Window Rock students have strong showing at Navajo speaking, cultural skills competition

Sophomore Navajo language students at Window Rock High School pose with their trophy at the conclusion of the Diné Song and Dance-Diné Spelling Bee Fair that took place Nov. 18 in Tsaile, Ariz. Back row from left: Dexter Paul, Olathe Antonio, Elisha Kee, Natasha Yazzie and Joshua Henry. First row: Nathaniel Henio. Submitted photo

Sophomore Navajo language students at Window Rock High School pose with their trophy at the conclusion of the Diné Song and Dance-Diné Spelling Bee Fair that took place Nov. 18 in Tsaile, Ariz. Back row from left: Dexter Paul, Olathe Antonio, Elisha Kee, Natasha Yazzie and Joshua Henry. First row: Nathaniel Henio. Submitted photo

TSAILE, Ariz. - Students from Window Rock Unified School District won six Navajo speaking and cultural skills awards during the Diné Song and Dance-Diné Spelling Bee Fair Nov. 18 at Diné College in Tsaile, Ariz.

Students from Tséhootsoí Diné Bi'Olta' School -a Navajo immersion school in Fort Defiance - won the competition taking home 16 awards, including first place in the primary division for corn-grinding, song-and-dance, duet singing, fire dance and group singing. Tséhootsoí Diné Bi'Olta' also won first place in the intermediate division of the solo singing and corn-grinding competitions.

Window Rock High School students earned six awards and took first place in the secondary division's solo and group singing categories as well.

Competition took place in three divisions: the primary division included kindergarten to third grade, the intermediate division included fourth to eighth grade and the secondary division included ninth to 12th grade, which also incorporated college students.

The Center for Diné Studies and the Center for Diné Teacher Education played host to the competition that attracted more than 350 students from across the region. The event was so successful that organizers are considering putting on another competition in the spring.

"Our goals are to preserve and teach the culture and heritage of the Navajo people here at Diné College," said Thomas Littleben Jr., chair of the Center for Diné Studies. "It brings much pride to see young Navajo students taking the initiative to speak, read, write and even sing in Navajo."

Littleben explained a similar event took place in March 2013, but attendance was low and high school students competed against college students in the spelling bee contest. This year, the event attracted enough students from the region to have high school and college students compete in their own categories.

Winners received trophies and certificates for their achievements and participation.

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