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Tuba City Junior High Puts On First Navajo And Hopi Lavayi Traditional Play
by Rosanda Suetopka - Navajo-Hopi Observer
Helping to round out the entire cast for Tuba City High Hopi Lavayi and Navajo language programs, Hopi student actors played a major part in making the first ever public play in the Hopi language a success. (photo by Rosanda Suetopka)
Using only their Hopi traditional names, Tuba City Junior High language actors are from left: Holeetsi, Pavayoykyatsi and Sutaqmana. (photo by Rosanda Suetopka)

TUBA CITY, AZ - Last week Tuba City Junior High Navajo and Hopi language instructors worked with students to present a live play performance in a contemporary setting with students enrolled in tribal language programs.

An hour-long public play presentation was designed and created by the students. They receiving language assistance help only in the interpretation from the Hopi and Navajo language teachers.

Diné and Hopi Lavayi Language teachers Tammy Richards, sixth grade Navajo/Cultural instructor, Arvis Myron, sixth-eighth grade Hopi Lavayi teacher, and Louise Kerley, eighth grade language and cultural teacher, provided the oversight language mentorship to the students who were actors and script writers for the play.

The theme for this year's performance was "Tazhii Ye'e," meaning "Turkey Was."

The presentation was about the tribal language interaction between the students who were the actors in the play to become more familiar and comfortable with their language in a conversational atmosphere.

The skit focused on tribal basic language skills, such as describing colors and numbers and in the Hopi version to share and tell a bit about the Hopi Clown or Tsuku.

The students were also awarded special recognition for Best Actor and Best Actress as well as for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress for the most fluent presentation in tribal language during the play interaction.

Eighth grade Navajo language and cultural instructor Louise Kerley said the students did an excelleng job.

"We are so very proud of each of them for their creative talent in writing the play and then acting in it," Kerley said. "We had a lot of support from not just the teachers in the program but also from several of the district's departments.

The technology department set up the sound system. Dennis Bedonie, school counselor, who is a fluent Navajo speaker, served as the Master of Ceremonies. A panel of judges for the trophy prizes were made up from other staff. Violet Tso and Ella Bedonie, both primary school teachers, and Judy Anagal from Dzil Libei Elementary School and Angie Blake a former TCUSD teacher, counted the ballots and helped make the final choices of students who won prizes.

"[The students who won prizes were those] who did a particularly good job of speaking their tribal language in solid conversation and interpretation of cultural ideas."

Kerley said this was the first time the Navajo and Hopi language programs put on an event like this.

"It turned out to be a really positive experience, so we are hoping that this first presentation won't be our last, we now have a good idea of what it takes to put on a play production and we can start to work on another one for the spring," Kerley said.

One of the goals of Tuba City Unified School District is to incorporate tribal language and tradition in everyday classroom curriculum blending a strong tribal language and cultural foundation to complement the rigorous academic tasks given to students from the primary school to the senior level in high school, as well as challenging and encouraging students who attend the alternative school called Nizhoni Accelerated Academy.

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