2019 Running Strong for American Indian Youth Dreamstarter Kevin Belin (Navajo Nation), of Crownpoint, New Mexico, is realizing his dream “Hashké — Hozhó Design & Collaborative” by creating cultural materials and resources for the modern classroom, utilizing various approaches and methods to learning the Navajo language and culture.
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kevin, a Navajo language teacher at the Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington, New Mexico, has been dutifully carrying on with his mission of teaching the Navajo language and culture to young Diné students.
“As a 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.”
Earlier this month, Kevin produced a short video “Let’s Learn the Navajo Language” focusing on the verb stem and conjugations for the phrase “To walk around” where he narrates how to say “I am walking,” “We two are walking,” and “We all are walking.”
The video not only shows the words in Navajo, Naasha, Neit’aash and Neiikai, respectively, but how to pronounce them as well.
Earlier this year, Kevin was featured in the Farmington Daily Times as he led students in a Navajo Shoe Game song — or késhjéé — which not only teaches the language, but also good sportsmanship, problem-solving and how to strengthen communal bonds.
(Késhjéé is foremost a ceremony, but it is regarded as a guessing game. It is only conducted at night during in the winter. Its origin is from a match between the day animals and the night animals, who could not agree on the cycles of the sun and moon.)
The article notes that Kevin has taught his students 30 songs associated with the shoe game which center on the animals that participated in the first késhjéé to students enrolled in his Navajo language class.
The school’s dean of student life, Leland Becenti, noted that shoe game is part of building the school’s community as well as furthering students’ understanding of lessons from Kevin’s class.
“We have other cultural activities that we do. It’s just a way for a lot of our students to get engaged with what we have to offer,” said Becenti.
And as for Kevin, ”It moves my heart, my soul to hear them because now I know that I’m doing my job,” he told the Daily Times. “It’s not just about my job, it’s about our culture is going to survive. Our culture is not just going to get by, it’s going to thrive.”