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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Teacher Strives To Educate Youth On Native Language, Rejuvenate Interest
by Alysa Landry - The (Farmington, NM) Daily Times
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KIRTLAND - Jerica Holiday's grandmother, a Kayenta, Ariz., resident, speaks only Navajo. Jerica, 10, grew up speaking English and struggles to communicate with her grandmother. In two short generations, a native language nearly was lost.

"I don't know that much," said Jerica, a fourth-grade student at Kirtland Elementary School. "I know my clans and the numbers, but that's all."

Holiday and her father, Albert Holiday, were the lone attendees Tuesday of a Navajo language class hosted by the Central Consolidated School District and geared toward students and their parents.

The goal, teacher Veda Glover said, is to teach the native language to the young generation and rejuvenate interest among the parents.

"We don't want our language to die," she said. "Our kids don't even know how to introduce themselves."

A traditional Navajo introduction includes a person's name, maternal and paternal clans and other information about a person's origins.

Glover, a teacher at Ruth N. Bond Elementary School in Kirtland, has taught bilingual Navajo classes for 12 years.

"I believe this was my destiny," she said. "I think it's important to teach because young parents are illiterate in writing and reading Navajo."

Glover's classes include reading, writing and speaking the native language. She is one of three teachers in the district to offer free classes during November to any district students and their parents or guardians. The classes run every Tuesday night in three locations across the district.

Albert Holiday said he learned Navajo by spending weekends and vacations with family in Monument Valley, Utah, yet he still struggles during conversations with native speakers.

"On a scale of one to 10, I'm about a seven," he said. "I know a little, but a class like this might help me explain it to my kids."

Albert also attended to provide moral support to his daughter, who recited the alphabet and introduced herself by clan in Navajo. Albert mouthed the words with his daughter and nodded when she remembered glottal sounds with letters.

Jerica said she eventually wants to speak her language fluently.

"It's important to me so I can talk to my grandma," she said. "So she will understand what I'm talking about."

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