Student's future grounded in Colorado Plateau Studies
FLAGSTAFF -- Coconino Community College's signature program has Tazbah Beck's name all over it. Colorado Plateau Studies is a unique associate's degree program that covers the region's history, geography, archaeology, cultures and art.
Like the traditional blue corn that is so important to her Navajo culture, Beck's heart is firmly planted in the Beauty Way while her dreams flow beyond the boundaries of the reservation.
"The Beauty Way is about taking care of yourself, feeling at peace and being content and confident in who you are," said Beck. "You're taught to go to bed early, rise early and give thanks every day."
While she is earning her degree, Beck is working at the Museum of Northern Arizona sorting and categorizing ancient pottery sherds.
"Sometimes I'll find items that don't belong with each other," she said as she motions to a crude rusted coffee pot that's been stored with Anasazi artifacts.\Beck was born in Tuba City and raised in Flagstaff. She often traveled throughout the region to Indian markets as her parents sold her father's artwork.
Like the legendary Spider Woman who taught the Navajos how to weave, Beck is teaching her children about their rich heritage and weaving the beauty way into their lives. She plans to have her daughters go through the Kinalda puberty ceremony, which includes days of blessings, chants and skills.
"I have great respect for the traditional ceremonies, the Native American church and the language. I can teach my daughters a little bit but they really enjoy visiting their grandparents in Tsalani Springs and Pinon and learning from them."
Among the sherds of red, white and grey ware, through which she's sifting, lie pieces of her past and future.
"I may end up working in a museum," she said. "I know that I want to stay here in Flagstaff. This is where I grew up and this is my home."
Besides studying the science and cultures of the Colorado Plateau, Beck is able to explore her interests in art and business through the program -- skills that could help her if she becomes involved in the Indian markets again.
Beck credits CCC with getting her back into school. Now she is focused on a career that's as solid and as personal to her as the three sisters rock formation near the Hopi mesas.
(Bonnie Stevens is Marketing and Public Relations Director at Coconino Community College.)