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Committee begins work to preserve, promote Navajo language

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A subcommittee designated to focus on the preservation, protection and restoration of the Navajo language held its first meeting.

The Diné Bizaad Subcommittee was established by the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee on Sept. 5 to help maintain the Navajo language among the tribal membership and supporting entities, such as curriculum offered by schools and language programs within communities.

In July, Delegate Nathaniel Brown sponsored the bill to initiate the subcommittee.

When the bill was passed by the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee, Brown along with delegates Elmer Begay, Paul Begay, Wilson Stewart Jr., Otto Tso and Thomas Walker Jr. were selected to serve.

A press release from the Office of the Speaker states the subcommittee's first meeting was Dec. 30 in Window Rock, Arizona.

Brown was named chairman and Elmer Begay was named vice chairman during the meeting, according to the release.

The creation of the subcommittee was supported by the Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education and the Diné Studies Conference Inc., according to the speaker's office.

In 2017 the Diné Studies Conference Inc., a non-profit entity whose mission is to embrace and uphold Diné culture and language, issued a policy statement and recommendations to address the decline of the Navajo language.

Members of the Diné Bizaad Subcommittee held their first meeting on Dec. 30 at the Navajo Nation Council chamber in Window Rock, Arizona.

The policy statement cited 2010 census data that indicated 2.2% of individuals who reside on the Navajo reservation did not speak English and reported Navajo as their primary language.

Members of the non-profit organization found the percentage "alarmingly low" and issued a list of recommendations to address the situation.

A recommendation by the group is to have the Navajo Nation recognize Diné Bizaad as the official language of the Navajo Nation and English as the "adopted" language.

The Sept. 5 resolution by the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee states the subcommittee will work toward that recognition.

Additional tasks for the subcommittee include working with Navajo language teachers, public and immersion schools and others, improving and supporting the tribe's certification of Navajo language teachers, and ensuring that Navajo language immersion projects with Diné College and Navajo Technical University are adequately funded.

The subcommittee's next meeting will be at 8 a.m. on Feb. 3 at the Navajo Nation Council chamber in Window Rock, according to the speaker's office.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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