardinal directions, and the sacred colors with sections. These circle illustrations are compared to the Circle of Life diagram created on charts paper which are visible in the classroom. I am able to refer back to the Circle when I teach the history of the influenza and the tuberculosis outbreaks in relation to the micro-biome in the human body. Every action of a person connects to their whole body, even to the microbes. Breathing, giving birth, death, defecation, the raising and consumption of food, these and almost everything else that a human being thinks, says, or does, are, in a sense, "scared" acts.¹

After the Circle of Life visual input, I will present the basics of microbes by explaining the three domains of life (Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukaryotes). Then I will focus on bacteria and viruses and how they connect to the micro-biome, and to influenza (RNA virus) and tuberculosis (bacillus) diseases. The history of how bacteria and viruses infected and affected world and local (Diné Reservation) populations, and understanding how the different epidemics and pandemics impacted these populations through time are keys for learning about microscopic life. Students are able to see the tuberculosis history and the effect of the disease on the reservation compared to the U.S. nation, and how a Diné woman (Annie Wauneka) took the initiative to help her people during the 1930's and into the 1950's with her tuberculosis campaign.

Finally, my unit focuses on what research medicine is doing today with influenza and tuberculosis preventive medicines, and with educating the public. This is when I want my students to think about progressive changes that have happened since the 1900's to today. Are these changes beneficial, or do they hurt our people in terms of culture and keeping up with the rest of society? Our students need to begin to think about how they can help by considering areas in the medical field of study they would like to pursue. My students are in the fifth grade and they need to begin to think about what they would like to do to prepare them for the future. Many of our high school graduates are pursuing the medical field because within our local town a hospital is currently in construction. Not only hospital, also dialysis clinics, rehab treatment centers, and diabetic clinics are established.


There are several objectives I would like my students to know when they complete this unit. I would like for them to know and use the concept of the Circle of Life in terms of daily living cultural practices and how does the circle assist them during a health crisis when bacteria or viruses enter the population. What they can do as an individual and how they can assist others to stay on the circle path. Most importantly is to have them take away from the unit an enduring understanding that the Circle of Life will be useful when incorporating the concept into any topic area of learning.


The Circle of Life

The concept of the Circle of Life has been a traditional oral teaching that has been taught from generation to generation. Depending on what part of the Navajo reservation you come from the specific intricacies of the Circle will vary. I will explain the basics of the Circle and briefly explain another culture, the Tibetan Circle, and how the two have similar concepts and culture.


The universal model of the circle of the spirit is central to all Tibetan mandala. 2 There are four rings of protection and each with detail images. The outer ring is in a form of a rainbow with colors of blue, yellow, orange-red, and dark green with a bit of white. This ring is called the Mountain of Fire and is a fire that burns forever. The next inner ring is like a fence with thunderbolt scepters. The scepters are used for exorcism and to purify the mind to control the powers of evil. The third ring is used for fierce power and represents the charnel area where bodies are cut up and offered to birds symbolizing a sky burial. The fourth ring contains rows of lotus petals. This is the boundary to the deity's palace to prepare for enlightenment and clear mind to enter the center.

After the four rings, we moved into the center and here are the giant thunderbolt scepters which are envisioned floating in space above the mountain. The four tantric symbols are in the cardinal directions resembling the Buddha families. Then toward the very center is center wheel woven spokes like a dream catcher's web design. The spokes have the eight wheels of spiritual teachings. Or it will show a white-bodied deity, the One Who Makes Things Visible (Nampa Nangdze/Vairochana), who is bathed in the clear white light of unstained awareness. 3

The four cardinal directions and the center are the psychophysical, enlightened wisdom associated with the Buddha families. The east is the mirror-like wisdom meaning the mind is ever changing and the Tibetans view it as empty of form or existence. This is why the mirror is a reflected light in the form a thunderbolt and the east is the white light of dawn. The south represents the connecting with other beings and awareness of each other. To extend heartfelt feelings is spreading the warm rays of the sun over the fields. Within this part of the inner circle it gives powers of wisdom, which are like flaming jewels. The jewels are the emblems for the south.

The west is the wisdom of thoughts and perception to attain the mind in a state of peace and quiet like the sunset. This clear mind and thought symbolizes the lotus flower. The north is the wisdom of powerful actions but free of negative thoughts. The north is great power, danger, and protection. The sword is the emblem from the North's great force.

The center to the total of all the wisdoms is the central hub. It is the collaboration of other wisdoms and their purified energy. It is the total balance of the Buddha families. The aspects of the mind and energy are connected with individual's movement within the rings and the inner circles.


There are limited publications about the Circle of Life and many of the references are oral teachings taught from across generations by traditional Navajo elders. Bridging the Circle context with the concept of microbes is a new frontier in teaching Diné students.

The Diné cultural aspect of my curriculum will be the concept of the Circle of Life which symbolizes portions of the day, seasons of the year, or components of daily life or from birth to old age like a circular timeline segmenting the cardinal directions beginning at the east and ending at the north. The circular parts of the circle are divided into equal quadrants the four colors, four mountains, eight symbols of paraphernalia (feathers, flint, or stones) connecting to the seasons and growth stages, representations and self-planning for one day or for long life. The sequence is important and needs to follow the sun path going clockwise; to go counter clockwise is going against the sun and illness and madness like whirlwind and cyclones will create bad outcomes. On a large white chart paper I will outline the four-corner states (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico) then sketch the Navajo reservation within the four states. Each component will be drawn with details of the mountains (Mount Blanca-Tsisnaasjini', Mount Taylor-Tsoodzil, San Francisco Peak-Doko'oosliid, and Mount Hesperus-Dibé Nitsaa) colors, and the representations like feathers, flint, color stones, and the rainbow, beginning with the east following the circle into the north.

Mount Blanca-Tsisnaasjini' is the eastern (ha'a'aah) mountain and it represents the male being. The east is known as the beginning dawn (a new day) and guiding light of life like the beginning of spring. The color of the mountain is crystal white shell which represents positive thoughts and intelligence. This is when you get up early and face the east to think and plan (nahat'a) your first thoughts for the day using corn pollen to pray to the holy beings. Mount Blanca is adorned with symbols representing its character. The lightning bolt representation holds the mountain onto Mother Earth. The two feathers (white and black) are purity and gentleness. As I explain the eastern portion of the circle I will use examples of my thoughts for the day of my morning routine at home then to my classroom. The planning for the teaching day like my lesson plans, student agendas, daily schedule, the school and classroom rules of academic and behavior conduct connecting to the initial part of the day. The students will share their examples of how they begin their early morning rituals from the time they get up, to riding the bus, entering the school cafeteria, and finally into the classroom.

Mount Taylor-Tsoodzil, is the south (shádi' ááh) mountain and it represents the male being which has power and authority over the sky and moisture for the summer. This is when living energy is in full growth at midday and life (iina) and learning is acted upon. The adorning symbols that represent the mountains are turquoise stone and the flint. The blue stone turquoise represents health and positive learning which is important when more thoughts of learning expand and to caution the language of the tongue (nizaad). The flint holds the mountain onto the earth to symbolize youth, leadership, and strength. This part of the day is when students are learning productively, intensively and engaged about the content, topic, and skills. In an English Language Learning (ELL) class vocabulary, grammar, reading and writing are the targeted contents. This is where integrated topics of science, social studies, health, and Diné standards are incorporated. Informing my students of the level of learning happening during and throughout the day will help them become constructive learners.

San Francisco Peak-Doko'oosliid, is the west (e'e'aah) mountain, it represents the female being and reaching adulthood, and gathering the thoughts. This is when assurance (sihasin) needs to strengthen and you begin to view the results of what you have accomplished. This is when maintaining strength when all conditions begin to cause an individual to wander or wane from the path and white corn prayers is offered for strength and assurance in body, mind, and spirit. The adorning symbols are the feathers, the abalone shell, and the sunbeam. The yellow and white feathers with the abalone shell symbolize autumn and evening twilight. The sunbeam holds the mountain onto the earth to sustain the physical strength. During the classroom instruction I will explain how sicknesses of bacteria and viruses will enter the body when the strength weakens and our defenses are low. For example it is when a student is still confused with a concept and the teacher needs to explain the concept again with specific strategies, more visuals, and more graphic organizers and sometimes explaining it in the language the student comprehends, to gain assurance.

Mount Hesperus-Dibé Nitsaa is the north (náhookës) mountain; it represents the female being and the reflection at the end of a day, or old age and winter. This is when reflections, accomplishments, attainments, and goals are completed. The thinking process (nitsáhákees) is represented with black and white feathers and the color jet black obsidian symbolizes self-awareness and to protect and guide. The rainbow beam holds the mountain onto the earth. In a classroom setting before the students leave for the day, they are asked to tell what they have learned and why is it important to them and how they can apply certain skills to home to benefit the family environment. I will create a question frame for my ELL students and they will be able to complete the task as homeschool connections. An individual can use this process at the end of a workday upon returning home or teachers can reflect upon their classroom day.

To maintain the balance of life is to follow the natural circle path of the sun. Striving to follow the established path is the foundation of Diné life and culture. Diné values are established from the connection with the natural world, including comprehension of the cardinal directions, the circle of life, four seasons, and the creation stories. The goal is to achieve the balance (hozhó) to complete our life cycle; then we have walked the right path and maintained our connection. Sometimes the path within the Circle of Life needs to be rebalanced in maintaining all conditions of the cycle of growth. When an individual, family, or clan falls or wanders from the path because of a taboo, sickness, or unforeseen circumstances the Circle is broken or withers. Sometimes the Circle will never be amended because of uncontrollable sickness like the pandemic influenza and the tuberculosis epidemic. The Diné people and Anglo-Americans cannot control or were not aware of such disease. It means to find hozho and quickly get back onto the path to restore harmony. (Figure 1)


Figure 1

Influenza pandemic

Of all the people in the Four Corners area affected by the disease, Native Americans—especially the Navajo—seemed to suffer the most. 4 When an event happens in nature the Diné heed the warning or omen meaning the signs of tragedy will begin. For example, on the 8 th of June 1918 a solar eclipsed occurred. The covering of the sun is a sign of anger. Navajos had bad dreams, the sky had reddish colors which redden the land and the tips of evergreen trees turned yellow and started to die. They knew something disastrous would happen. Medicine men stated the holy people sent the disease because of population growth; others blame World War I using poisonous gas fumes and filtered to the Diné people or the Diné soldiers returning home from the war. Whatever caused and brought the sickness, the Navajo people were not prepared.

The Navajo reservation has a large geographic area and there are many entry routes around the region. From the summer to winter camps and grazing areas Navajo families were mobile which made it difficult to find and pin-point the initial access of the flu sickness. The census relied on the traders within the area because Navajos gather at the trading post to trade for goods. There was a constant flow of Navajos seeking help for the sick and for burial. The famous John and Louisa Wetherill estimated in that by December 6, in Kayenta alone, he had buried over 100 Navajos. 5 The Franciscan fathers counted the number of students in the school, one school had 250 children infected with the flu and some schools were closed and quarantined.

The Navajo responses to this sickness were physical and spiritual ailments so two type of ceremonies were performed. Numerous ceremonies across the reservation were conducted, the Blessing Way (Hózhëójí) which encouraged, good health, and harmony prayers used. The other was the Evil Way (Hóchx'ëójí) to ward off evil and spirits of the dead. Medicine men were busy saving lives, praying, and singing for the sick. Various avenues were used to combat the illness like praying using various colors of cornmeal and pollen. Participating in a sweat bath (tácheeh) using external cleansing and spiritual prayers, and using juniper and sagebrush to wash and clean the body were used to remedy the illness. Even herbal remedies, healing pastes, and horse meat broth mixed with red ochre, were used to combat the sickness. To stay in a central place and to not move around visiting relatives were discouraged.

Although, many Navajo died from the influenza sickness, border towns like Bluff, Moab, and Cortez had sealed their town to quarantine or to avoid the sickness. No one entered or was allowed to leave the small towns. Nationwide, over half a million people died from the sickness. American Indians suffered more than the US nation, however. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) 24% of the Indians on the reservation caught the flu which is four times as many people, compared to the big cities. 6 The pandemic influenza virus of 1918 made its way into America by way of soldiers returning from the war and affected many people especially the ages between 20-30 years.

In my classroom I will create maps of the world, the U.S.A., and the Navajo nation for students to view the population impact of the pandemic sickness. The visual displayed maps will be used to compare and contrast the populations of the three maps creating a timeline and a graph to show the decline from when the pandemic started to the final stage. Students will generate various questions about the timeline and the graph as a class discussion and will summarize their findings.

The 1918 influenza virus

Influenza viruses are abbreviated according to the combination of hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) proteins on the virus exterior. These viruses can mutate (drift) to become another H or N type combination. Or, they can recombine (shift) H and N proteins that originated in viruses of avian or swine hosts, by swapping genetic information and becoming new variants. There were three major pandemics of human influenza A virus that occurred in 1918, 1957, and 1968. 7 During the 1918 pandemic, an estimated 20 to 50 million people died from the sickness. It was the most severe because it caused a traumatic decline in the population which hit in waves of three: in the spring, summer and winter. The human pandemic virus likely originated from an infected bird species that transmitted the virus to humans. The known viruses H5N1 and H7N7 had shifted or drifted into different types, like H1N1, H2H2, or H3H2 during the pandemics.

Like cold-causing rhinoviruses, influenza viruses manage to wreak their harm with just ten genes. 8 They are spread in the droplets that sick people release with their coughs, sneezes, and running noses. 9 An individual can breathe in a droplet from an infected person's sneeze or cough or touch an infected surface. When the virus enters the nostrils or the airway of the throat it will embed onto the cell lining, and then it will spread, attack, and destroy mucus and the cell lining that coats the throat. Once the protective layer is destroyed the virus pathogens enters the lungs, and create nasty infections that can be fatal. Usually the elderly and young with weak or inexperienced immune systems are prone to the sickness. But in flu pandemics, like in the 1918 outbreak, people with strong immune systems proved to be particularly vunerable. 10

The possible links between viruses that move from avian to human or swine to human, were not known during the 1918 influenza pandemic, and later became clear in the 1930's. This is when the viruses were studied in-depth and in isolation from pigs and later in humans. Still, the virus circulated continuously in humans and had undergone gradual virus genetic changes in pigs, which kept the epidemic on its course into the 1950's. When the new H2N2 (Asian flu) virus appeared, other viral descendants of the 1918 H1N1 strain disappeared completely from the viruses that were circulating in humans.

By the 1990s, scientists did not know and were still trying to understand why the waves of epidemic and pandemic virus had high or low fatality rates despite the abundant research conducted. Then in 1995, a scientific team identified archival influenza autopsy materials collected in the autumn of 1918 and began the slow process of sequencing small viral RNA fragments to determine the genomic sequence of 1 virus and partial sequences from 4 others. 11 These analyses have found the complete genomic sequence of the parent virus and partial sequences from the four other strands. Although, scientists conducted studies to find the genome origins, they still did not know the specific reason why a pandemic killed a lot of people with strong immune systems.

It is generally thought that most influenza epidemics develop in Asian countries and then spread to the rest of the world. Geographic origins of the flu pandemic waves that spread three times during 1918 to 1919 in Europe, Asia, and America are unknown. To pin-point exactly the specific geographic origin of the virus would have been senseless, not like sometimes shown in the movies. The criteria and attributes for the influenza disease were vague in 1918 so it was not reported. But in 1915 and 1916 the death rate from respiratory disease increased dramatically, and then dropped slightly in 1917, like a wave. The first pandemic influenza wave appeared in the spring of 1918, followed in rapid succession by much more fatal second and third waves in the fall and winter of 1918- 1919, respectively. 12 Scientists theorized that the adapted 1915 H1N1 virus was spreading and causing serious illnesses but not enough to cause a pandemic.

Historical data during the 16th century indicates that new influenza pandemics had appeared at any time of year. Scientists presumed the influenza viruses shifted and behaved differently when they found a vulnerable population. Eventually, viruses begin to drift genetically and a pattern of annual epidemic causes humans who survive the pandemic to become immune. A couple of centuries later in 1918-1919 the influenza pandemic emerged again. The first wave came in the spring, and spread through the U.S.A., and in countries in Europe, and most likely Asia. The sickness rate was high and the death rate was a bit above normal. The second wave hit in the fall and had very high fatality rate. Clinical similarities led contemporary observers to conclude initially that they were observing the same disease in the successive waves. 13 Researchers observed patterns of the three waves of pandemic, that the second and third waves usually the fall and winter waves were most severe and had more fatal cases.

They concluded that the reoccurrence and severity of the outbreaks had to do with viral drift (mutations) and variants which emerge approximately every two to three years. Drift happens when small mutational changes happen within a virus population over time. This is when the body' immune system does not recognize the new strand. This is the reason why people need to receive a flu shot because the flu virus changes when a person is infected with the flu virus again. The time and interval periods of the virus were speculated because various factors play a part like the immune capability of a person, the crowded indoor populations during the cold months, closed ventilation within an area, and the virus mutation rate. Usually, the effects of virus drift takes years to produce a new influenza strain then it will take months to circulate around the world. But the 1918-1919 virus strain was a unique pandemic because the virus was able to change rapidly within a year. Studies found from the 1918 pandemic are people infected and survived the first and second wave may have been protected from the third wave.

The pandemic of 1918 is a prominent and unique historical event our students need to know because the flu virus killed a lot of people globally. Our students need to know the national and global events and not just their surrounding reservation. What happens with viral epidemics and pandemics has hit the reservation, and will hit again in the future if we are not documenting and tracking the way viruses evolve through time.

After the flu influenza pandemic another sickness enters the reservation, the tuberculosis (bacillus) epidemic affected the Dine population in the 1930's and 1950's.


Tuberculosis is an infection caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis or tubercle bacillus. It spreads from person to person through the air as a person with active tuberculosis coughs, sneezes, or exhales air within your space. After a person becomes infected, the bacterium invades and controls the immune system. The infection becomes latent or confined. The bacteria spread out of control; this is when the infection becomes active. To the Diné people the disease is referred to as small little red unseen worms that eat your lungs. On the reservation the disease had affected nine to ten times higher proportions of the population than the national average proportion of those becoming ill. In 1953 Cornell University presented a report to the Navajo Tribal Council on tuberculosis and a new drug to treat the sickness. The new drug worked on certain Navajos who received it, but not all sick Diné people took the drug because they did not trust the government hospital managed by Anglo-Americans. There was a Navajo lady known as the "Woman with a Badge" who helped the sick patients survive the tuberculosis disease. Her name was Annie Dodge Wauneka.

On March 20, 1951, Annie Wauneka was elected and sworn into the Navajo Tribal Council in Window Rock. In 1953, the she announced to the council, "Doctors reported that the tuberculosis was killing Navajos like flies," Annie said. 14 Once she voiced her concerns about the disease, the Tribal Council voted her in as the chair of Health and Welfare of the Community Services Committee to deal with the tuberculosis problem. Annie had survived the 1918 flu pandemic and could not do a lot in helping the sick and dying when she was young. Now she saw an opportunity to help her people. She accepted the challenge of chair and committed her energy into tackling the tuberculosis problem for the next thirty years.

During her commitment Annie learned in depth knowledge about the disease working with doctors from Cornell University who presented to the Tribal Council again about their progress on the tuberculosis campaign. She explained and gave suggestions to the doctors the cultural aspects when a Navajo person is sick, stating "Tuberculosis, as you know it, most commonly affects a person's lung, but it can affect his brain and bone, his bowels and his kidneys." 15 She informed the doctors to look at the culture of the people you are healing. The Diné classify the disease as a symptom and not a cause. The troubles of bad dreams, breaking a taboo, spirits of the dead, encountering certain animals (snakes, bears, coyotes, or porcupines), and sickness are seen as disharmony in the body, mind, and spirit. A tree struck by lightning or gathering and using the wood from the tree is the cause of tuberculosis. This is when their circle path needs to get back in tune with the surrounding universe using religion, medicine, and songs. Annie wanted the doctors to understand that Western and Navajo medicine needed to work together to heal the people.

The doctor's method of sending sick Navajo patients to a far distance off the reservation hospitals to heal was not working. They were not happy with the progress because the patients failed to stay in the hospital until they were cured or families brought the sick family member home when the person was deadly ill. The records of a medical center showed within a year a total 343 tuberculosis patients were hospitalized and 230 died. Annie viewed the data and that Western medicine alone is not working. She had to do more, to educate herself about the disease. With only the background of an eleventh-grade, Annie studied for three months about tuberculosis, sanitation, analyzing sputum under a microscope and viewing X-rays under light. After learning about the disease, she traveled to the many off reservation hospitals to explain what she learned to the Navajo patients. She traveled to Colorado Springs, Tucson, to Valmora and Fort Stanton in New Mexico, and even to Los Angeles because the patients stayed at distant hospital for 3-5 years. Annie told the patients of the advantage of staying in the hospitals and to get better: "At home sometimes, you just eat fry bread and coffee, but here you get three big meals a day. The doctors give you wonderful new drugs. You sleep a lot and pretty soon you can go home cured." 16 She informed the patients that tuberculosis is not a white man's disease but it is everywhere around the world. On each of her trips to the various hospitals Annie would stay a week and she carried a bulky tape recorder so back home families could listen to their family member talk and to ensure the patient's livestock were taken care of and to stay in the hospital to get better.

Annie Wauneka came to be known as the 'Woman with a Badge.' There were no words in the Navajo language to explain the tuberculosis disease or the concept of germs, so she invented the phrase "bugs that eat the body (ajie dishjooli iil diihii)." After her extensive travels to visit many off the reservation hospitals, Annie and the Tribal Council convened with the doctors to discuss how the patients were progressing. The doctors were happy because the patients were showing improvements. Based on these results of improved health, the doctors reported that four hospitals will be built on the reservation - Tuba City, Fort Defiance, Sage Memorial in Ganado, and Winslow.

Although Annie's tuberculosis campaign showed progress there were still numerous sick Navajos who preferred to use the traditional medicine men herbalists. These healing men used the strongest herbs but it was no match to the disease and tuberculosis got them sicker and weaker. She had to find a way to partner the medicine man and doctors to work together to help the tuberculosis patients. She knew it would take a combination of tact, humor, compromise, and doggedness to convince her fellow Navajos that they should seek treatment, but she probably could not have predicted how long or hard she would have to work. 17 Annie traveled along, heading off into the back roads of the reservation to find these sick people. While traveling in remote areas, night shelter was not an issue. She stayed at the sick person's home and she insisted her water and cup boiled. Annie cared for her health as onlookers viewed her odd modern habits. As she modeled her personal health and explained the procedures of cleanliness in the home, Navajos began to use what she taught them.

An incident happened when Annie encountered a medicine man at a trading post. The medicine man stated he can cure tuberculosis sickness and the two debated the preference of traditional and Western medicine. Annie informed the medicine to bring all the items he needs to cure all the patients at the nearest hospital. She told him in ten days bring all your wares to cure, the sweathouses, big jars of sterile pinion gum, sterilize his equipment, and women to cook for the patients. The medicine man had thought of what was required of him. He reconsidered and informed Annie that he cannot cure tuberculosis. She inquired if other medicine men were able to heal the disease, he stated they cannot. Now, Annie was confident and creative to confront medicine men in public.

Annie went on to do more for her people. She had established a Health and Welfare Committee to treat other diseases, prevention, housing improvements, and more. By 1961 a regulation was in place to have Health Committee with authority to take people with contagious disease to go in for treatment. Annie had contributed to bringing modern medicine to the reservation and had bridged the two cultures of medicines to help her people. She was a great woman.


This integrated science, social students, and Navajo culture unit is written for fifth grade students. In Kayenta people who work at the Indian Health Service (I.H.S.) are aware and informed about the history of influenza and tuberculosis globally, nationwide, and especially on the reservation. Tuberculosis does hit home and some students are aware of the disease because they know someone in the clan family has the sickness. The reservation has a high rate of the tuberculosis sickness. The varied background and experiences of my students will bring different viewpoints and understandings of what they will learn about the unit, "Micro-biome within the Circle of Life." Not only tuberculosis, also the influenza pandemic, the history of the diseases and how the two impacted the Navajo population and the traditional culture.

The unit will begin with the introduction of the Circle of Life. I will explain how the Diné traditional culture has a circle path connecting with the sun path and the four sacred mountains. I will use the Guided Language Acquisition model and some of the strategies created and research by Marica Brechtel's book, "Bringing It All Together." I will sketch the circle on a large white chart paper and each day I will complete a part of the four quadrants explaining the components using color markers while they watch; this is called imprinting when you sketch and explain the information. After I explain one part of the quadrant for ten minutes, the students will turn to their right shoulder and tell the person sitting next to him or her about the information I explained. This strategy is called 10/2 or riding the wave, when the teacher talks for ten minutes and then students talk for two minutes afterwards as they share to the class. This strategy helps students negotiate for meaning and confidence about the information he or she is explaining. I will review and use the chart while teaching the influenza virus and the tubercle bacillus. The students will create a diagram of the Circle of Life and will use the diagram each time a topic connects to the component. A home-school connection of the chart will be a parent and grandparent involvement activity, so the family will share what they know and use in connection with the Circle of Life.

After the Circle of Life chart has been completed I will introduce the basics of the three domains of life (Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukaryotes). I will create picture file cards with numerous bacteria and virus pictures. The students will choose two pictures and will determine the type of bacteria or virus from the two pictures. They orally tell the attributes of the two pictures, and then will write a compare/contrast summary about the bacteria or virus.

As the students learn about the concept they will complete one vocabulary frame a day to target a tier III word. Tier III words are words selected in a specific content area: virus, bacteria, tuberculosis, influenza, pandemic, and so on. The vocabulary frame is called, 'Morph Hooghan,' is it a graphic organizer to assist students with the use of content word to know other word forms, affixes, syllables, definition, sketch to connect to the meaning, synonyms and antonyms, and sentence framing using the parts of speech, especially for English Language Learner students.

I will create a narrative story about Annie Wauneka using pictures and maps of the place she lived (Sonsola Butte near Crystal), and her travels to the many off reservation sanitariums and hospitals. This will focus on her tuberculosis campaign and efforts to bring modern medicine to help her people and her drive to bridge the two worlds of medicine in combating the disease tuberculosis. Orally reading the story will help students focus on the vocabulary words, the story elements, and personal connection. The content is visual imprint to the brain, makes information comprehensible, Color coding and chunking information (scaffolding) and preview and review for ELL students. The narrative input is review daily focusing on vocabulary word, story elements (characters, setting, conflict, plot and resolution), sequence, character analysis, story retell, and extensions to the Writer's Workshop.

A comparative pictorial chart of bacteria and viruses will be sketched and explained on a chart paper. Using the color-coding, chunking of information, and 10/2 are scaffolding strategies that will help students visually imprint the information, review content information and vocabulary words, and compare similarities and differences using a comparison matrix when writing a summary. Along with the comparative chart and visual timeline about the history of the Diné will be segmented into ten year intervals and will include the influenza pandemic of 1918 and the tuberculosis history. Students information about their birth day and year, the year when they complete high school, the grade they are in now and other facts.

Reading and writing strategies will be incorporated like journal writing to the teacher, the Text and You to make text connections, observations reports, here, there poetry frame from the sentence patterning chart, the sketch-n-write, and the Writer's Workshop. The Text and You is a writing strategy using a t-chart. On one side of the paper students sketch a picture from the charts, for example a virus. A sketch of a virus will be labeled, and then students will write factual information about the virus like a science text book to explain what a virus is and the attributes about the virus. On the other side, students will write a narrative about what they like, learned, and were interested or still confused about the topic. The sketch on the other side is about the student's personal expression about the topic.


Activity 1: Grandparent Book

The unit introduced the Circle of Life Chart with the four quadrants and components. The students will learn to use the chart in the classroom and some use at home when completing a home-school connection activity. The student will choose a grandparent and will interview the grandparent (masaani, chei, nalii masaan, nalii hastiin). The questions they will ask will be about the grandparent growing up as a child and their experience during their young years. The student will ask about their clans and where the grandparent's parents come from and their names and clans. Then they ask about the grandparent's educational experiences and whether he or she completed school or not and the family and job. Connecting to the Circle of Life, the student will ask why the Diné culture and language are important today and how did he or she use the Circle of Life within their life. The components of the book will contain a table of contents, the sequential events of life (birth, youth, adolescence, young adult, adult, education, marriage and family, job, culture and language), poem about grandparent, timeline, K'e, family tree, author's page, and photographs and sketches. This activity will be at the end of the unit activity to have home-school connection.

Activity 2: Big Book

Students will decide upon which topic they will write about. They will have choices of the Circle of Life, Navajo history, virus, bacteria, influenza pandemic, tuberculosis, Annie Wauneka, and micro-biome. The big book will require pictures, five pages, and a repetitive phrase: The important thing about…., I thought you would like to know…., is your mama a llama, If you give a mouse a cookie, and other frames. It will be end of the unit activity and students will read their book to a class at the elementary school.

Activity 3: Microscope Activity

After learning about viruses and bacteria students will view and analyze cells though a basic microscope to know and see what microscopic things look like. Students will complete the inquiry of investigation process to know what they are looking at like the attributes, the compare and contrasts and the idea of what scientists look for in cells. Although the microscopes are not powerful enough to view viruses and only some bacteria, the idea is to have the background experience and knowledge when our students get to high school and college.

Activity 4: A Presenter from the HIS

An Indian Health Service nurse will present information about tuberculosis. She will be presenting a power point talk about the disease and will be distributing pamphlets. Photographs and posters will be displayed. After her presentation students will write a letter to her thanking her and informing her about what they learned about tuberculosis.

Appendix A: Implementing District Standards

Arizona: Inquiry Process

The students will use the inquiry processes when observing, questioning an investigation of causes and effects of historical diseases globally, nationally, and locally. The key concept includes questioning techniques; formulate predictions; hypotheses based on observations; and investigation of microbes and bacteria.

Arizona: Scientific Testing

The students will demonstrate safe behavior and appropriate procedures while using microscopes and slides to conduct an investigation based on the hypothesis about viruses and bacteria. They will sketch and label, compare and contrast various slides of bacteria, then follow with the virus slides. The sketch and label are the collective data in an organized written log students will use while learning about the historical influenza and tuberculosis diseases.

Arizona: Nature of Scientific Knowledge

This strand focuses on the human contributions of science in a historical perspective and how man advanced into new developments. Identify how cultures and diverse people have made important contributions to scientific study in medical advances. Annie Wauneka, was an example in combating the tuberculosis disease on the Navajo reservation. She changed and taught her people to change their living conditions to live in clean an environment. Her collaborated with medical doctors, tribal leaders, and the US government.

Arizona: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Students understand the impact of science on human activity within the environment and the advancement of technology. This strand give students the opportunity to understand their place in the world as living beings, consumers, decision makers, problem solvers, and planners for their people and culture. The constant environmental changes and interactions among cultures require solutions so surviving will be easier and better.

Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards (AZCCRS) have a strong emphasis on knowledge and skills in real-world application. The college and career standards are designed to prepare students for success in the secondary level and career opportunities.

The Diné Standards is Cultural Awareness of the Four Direction Curriculum which is the Diné teaching integrating the circle of life. The Diné believe the cardinal directions and the four sacred mountains have spiritual knowledge and discipline. It is taught to stay within the circle path and the path is the foundation in living a long life.


Brechtel, Marcia. Bringing It All Together. Dominie Press. 2001. An excellent for using strategies in the classroom

Farella, John R. The main stalk: a synthesis of Navajo philosophy. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press, 1984.

Gold, Peter. Navajo & Tibetan Sacred Wisdom The Circle of the Spirit Publishers Group West (PGW). 1994

McPherson, Robert S. Dineji Na'nitin: Navajo traditional teachings and history. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2012.

Niethammer, Carolyn. I'll Go and Do More: Annie Dodge Wauneka Navajo Leader and Activist. University of Nebraska Press. 2001.

Taubenberger, Jeffery. "1918 Influenza: The mother of all pandemics." history medicine 17 (2006): 71-81.

Zimmer, Carl. A planet of viruses. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.


1 Farrella John R.. "The Main Stalk," A Synthesis of Navajo Philsophy (1984):24

2 Gold Peter. Navajo & Tibetan Sacred Wisdom The Circle of the Spirit. Publisher Group West(PGW).1994:140

3 Gold, 141

4 McPherson Robert S.. "Dineji Na'nitin: Navajo Traditional Teachings and History" (2012):53

5 McPherson, 57

6 McPherson, 59

7 Lamb Robert A. and Takeda Makoto. "Death by influenza virus protein." Natural Medicine Volume 12. December 2001.

8 Zimmer Carl. "A Planet of Viruses" (2011):16

9 Zimmer, 16

10 Zimmer, 16

11 Taubenberger Jeffery K.. and Morens David M.. "1918 Influenza: The Mother of all pandemics." Vol.17.No1. EneroMarzo (2006)

12 Taubenberger

13 Taubenberger

14 Niethammer. Carolyn. I'll Go and Do More Annie Dodge Wauneka Navajo Leader and Activist. University of Nekraska Press (2001) 84

15 Niethammer, 85

16 Niethammer, 91

17 Niethammaer, 94

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