Scholars and historians collaborate on Diné textbook

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — A government textbook written by Diné scholars that will teach about Navajo culture, language and way of life is in production, according to an announcement from the Navajo Nation.

Written in both English and Navajo, the two-volume textbook for high school students will include Navajo creation stories to teach students about traditional governance and sovereignty, said Claudia Edgewater-Russell, interim superintendent of Department of Diné Education.

The textbook will be created with a $172,500 appropriation from the Nation. Diné historians Jennifer Denetdale and Daryl Begay will edit the book, with contributions from Diné authors in the areas of Diné history, governance and culture. Denetdale and Begay will work with the Department of Diné Education to ensure the book meets Navajo Nation and state learning standards.

“We are thankful that the Navajo Nation Council and President Buu Nygren overwhelmingly supported a long overdue project,” said Rose Graham, director of the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance.

Graham credits Navajo Nation Council Delegate Andy Nez for championing several Navajo language projects, including the government textbook, and ensuring funds were appropriated for each in the Navajo Nation budget.

Co-editor Denetdale said the Navajo Nation government textbook fills an urgent need and could be used for high school students or college courses.

“An informal survey of Diné teachers who attended Northern Arizona University’s Institute for Native-serving Educators (INE) indicates that such a textbook does not exist,” she said. “Meetings with Diné teachers across the Navajo Nation also indicate that there is no current Navajo Nation government textbook specifically for high school students.”

According to the Nation, volume one will focus on the roots of Diné sovereignty and the historical shifts in governance under cycles of colonial intrusions that have shaped the modern Navajo government. Volume two will explore how American democratic governance principles were used to establish the modern Navajo Nation and the ongoing efforts to return to Diné governance and leadership principles as the foundation of government.

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