Kevin Belin Cultivates the Next Generation of Diné Language Learners

Kevin’s dream, Hashké – Hozhó Design & Collaborative (HHD&C), is to develop a language and cultural materials and resource initiative in order to create and provide differentiated approaches to learning the Navajo language and culture. His plan is to expand and create resources for the modern classroom and bring the classroom closer to individuals far from the reservation to learn the language and foundational cultural knowledge.

“It will be a self-sustaining cultural and language resource that will be created by a Navajo language teacher for classrooms and beyond,” he told us. “

“The materials I have made are manipulatives that can be used across lessons, time drills, re-enforcement, and for fun. If students are having fun, it creates an opportunity for teachers to build on their interests and engage learners to master their skills over some friendly competition.

“There will be competition in any entrepreneurial endeavor, however my priority is to support our people learning the Navajo language. I already love what I do, and the love and support I see in all the language and culture learners has uplifted me to pursing my dream.”

Kevin’s Home and Community

“Yá’át’ééh” (Hello in Navajo) says Kevin, who was raised a rancher near Antelope Lookout Mesa and Where the lighting struck the rock in the community of Crownpoint, New Mexico and Becenti in the Eastern agency of the Navajo Nation.

Kevin describes having a wonderful childhood with loving parents and grandparents who cared for him while his parents were at work.

“We would drive to our ranch and care for our livestock through the seasons and years – my identity is tied to our traditions and livelihood that my family raised me in,” he told us.

He recalls that his grandfather always told all of his grandchildren that they must obtain an education: “Through education we can overcome the modern monster that afflicts our people.”

Through persistence and the support of his family, Kevin was able to earn his Bachelor’s Degree.

“There were countless times I nearly allowed myself to fail,” said Kevin. “I knew that the monsters my culture has taught me were waiting to take me.

“But my grandparents’ life lessons spoke to me. In Navajo that would say íínílta’. It could be vaguely translated as ‘go to school.’ I have come to an understanding that they meant ‘learning’ is the tool we must pursue.

“We were taught that our language and culture was a crutch to living in his world, I learned otherwise. My language and culture is my foundation and adapting to this changing world is learning to overcome the obstacles and sharing that knowledge.”

His community of Crownpoint (pop. 5,000) has limited resources with only two gas stations, a small shopping center and several tribal/federal buildings with the major employers being the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Navajo Tribal government.

Despite the challenges facing residents there, “My community is a wonderful place to live. I was raised here and so many others from my homeland excelled to become leaders.”

What motivated Kevin to develop his dream?

“There is a need for more resources and materials for teachers in revitalizing and strengthening language comprehension and communication,” says Kevin.

While he acknowledges that there are several companies in the business of printing and distributing language books and materials, “but what distinguishes HHD&C is how we will address differentiation and updated perspectives on language acquisition.

“I have been a teacher all my life and at a very young age I wanted to be a culture teacher,” says Kevin. “I enjoyed the projects we made, but despised coloring pages that had no purpose to it except to keep students busy.

“I knew that if I needed to change what Navajo students were being taught, I first had to prove that I am capable of learning what it means to be a teacher.

As an Diné educator, I see that our students are not learning the Navajo language,” says Kevin. “Community members speak fluently with each other, but our students converse in English.

“Although English is the language of commerce, it is not our language to healing ourselves or our nation.”

The Dream as a Solution

“Each day in the classroom I find a new way to approach learning – all students do not learn the same way,” said Kevin. “I am learning from those I teach and they are the ones who I am working for.

“They will be the adults who will need to continue our way of life and if I can instill in them the importance of our language and culture without judgement, hesitation and passion, then I have done my job.

“Creating resources for the classroom is my passion,” he added. “If I see a problem with students learning the language or concept, I find ways to teach them using their learning styles to their advantage.”

The Potential Impact in the Future

Kevin’s ultimate goal is to create a community center for people of Crownpoint and ultimately have it transition into a school.

He envisions HHD&C becoming a full-time press and publisher of language acquisition curriculum, materials and resources, but he realizes that first his dream must become a self-sustaining and profitable company.

“I know that my Diné language is at risk and I know I have the ability to teach our future students and leaders of people.”

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