Navajo Technical University celebrates becoming first tribal university to offer PhD

Navajo Technical University. (Submitted photo)

Navajo Technical University. (Submitted photo)

CROWNPOINT, NM —Navajo Technical University held its celebration for the Doctor of Philosophy in Diné Culture and Language Sustainability program inside the Wellness Center April 23.

"This is a historic moment for the Navajo Nation, higher education and the preservation and advancement of Indigenous knowledge," NTU said in a statement. "The Doctor of Philosophy is the first accredited Ph.D. program at a Tribal College or University in the United States."

The ceremony began as former NTU Diné Studies instructor Raymond Redhouse conducted a traditional blessing with songs and prayer. At the same time, the NTU Board of Regents, Navajo Nation staff, NTU Administration, and many others sat and enjoyed a traditional bowl of mutton stew and other refreshments inside the NTU Hogan.

Master of Ceremony Dr. Wesley Thomas welcomed everyone for coming to participate in the celebration of the Ph.D. program as Director of the NTU Chinle Campus, Arlena Benallie, opened up with NTU’s traditional anthem inside the Wellness Center.

"Dr. Elmer J. Guy is honored to have former Navajo Nation Presidents and other dignitaries at the event, allowing NTU to unite as a community and celebrate the significance of this achievement," NTU said. "Dr. Elmer J. Guy encourages you and your students to join us in celebrating this achievement and its impact on future generations. As speakers, we are honored to have former Navajo Nation Presidents and other dignitaries at the event, which will allow us to unite as a community and celebrate the significance of this achievement."

Wafa Hozien recited a poem and awarded the Human Services, Education & Health Committee, Navajo Nation Tribal Council Board of Regents, and Navajo Technical Univeristy with a Pendleton vest with their name stenciled on them.

"This achievement represents a significant milestone in Navajo education and is a testament to commitment and hard work. The NTU Culinary Arts Program provided those who attended with rations for a healthy lifestyle and nourishment," the university said.

Elmer Guy, the President of Navajo Technical University, is the vision behind the Ph.D. program and believes that this program will have the potential to positively and profoundly impact the future of the Diné people, the school said.

"This is one way that we demonstrate our sovereignty,” he explained.

In 2000 Guy started placing the basic building blocks to the Ph.D. by having a Navajo Culture course for all NTU graduates.

“I am very thankful for the faculty here at NTU. The Dine’ Studies program worked with Indiana University and Swarthmore College," Guy said. "They all contributed in a good way. I am excited for these new Ph.D. students. I am also excited about what new research and knowledge they will bring."

Speakers wanted to remind people of the importance of Native language.

"With this new program, we can continue to educate our students that our culture and languages are important,” said Naomi Miguel, Executive Director for the White House Initiative on Advancing Education Equity, Excellence, & Economic Opportunity for Native Americans & Strengthening Tribal Colleges & Universities.

"The launch of this program is a significant achievement not just for the Diné community but for all indigenous peoples worldwide who are working to preserve their cultural heritage and pass it on to future generations," said Wafe Hozien, Dean of Dine’ and Graduate Studies.

The IT department broadcast the event via Livestream on NTU’s YouTube channel with Dody Begay, KCZY 107.3 FM and Cuyler Frank and his broadcast operations.

Information provided by NTU.

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