“In our modern world rapid, accurate exchange of information is of vital importance. At one time the Navajo could exist as a nation within our nation speaking only their own language and shut off from outside influences. Today all of the Navajo people need information and a system of accurate intercommunication in keeping with the times. Only a written language can meet the requirements.” – Talking Navajo Before You Know It, 1954
Example of Newsletter
At one point in time the Indian Bureau was working hard to teach older Navajos how to read in Navajo. They did this by publishing a newsletter and distributing it to the Navajo reservation chapter houses for everyone to practice reading. It was published and distributed in the 40’s and early 50’s according to the Wikipedia article. So that would make at least 50-100 newsletters? I was thinking perhaps more, but I am unsure of when it was first published. But at least 25-50 from a few years of publishing. That is still a lot of reading content.
When I first read about this I had my doubts. I have many times been with my parents driving around the reservation who were at times unable to read a Navajo sign correctly. This was strange to me because they can speak Navajo and read English perfectly. However, they having less exposure to reading in Navajo than I … I was pretty sure that this program was probably unsuccessful. My other reasoning, for its failure, was that I had never heard of this program before.
It wasn’t until I came across the Talking Navajo Before You Know It booklet that I actually became informed about Ádahooníłígíí. I was so bummed to think that there was this periodical that no longer exists that could have been such a great resource for learning Navajo vocabulary. Sad. I read on in the introductory pages of the Talking Navajo booklet and they did give an account of its’ success.
“Sometime ago a young Navajo came into the office to subscribe to Ádahooníłígíí. He said that in the past he had thought the Navajo language program worthless. However, that weekend he had been to his father’s hogan far in the interior. The young people were discussing the age of President Eisenhower. One said this and another that, but the elderly father said emphatically a certain figure. The children said, “How do you know, since you have no way of learning? You cannot read, and never go anywhere.” The father said, “I can read Navajo.” He got his paper and read to the group the article, “Meet the New President”, in which the President’s age was given.”
Well, since I have learned about this….I think I might go ahead and actually try to locate these newsletters. I found a search result in my local university library titled, “Navajo Newsletter”. I doubt it could be the same, but it is a good starting point.
Copies of Ádahooníłígíí would be great to find. Does anyone else have ideas of where I should look? I guess I could ask the Office of Indian Affairs.