Begaye: teaching Navajo language is key to reinforcing foundations of Hózhó and Ké

MONUMENT VALLEY - Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the theme of "Shił Hózhó" for the 22nd Annual Heritage Language Conference was a great exemplification of how the Navajo people are rooted in the foundations of Hózhó and Ké.

Begaye was the keynote speaker at the conference, whichtook place in April at Monument Valley High School in Monument Valley, Utah.

"The Navajo language contains so many teachings of Hózhó and Ké," he said. "As a Nation, this is who we are. Our language provides a way for us to move back into these teachings of Hózhó and Ké, because in many ways we havemoved away from them."

This year's Heritage Language Conference focused on fine arts and offered workshops that incorporated the Navajo language into the district's curriculum to enhance culturally relevant teaching ideologies to subjects like music, photography and reading.

Celeste Dayish, administrative secretary with the San Juan School District and conference organizer, said it's important for educators to attend the conference to get a better idea of how they can teach their students.

"They get ideas on how we can preserve the language," she said.

The conference also offered workshops addressing issues including Diné Content Standards; Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling; and Perspectives on Values and Knowledge of Learning the Navajo Language. Bilingual Education Director for the San Juan School District, Clayton Long said that utilizing traditional languages in education reinforces culture and the Navajo language is inherently a way of life.

"We want our students to think in Navajo as well as speak the language. We want them to be able to read and write in Navajo as well," he said. "All four modalities are critical in helping our students become fully engaged. We use the language as a tool to enhance our curriculum."

Long said he liked way that Begaye related the concept of Hózhó to the teachings that can be found within the Navajo language.

"It teaches us to act a certain way and to say things a certain way, as opposed to finding fault in what people say. He called this Hózhó," Long said. "I believe it's true because we need to remember the teachings of our mothers, which are based in the idea of Hózhó. We were very fortunate that he was able to put that across to the audience today."

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