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A Language Revolution on the Navajo Nation

A Language Revolution on the Navajo Nation
January 06
16:46 2020

Delegate Nathaniel

A Language Revolution

By John Christian Hopkins

Many Navajos walk the walk, but can they talk the talk?

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Nathanial Brown thinks fewer and fewer tribal members can speak the mother tongue.

He sees it as an emergency situation.

Educators are working hard, but the volume
of services – limited by restrictive policies – is not meeting the demand for Navajo language resources and curriculum, he said.

The language will help keep the Dine rooted in their culture, Brown explained. He thinks the younger generations are “starving to be healed,” he added.

They want to hear the old stories, to learn the language, but they don’t have a place to do it, Brown said.

The situation is at a pivotal point now and no amount of money can make up for the loss of the language, Brown said.

The tribe needs to make this a number one priority, he added.

A study was done through Rock Point Community School – by cultural specialist Florian Johnson – found that 93-percent of Navajos in 1980 spoke Dine.

Chris Deschene

But that figure has declined each decade.

In 1990 the study found that only 84-percent spoke Navajo. That figure decreased to 76-percent by 2000. By 2010 the percent of Navajo speakers plummeted to 51-percent.

By the end of the 2020s that number could be as low as 25-percent, Brown believes.

In 2015 Lechee native Chris Deschene felt he had the presidency of the Navajo Nation denied him because of his alleged inability to speak Navajo.  Mr. Deschene is now an attorney in Washington, DC.

The Navajo Nation is at the “tipping point,” Brown said. If the tribe is spending money in ways that will not sustain the Navajo language and culture, then it is spending it wrong, he said.

The tribe needs a “language revolution” and time is running out, Brown said.

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