Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 1 - Diné College

The official first day of the field work portion of the 2011 Navajo Oral History class began with several students getting up before 6 a.m. to walk toward the east to greet the rising sun in the traditional Navajo way.

(sunrise photos by Alex Fisher)

After a cafeteria breakfast, Prof. Miranda Haskie started class by giving an overview of the founding of Diné College and it's mission, vision and values.

Our group was honored to visit briefly with Diné College's Interim President Marie Etsitty.

(above photo by Dave Dvorak)

We toured the DC campus, including a visit to the R.C. Gorman Art collection in the college library.

(Josh Averbeck taking a photo of a display case in the R.C. Gorman Art Collection of the Diné College Library. Photo by Dave Dvorak)

During the tour, several students encountered a horned toad... which is considered good luck (photo of Alex Fisher holding the horned toad by Dave Dvorak).

We came across Ernestine Sanisya, a Diné College student who participated in the 2010 Navajo Oral History project last year.

After lunch at the Snack Bar in the Student Union Building, we gathered in the North Hogan for a session on Navajo culture led by Damien James, Sr. He began by burning some cedar wood and explained that cedar smoke is used for cleansing the mind and body to open yourself to new information. He sang portions of songs and chants from Navajo ceremonies and explained their meaning and purpose.

Damien had Jessica, a member of the class, help tie his hair in the traditional Navajo bun.

Back in the classroom, Damien explained more about the Navajo clan system and the origin of the Navajo in the Southwest United States and their relationship with other tribes and pueblos of the region.

We spent the late part of the afternoon getting the internet set up on our computers with the help of the Diné College Information Technology staff.

After dinner in the cafeteria, most of the Diné College students of the class joined the WSU gang in the dorm for a fun evening. Alex and Molly made a delicious guacamole that was enjoyed by all (including those of us who generally have not liked guacamole in the past).

Trevor Foster (above) has a great sense of humor and has kept us laughing all day. We all already know we have made many new good friends among our classmates.

Later, after a run to the local Trading Post, we made 'smores over the fire in the middle of our hogan and enjoyed more laughter and discussion. It was a nice evening of getting to know our classmates and building solid team relationships.

Some informational notes:

-- Diné College is the first and largest tribal college in the United States. It was established in 1968 as Navajo Community College and later changed it's name to reflect an expanded mission and the addition of a four-year bachelor's degree granting program in elementary education.

-- A hogan is an octagon-shaped building used in Navajo life as a home or place for ceremonies or both. A hogan's main entrance faces east to greet the rising sun. Many of the buildings on the DC campus-- including the residence halls-- are shaped like a hogan.

-- The wild fires in Arizona are a long way from us. The fires are near Alpine, Arizona, which is more than 100 miles to the south of Tsaile. We certainly have noticed the smoke in the air here. We had a brisk wind today which helped clear most of the smoky haze from the sky.

It was a great first day.

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