I first visited the Navajo Nation in June of 1995 as an intern at Chinle Curriculum Center. For a month I lived in teacher housing and worked with roughly transcribed texts arranging them in more academic language and levelling them for grades K-12. As part of its dedication to putting traditional Navajo culture back into Chinle schools, the Curriculum Center was developing units on plants and animals which explored the heretofore unrecognized wealth of information from Navajo elders.
For a month I was immersed in the enigmatic bird stories. Mr. Mitchell was available to answer questions, but his answers invariably entailed lengthy explanations of Mother Earth and her natural cycles. Although I didn't recognize it for some time, this was my introduction to the importance of land in Navajo thought and culture.
On one level, this web site is designed to fulfill the requirements for a Masterıs Thesis at the University of Virginia in English and American Studies. But on another, much more important level, it is my attempt to gather the last three yearsı experience with the Navajo I had the pleasure to meet and eventually to call my friends.
Land in Navajo thought is such a vital and complex concept that it would be insulting to assert that I could even summarize its importance in this site. I am certainly not trying to redefine Navajo culture in a way that I see more fitting; rather, I am taking the words of the people I have lived with and with whom I still correspond, and the research from eminent American Indian scholars, white anthropologists, and historians, and creating a multimedia presentation which explores the land through not only text, but also in images, some interactive, and sound.
It is only through understanding the basic tenets of Navajo culture that one can begin to understand the importance of the land.
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