Published August 4, 2017
CROWNPOINT, NEW MEXICO – The second annual Youth and Elder Summit was held on Jul. 31 and August 1 at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, New Mexico. Throughout the course of the summit there were over 350 people in attendance.
Youth and elders are one of the four pillars of the Begaye-Nez administration. As such, bridging the gap between these two groups is a priority while enabling them to work together. The Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President has taken the initiative of the Youth and Elder Summit as part of this effort.
“The Youth and Elder Summit is something that we’ve been needing for years. We need the older generation to provide guidance and encouragement to the younger generation and vice versa,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said. “The younger generation needs to understand how significant our elders are and that their lessons contribute to sustaining our identity, finding direction, and setting goals for ourselves.”
Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez said, “Our culture and traditions were passed down from one generation to the next during meal time. While sitting on the floor of a hogan, families told stories and the traditional teachings of our ancestors. These teachings are not limited to the home. We can share them in community safe places, such as the Youth and Elder Summit, to take us forward once more.”
The conference hosted workshops promoting intergenerational teachings,which included demonstrations of traditional weaving, discussions on financial responsibility, learning about governmental relations, practicing Diné Bizaad and more.
The Navajo language was a crucial topic at the summit. In the session called Diné Bizaad, Strengthening Our Language, co-facilitated by Triston Black and Adriano Tsinigine, elders and youth partnered together to practice Navajo introductions.
“The focus on intergenerational teaching is critical for the revitalization of the Navajo language,” said Vice President Nez.
During this session Black and Tsinigine discussed the downward trend in those able to speak the Navajo language from 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010. They challenged those in attendance to take control of influencing what 2020 would look like.
“Diné Bizaad is very crucial to the connection we share with the spiritual people,” said Black, former ad hoc member of the Youth Advisory Council. “We make offerings, sing the songs, and give our prayers in our language. We need to continue to teach our younger siblings to do the same and teach their friends.”
The Youth Advisory Council is pending approval of their policies and procedures to become official. Regardless, many of the council members contributed to the success of the summit.
“The whole purpose of this event is to interact with each other. Outside of the home you don’t really see much interaction between our youth and elders,” said former ad hoc Youth Advisory Council President Jacquelyn Johnson who helped host the event.
Keynote speakers for the summit were Jude and Shoni Schimmel, and Notah Begay III. Their presence, as well as the presence of their families, demonstrated family values.
“The strength of the family unit will only make us stronger,” said President Begaye. “Seeing the Schimmels and the Begays working and playing together, going on trips together, is what we want to see more of. When our families move forward together it strengthens our nation.”
This BBSNews article originally appeared on Native News Online.