This past academic year, the middle school expanded the intermediary curriculum to include sixth-grade Navajo art and seventh-grade Navajo Nation current events. The storytelling project featured students researching an aspect of their heritage then depicting it in art created by them. Most were presentations on Navajo legends however some featured oral stories of family history. In recognition of Ghaaji’, the Navajo New Year, art teacher Cody Begay shared a video of Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez describing the significance of the month.
According to Navajo-Hopi Observer, during the month of October, the Navajos cleared their fields in preparation for winter. October is Ghaaji’ which means End of Growing Season. Harvested crops were brought into storage cellars to feed the family during the winter months. At this time Mother Earth also welcomes all living things back under her covers that could be hurt by the harsh cold and formidable winds for the long winter months of sleep. For the early Navajos, it was time to go hunting. The wild game yearlings were hunted for their tender meat. The older game animals were hunted for their hides. With this background in mind, students created their own representation in drawings and paintings to express this time of the year.
Currently, elementary students in kindergarten through fifth grade and eighth grade receive weekly Navajo language classes. There was a gap in the Navajo language curriculum in ninth through eleventh grade. Beginning in the fall, the Navajo Language program will expand in the high school with Navajo I for freshmen, Navajo II for sophomores, and Navajo III for juniors, keeping the Navajo Government course for the senior year.
With COVID-19 having a detrimental impact on Navajo Nation elders, language preservation has been a concern and the school is respond-ing with efforts to encourage Navajo language formation and carry on the language. “Saint Katharine had a vision of providing Catholic education that fully embraces the Navajo culture and expresses the Catholic faith through that context, “said President Teso. “The curriculum expansion is designed to help our students gain confidence in learning the language in a safe, open classroom setting to engage native speak-ers of all levels, said Principal Yazzie. “Teachers have expressed the students’ passion to learn the language. We want our students to be able to learn and pass on the Navajo language.”