Posted by: Brad Nixon | December 15, 2016

From a Nation Within a Nation: Navajo Times

Americans are proud of our shared heritage as a collection of people from wide-ranging cultures and national origins. Our time-worn phrase is that we’re a “melting pot.” We’ve come from everywhere. Now we’re Americans.

It’s an interesting dynamic in the U.S., because many of us cherish our personal cultural inheritance while embracing our citizenship where we live, not the land our parents or ancestors came from. We’re no longer Polish, Italian,  Filipino or Thai; we’re American.

American cultural diversity is evident everywhere. Go to any large American city and you’ll find newspapers in several languages. Here in Los Angeles — 10 million people with roots from across the U.S. and around the world — you’ll find daily or weekly newspapers not only in English and Spanish, but Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, among others.

Go to the Los Angeles Central Library in downtown. The language lab offers instructional materials in 33 languages. That’s not every language spoken here, either.

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We’re an extremely diverse population. Across the U.S., there are concentrations of people whose families came from the same part of the world, and it’s a common experience to find communities large and small that still retain strong identities with original settlers from specific countries or cultures. In greater Los Angeles we have Chinatown, Little Armenia, Little Ethiopia, Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Little Saigon, Thai Town, among others. All Americans, still with cultural ties to the homeland.

There are also numerous American communities with distinctive ethnic identities, but not founded by immigrants.

For example, pull into the Giant gas station and local market in Cuba, New Mexico on your way from Albuquerque to Farmington or, better yet, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, as The Counselor and I did this summer.

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Fill up the tank, go inside and pick up some items to add to the cooler for your lunch and grab a newspaper. This one:

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The Navajo Nation is a semi-autonomous Native American territory covering portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. At the 2010 census there were 166,826 Navajo living on the 27,425 square miles of the Navajo Reservation, and 300,048 enrolled members of the nation overall, a number only slightly smaller than the population of Iceland.

An entire nation within the United States, not always noticed. Of course they have a newspaper.

The Navajo Times is published in Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the nation. As its subtitle says, Navajo Times is Diné Bi Naaltsoos: “The Paper (or Publication) for Diné,” the Navajo name for themselves

What’s in the Navajo Times?  Sections covering issues affecting the Navajo, Native Americans in general, reports of official tribal meetings, education, sports, community affairs, arts and entertainment. Like any newspaper. A well-written one, too, with some serious journalists on staff.

The Times was founded by the Navajo Tribal Council in 1959. It was the first daily newspaper published by a Native American Nation in the United States, although it’s now a weekly. It’s had a fascinating history of tension between its original function as the official voice of the Tribal Council and a desire for editorial independence, which caused the Council to shut down the paper in 1987. Reformed under its current publisher, Navajo Times has been fully independent since 2004.

When I picked up that issue of Navajo Times in July, the lead story was the State of the Nation address to the Navajo Nation. But the one that caught the eye, below the fold, reported on the contentious issue surrounding the possible granting of National Monument status to an area in Utah called Bears Ears, a remarkably beautiful, wild area that has been considered for National Monument status for 80 years, currently by a coalition of environmental activists, legislators and the Obama administration.

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The article in Navajo Times reported on a public hearing attended by hundreds of people, many of them Native Americans from Hopi, Navajo, Zuni Pueblo, Ute Indian and Ute Mountain Ute tribes, gathered as the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. National Monument status would protect the 1.9 million acre area from development, mining, logging and ranching. It also would protect approximately 100,000 cultural sites valued by or sacred to members of those tribes. A photo of Bears Ears:

bears-ears-willard-nixon

But the Times article related that the tribes raised issues not all Americans think about. Some traditional activities practiced by the tribes in traditional lands, such as herb gathering or building fires, might be impeded by National Monument status.

Not a simple matter.

In general, the article stated, the consensus of the Coalition was in favor of National Monument status, but the testimony by 70 individuals — some of it in Diné bizaad, the Navajo language — wasn’t unanimous.

It’s difficult, assembling a nation out of such immense diversity.

Both dissent and independent journalism are core components of some of the most critical guarantees of the U. S. Constitution: freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

In a newspaper seen by only a small percentage of Americans, serving a nation-within-a-nation that can often go unremarked, overlooked, both freedoms were at work. Keep up the good work, Navajo Times.

Let us continue to respect our mutual right to disagree, and our freedom to speak our minds, for all Americans.

© Brad Nixon 2016. Photograph of Bears Ears © Willard Nixon 2016, used by kind permission.

To see America from a new perspective, visit the Navajo Times website: www.navajotimes.com

To read about the Inter-Tribal Coalition effort to preserve Bears Ears, go to this link.

 

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Responses

  1. Great post. Thank you for calling attention to a part of the media not in the larger national spotlight, but notable and worth following for another perspective.

    Like

  2. Very well written, interesting, and informative! Great job!

    Like

  3. Well said. Respect everyone’s right to disagree, without being disagreeable in doing so. Again, the key word is “respect.”

    Like

  4. Great blog! I always wanted to be Navajo but turns out Grandpa was born on the Chickasaw Nation. Their feisty culture is somewhat admirable but they fought with everyone!

    Like

    • Thank you Kerry. Congrats on your book. I look forward to getting acquainted with your writing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey, she’s pretty funny! Hope she becomes a frequent visitor here. 🙂

        Like

      • Enjoy. It is a very varied blog…😆

        Like


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