The discussions of how our younger generation is losing their language and cultural identity at a faster pace than years prior hasalways been a tremendous concern for the Din4 Institute and has become the basis for language and culture preservation in all aspects of our fundamental developments as Navajo individuals. As a result, the foundation of our Summer Camp was the cultural education through the mental, emotional, social, physical and spiritual developmental components of our students.
This is the essence of our existence. Students who attended the Summer Camp started out the day with an early morning run towards the east. All the students ran after they fixed their tents and folded all their blankets. Part of thesignificance to this was the stories that were told by our elders saying that if you leave your blankets unattended or if you leave your bed unmade, laziness will come to your home, which results in poverty and individual bad habits.
The girls helped fixed meals daily while the boys learned how to care for livestocks such as sheep and horses. They were also told the significance and moral behind having livestock, which they took further into their daily instruction. After supper, all the students learned different arts and crafts such as weaving and basket making. They also learned how to set up and put down the teepee, as well as the procedures of males and females in an NAC ceremony. The students loved the drum tieing and signing after they set up the teepee!
Later on in the evenings, students and instructors all gathered around the fire and were told different traditional summer stories about the Twin Warriors, Changing Woman and the Four Worlds. Each story had relevance to how each individual child should be as a male and female and how they should set their goals now so they can prepare themselves right now to accomplish these goals.
The foundation of the daily classroom instruction was cultural identity and native language. For example, when the students were being taught the calendar and seasons, the cultural stories of how the Navajo calendar and seasons came to be and how they were given names, were told to them. Through this, the students either retold it orally in Navajo, wrote it down or displayed it through art!
The final assessment of the camp was to have each child display a final project of what they felt was the most significant part of their cultural identity as individuals. Many of them stated that they felt good about themselves because they "could say [their] clans in Navajo and know which clans are related to [them]." and that they could "write sentences in Navajo and understand what the sentences mean." The best part of the cultural education was the "stories around the campfire while making SMORES!" was most of the students' responses.
This type of education is just a beginning of what families, and different educational and behavioral health entities can do with our children so that they do not lose their cultural identities, especially their languages. However, it can only be done if the hearts and minds of the people conducting this type of education is truly in the programs because only great things can be accomplished if there is a true belief in it! This is the foundation and purpose of the Institute for Dine Culture, Philosophy and Government, LLC.!!