Cultural symposium focuses on teachings from female perspective

Dorleen Gashweseoma, an award winning master basket maker from Third Mesa, presents at this year’s Tuba City School District cultural symposium that focused on Native American women’s roles in contemporary Native life. Rosanda Suetopka/NHO

Dorleen Gashweseoma, an award winning master basket maker from Third Mesa, presents at this year’s Tuba City School District cultural symposium that focused on Native American women’s roles in contemporary Native life. Rosanda Suetopka/NHO

TUBA CITY, Ariz. - Tuba City Unified School District put on a cultural symposium for staff development and personal improvement to encourage new teaching and mentorship skills and to help K-12 students have a fuller cultural learning experience.

Native Studies Culture Director Adair Klopfenstein divided the annual event into two segments. The first event focused on the female perspective of Hopi and Navajo culture and in January 2016 a second symposium event will focus on the male perspective.

The underlying focus was the established theme of "Asdani Hozhoongo Iina Bina'nitin,' which are teachings from a female perspective. The event concentrated on holistic teaching and mentorship of the whole child.

The Native woman is responsible for passing down the important balance of the words and actions of men, resulting in tribal harmony between traditional and contemporary life.

A Native American woman in the contemporary world connects, spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically in the world in a harmonious, gentle way that benefits not only the immediate family but the entire community.

With more than 20 female Native American presenters, the day-long workshop at Tuba City High School featured young and elderly Native women with a variety of specialized areas of professional and traditional study and art form.

Mary Johnson Saganey presented traditional teachings of a grandmother focused on home life skills.

Edith Billy showed ways to incorporate preparation of Navajo traditional foods and the traditional teachings of corn in the Navajo diet.

Mae Peshlakai showed traditional parenting techniques and how that old world application is still effective in contemporary times.

Nora Kabitoney showed her audience how to prepare for a Navajo young woman's "Kinaalda" ceremony including all the steps and materials needed for the ceremony.

Jennifer Benally, a current Arizona State Representative, talked about bullying and how to prevent it with intervention using both traditional and contemporary methods.

Cecelia Joe talked about the Navajo rug culture showcasing how Navajo rug weaving is a lot like contemporary life for Natives. Life is woven with both good and bad events and how to find balance in that.

Tina Coleman taught her audience about the Sweat Lodge and ways to teach adolescents about their own identity and foundation of life through the Sweat Lodge philosophy.

Carletta James gave a presentation on the traditional aspect of Saanii Bina'nitin Saani', which are teachings from long ago and how those apply to modern day students.

Evelyn Begay gave her perspective on the Dine' teachings of Ama'do Amasaani', the teachings of mothers and grandmothers with the emphasis on young toddlers.

Josephine Begay-James talked about the "Ever Changing societal and cultural dynamics of Native children," giving examples and showing Native children how to utilize the cultural teachings from past eras and use those same teachings to help prepare for the future.

Mae Washington presented the "Beauty Way of Life" for Navajo women, describing ways to raise children, preserving a way of life with sheep and the do's and don'ts of the Navajo way of life.

Rita Gilmore presented traditional values and character building for Native children. She talked about responsibility and integrity incorporated into everyday life by setting a good positive example for children to follow. She explained that role modeling is one of the greatest teaching tools.

Marie Salt presented "Instilling Traditional Values and Culture in Youth." She said from conception to adulthood there is wisdom in raising children who are aware of planning and skills for life survival showing that growing up with a solid foundation in Navajo Hozho' paradigm empowers one's life.

Sandra Suhu, one of the only two Hopi women presenters this year, is also one of very few Hopi women Kachina carvers. Suhu showed the traditional and contemporary materials used and talked about the creative process of making kachina dolls or sculpture carvings in a modern art world and competitive art market. Suhu has won several art awards for her contemporary work in traditional cotton wood.

McKeon Dempsey, former Miss Navajo Nation from 2014-15, presented on the role of women in Navajo culture. Dempsey said women are not only the primary teachers in a family, but they are also responsible for their own home community and their immediate family members. Dempsey showed ways to use these traditional values in everyday contemporary society.

Dorleen Gashweseoma, Hopi from Hotevilla Village, is an award-winning master basket maker from Third Mesa. Gashweseoma discussed and shared examples from her own private basket collection, the process of materials gathering, material preparation and creative process for wicket and sifter basket design and process. Gashweseoma has won major basket awards including Best of Show at the Museum of Northern Arizona.

Evagenline Parson-Yazzie talked about implementing Navajo language and culture in the classroom - from language use to language preservation ideas and concepts.

Sylvia Jackson talked about Navajo astronomy showing ways to teach students how to discover and appreciate Navajo teachings about constellations by comparing those ideas and concepts to western science, while remembering that Navajo creation stories and legends are connected to the stars, sun and moon.

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