SHIPROCK — Using masks and props, third grade students from the Navajo class at Ruth N. Bonds Elementary School told the Navajo creation story.
Their performance was one of the many demonstrating Diné Bizaad, the Navajo language, through storytelling and singing that were part of the bilingual showcase put on by Central Consolidated School District elementary schools.
Ojo Amarillo Elementary School Navajo language and culture teacher Martha Harris brought 18 first graders to the event on Friday at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center.
For part of their program, they described household chores in Navajo then sang about animals.
Although they had a rocky start — at one point during the singing they abruptly stopped, turned to each other and attempted to remember the next set of lyrics — they quickly recovered.
With the help of cue cards the young performers went on to sing about the sounds made by dibé (sheep), béegashii (cow), tsídí (bird), mósí (cat) and bisóodi (pig).
Harris has been teaching Navajo language and culture for nine years.
Throughout the years, she has seen students enter her class without knowing or understanding Navajo, the trick she said is to have them learn the Navajo alphabet followed by learning songs and reading stories.
"I think it's very important," she said. "We are losing our language so we need to preserve our language while they are small."
Each third grade student from Diné Immersion teacher Marie Bigman's class at Eva B. Stokely Elementary School was dressed in traditional attire.
Immediately after taking the stage, the eight students performed the Arrow Dance.
Their feet moved to the beat of the music and at one point, the four boys mimicked hunting with bows and arrows.
After the performance, Diné Immersion student Emma Sam explained why she is learning the Navajo language.
"I like speaking Navajo because I want to talk to my grandparents in Navajo so I can understand them," the 8-year-old said.
Sam has been in the program since kindergarten and is one of four students who have continued in the program since it started in 2010.
Leineiya Howard, another of Bigman's students, enrolled in the program this year.
Howard's eyes brightened as she answered a question about how she felt being on stage. She said she was "nervous" but it was "awesome."
Bigman said there are four teachers working in the Diné Immersion program and they collaborate on the curriculum.
Audience members laughed at the skit about coyote and skunk that Eva B. Stokely Elementary School teacher Wally Hayes' kindergarten class performed. The moral of the story is that you should be honest and not shortchange people, Hayes said.
Hayes told the story in Navajo while the students played the roles of ma'ii (coyote), gólizhii (skunk), gah (rabbit), dloo (prairie dog) and naaschid (badger).
Although the students did not speak Navajo, Hayes said the performance demonstrated how students understand directions in Navajo.
"Make sure you stick to Navajo … Keep trying," Miss Northern Navajo Teen Kahlaya Rose McKinney said to the students.