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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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A Bridge Between Cultures
by Cassandra Raye Chee - Navajo Times

Maybelle Little, 79, sat watching older people stroll, shuffle and wheel past into the City of Flagstaff Recreation Adult Center while she chatted with her sister in her van and daintily stepped out onto the driveway.

She was wearing a white blouse, which was covered with tiny pink flowers, comfy looking slacks and sporting a metal cane.

Seen through the eyes of this 30-year-old Navajo Times reporter, the tiny frail, petite Navajo woman looked like she needed assistance inside the building. But she quickened her pace up the stairs with her cane leading the way.

The surprised reporter had mistaken the strength and agility of Maybelle.

The Adult Center caters to the senior citizens, children's programs, adult classes, social activities and meals primarily prepared for ages 60 and over. In order to get a nutritious meal at noon all seniors have to donate $2 and anyone under the required age has to pay $5. The center is open Monday through Friday and closed on holidays.

Maybelle, who is Tsenjikini (Cliff Dwellers People Clan) and born for Kinyaa'aanii (Towering House Clan), glanced at the reporter with a twinkle in her eyes and asked where she was from and who her family is.

To the reply Naakai Dine'e (Mexican Clan) and born for Tl'aashchi'I (The Red Bottom People Clan), Maybelle slowly shook her head, implying that she didn't know her family.

Maybelle said, "I'm going to be 80 years old next year, so I want to concentrate on other things. I work as a cultural connection with the NAU campus. In May, I told them I'm going to resign. I'm going to stay with them until they find someone to take my place."

Maybelle is a resident elder at Northern Arizona University. She has an elementary and middle school level bilingual education, which emphasizes the Navajo language, writing the Navajo language and traditional ethnobothany.

She is a lecturer for the university.

"I can present the Anglo side and the Navajo culture side together," she said. "I write a lot about myself and the Navajo stories from both English to Navajo."

Maybelle handed her visitor a sample of her writings and teachings.

She said, "You can have that. I wrote those. It has many beautiful stories."

The top page had the traditional Navajo prayer written in Navajo. The pages following included the legend of the emergence, a Navajo perspective in Western society, the status of men and women according to the Diné culture, a Diné perspective on sacredness, sacred fields of the Holy Ones, environmental justice and the oral Diné history past to present.

"I'm going to put all my writing together and put it in a binder," she said. "I ant to fix it for the colleges and for educational purposes that the teachers can use. Each of my kids is getting a binder while I'm still around. I'm going to finish what I started.

"Nowadays, the Navajo kids don't speak Navajo," she said. "I want them to learn from this. I want them to stay in school. It's terrible to see them walking around aimless. Don't be aimless, aim for higher."

It became clear that Maybelle is a very determined, feisty Navajo woman. She said that it's never too late to go back to school. She was 55 years old when she went back to school after her husband died.

"I thought to myself, I better go back to school and I did," she said. "I glad I did because I'm glad I do what I do. I can produce my writing and sell it. I'm going to do that for the rest of my life.

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