Event mixes Navajo cul­ture, Christ­mas tra­di­tions

Games, sto­ries part of well­ness con­fer­ence


SHIPROCK — With green yarn wrapped on his fin­gers, Blaine Yazzie fol­lowed in­struc­tions for com­plet­ing a “big star” pat­tern dur­ing a les­son about Navajo string games.

As the video showed the in­tri­cate pat­terns, Yazzie oc­ca­sion­ally dou­ble checked the place­ment of the yarn around his fin­gers.

The les­son about string games was among the ac­tiv­i­ties pre­sented dur­ing the win­ter con­fer­ence by the Restor­ing and Cel­e­brat­ing Fam­ily Well­ness pro­gram last Wed­nes­day at the Shiprock Youth Com­plex.

The an­nual con­fer­ence is spon­sored by a coali­tion of North­ern Agency or­ga­ni­za­tions that fo­cuses on im­prov­ing com­mu­ni­ties and strength­en­ing fam­ily val­ues.

Yazzie said he re­mem­bers his ma­ter­nal grand­mother teach­ing him about string games, and about the pat­terns that repli­cate stars and an­i­mals, while grow­ing up in Sanos­tee.

“I know some, but I need to re­fresh my mind on how to do it. It’s been a long time, about 15 years, since I done it,” Yazzie said.

Mar­garet Lee vol­un­teered to lead the ses­sion about string games, tra­di­tion­ally played dur­ing the win­ter.

Lee said string games teach chil­dren to be pa­tient when learn­ing and to pay at­ten­tion to de­tails. “I like it be­cause it’s good qual­ity time (and) teach­ing time for kids and fam­i­lies,” she said.

For Ter­rell Shirley, learn­ing about string games adds to his cul­tural knowl­edge.

Shirley, 11, said he knows to place the knot in the mid­dle of his hand and to tell the Holy Peo­ple that he will play the games.

“I know what to do and what not to do,” he said.

While a large por­tion of the con­fer­ence was de­voted to ses­sions that cen­tered on Navajo cul­ture and Christ­mas tra­di­tions, event or­ga­niz­ers also talked about us­ing sto­ry­telling to share tra­di­tional knowl­edge and fam­ily his­tory.

Teach­ings like in­tro­duc­ing one’s clans can be car­ried through sto­ry­telling, said Marge Blue­horse-An­der­son, a mem­ber of Healthy Na­tive Com­mu­ni­ties Part­ner­ship in Shiprock.

“Be­cause any­where and ev­ery­where you go, you rep­re­sent your fam­ily ,” Blue horse An­der­son said.

As part of the ses­sion about sto­ry­telling, par­tic­i­pants drew pic­tures of items that made dif­fer­ences in their lives, then told sto­ries about the im­ages.

Shiprock res­i­dent Aljuan­dra Teller shared her draw­ing of the blocks on the sym­bol for Navajo Head Start.

Teller told the au­di­ence she en­rolled her daugh­ter at in the pro­gram at 11 months old.

By do­ing that, it helped her daugh­ter, now 10 years old, de­velop an in­ter­est in ed­u­ca­tion.

“She’s a cheer­leader right now. She’s ad­vanced in her math, read­ing and sci­ence,” Teller said.

Teller added she is study­ing early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion be­cause she watched her daugh­ter ex­cel in school, in part due to Head Start.


Jody Mike-Bid­tah, a project co­or­di­na­tor with Ca­pac­ity Builders Inc., gives a pre­sen­ta­tion on healthy snacks dur­ing the Restor­ing and Cel­e­brat­ing Fam­ily Well­ness pro­gram at the Of­fice of Diné Youth in Shiprock.

Ter­rell Shirley par­tic­i­pates in a string game dur­ing the Restor­ing and Cel­e­brat­ing Fam­ily Well­ness pro­gram at the Of­fice of Diné Youth in Shiprock.

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