When Dr. Elmer Man first got here to Crownpoint Institute of Expertise in 1999 as dean of instruction, he couldn’t have recognized that, 24 years later, he would oversee the establishment’s renaming to Navajo Technical College (NTU). It turned the primary tribal school and college, or TCU, to supply a Ph.D. program — Diné (Navajo) Tradition and Language Sustainability.
“The Ph.D. is not only about studying, studying, or writing Navajo, it’s actually making ready [its students] with instruments in order that they are going to be environment friendly in designing their analysis research, conducting analysis, and discovering options to a number of the challenges that we have now,” says Man. “Those self same college students are gifted, artistic. I’m considering they’ll turn into leaders, actually capable of finding options.”
This system launched its first cohort this fall with three college students on a four-year path to a Ph.D. For Man, it’s the realization of goals a long-time coming. He has nurtured the school, programming, and pedagogy of his establishment and has watched it develop from a two-year technical faculty right into a analysis college.
The creation of this Ph.D. has put NTU on the map the world over. Indigenous research packages and cultural researchers from Australia, Taiwan, Canada, and different nations are reaching out to NTU to find out how this system was made, related to each the cultural instructing strategies of its native nation and the high-level educational analysis that can be utilized to assist new insurance policies or finest practices.
“When our college students are completed with this program, they’ll be well-trained to enter any place — a Tribal chief, a schoolteacher, a professor, an advocate, a nonprofit organizer — these are the sorts of issues they study,” says Dr. Franklin Sage, an assistant professor of Diné tradition, language, and management at NTU and one of many program’s instructors.
“College students can design their very own tasks to get insurance policies handed with information backing them up — information may also help their communities and empower the nation,” says Sage. “The scholars will actually have the ability to articulate issues in Navajo — their very own language.”
Constructing the self-discipline
There are solely 32 absolutely accredited TCUs throughout the U.S., representing a whole lot of indigenous tribes, cultures, and languages. TCUs are distinctive in that their founding precept is to serve indigenous folks and their nations, connecting their historical past to their future, and empowering a brand new technology of learners with the talents to uplift their communities. The distinctive cultural focus of TCUs is now paired with the educational rigor of a Ph.D., and NTU management and school imagine that this inaugural class will make historical past, utilizing their new doctoral titles and analysis to result in change and assist indigenous nations turn into extra sovereign.
“It’s going to take a few generations, however that’s the hope of this [Ph.D.] program, to essentially empower and instill into our college students that we have to do that as a nation,” says Sage. “That is NTU’s contribution to the Navajo Nation. All of us play a task. What we’re doing right here helps the Navajo Nation turn into true independents.”
“As a result of we’re shedding the language in our youthful generations, it’s vital to protect it,” he says. “It’s about our tribal sovereignty — how will you be sovereign in case you don’t communicate your language, know who you might be, know your tradition, your historical past?”
Dr. Wafa Hozien, college educational affairs administrator at NTU, was instrumental within the improvement of this system and its accreditation. Her specialty and keenness are language sustainability and revitalization, a essential ingredient to this system’s development.
“The Navajo language is within the first stage of being endangered — lots of people have a stigma of talking Navajo in colleges, in highschool they’re made enjoyable of,” says Hozien. “It’s like several immigrant group — they need to assimilate into American tradition, and language is a means to do this. Their dad and mom communicate to them in Navajo, and their youngsters reply to them in English. It’s exhausting, so the dad and mom surrender.”
In Sage’s classroom, the scholars are inspired to talk solely in Navajo. Each Sage and Man are descendants of Navajo code-talkers, who have been essential to the success of Allied missions throughout World Battle II (Axis intelligence couldn’t decipher the distinctive language). Hozien factors out that native language preservation is deeply vital to President Man, who helps different TCUs and indigenous tribes throughout the U.S. entry “cultural sustainability and financial revitalization,” each intrinsically related to their native languages.
“Your language is your id,” says Hozien. “In the event you don’t have a language, you don’t have id, tradition, traditions, medicinal practices, and, most significantly, the lack of conventional ceremonies that function rites of passage by means of life.”
It was Man’s dedication to cultural preservation that led to NTU formally requiring all undergraduate college students to take a Navajo language course. He started assembly with school shortly after he first arrived and inspired them to mix Western training and pedagogy with indigenous teachings — culinary college students would study conventional recipes, and environmental science college students would find out about native vegetation and their makes use of.
“We’re a tribal school. We have been chartered by the Navajo nationwide authorities, and Navajo regulation says all colleges have to show native language and tradition,” says Man. “That is the mission of TCUs.”
Man ultimately made Navajo historical past and data required programs, and the college regularly created extra bachelor’s diploma packages. Its grasp’s diploma program in Diné Tradition, Language, and Management required the establishment to rent new school members and lower your expenses for a analysis library. As assets have been slowly acquired, the establishment started working towards Western accreditation and permission from the Navajo Nationwide Council to turn into a analysis college. After years of working, pushing, and ready, NTU obtained its official go-ahead for its Physician of Philosophy in Diné Tradition and Language Sustainability in February 2023. Man says he, NTU leaders, and school have been all thrilled by the information. Hozien says she noticed tears come to Man’s eyes.
Executing on a imaginative and prescient
“Due to Man’s imaginative and prescient, we have now this program,” says Hozien. “Our college students, because of this, might be outfitted with data and instruments to create significant change of their communities. Once they graduate, they are going to be medical doctors.”
Hozien additionally factors to the sometimes-extreme dwelling circumstances of scholars and school members who dwell close to, or take lessons at, NTU. The circumstances could make completion tougher for college students. Many commute over two hours on rural roads to make it to campus. Some don’t have entry to a wi-fi sign at dwelling. Some don’t have electrical energy or operating water. Many are compelled to purchase water, as floor water provides have been poisoned by means of uranium mining contamination that occurred from 1944 to 1986. These are simply a number of the issues dealing with the indigenous communities NTU serves.
“We’ve got buses and 15 passenger vans that exit to all corners of the Navajo Nation, however meaning they need to rise up at 5:00 A.M. to get right here,” says Hozien, including that a lot of NTU’s funding for packages like commuter buses depends upon the form of grants she and different school are capable of write and obtain. This might doubtlessly put the expansion of the brand new Ph.D. program in danger.
Dr. Siri G. Tuttle, professor of Navajo linguistics at NTU in each Ph.D. and grasp’s stage programs, teaches her college students remotely from the west coast.
“The aim is for the language for use greater than it at present is,” says Tuttle. “If somebody says yet one more sentence in Navajo every day, that’s extra. Transfer it ahead a bit bit at a time and chip away on the loss. It may not really feel like sufficient, however every of these items is a large, huge achievement.”
Tuttle says it was deeply vital to her that the Ph.D. program provide the identical educational rigor as every other Western establishment, absolutely outfitted to have interaction with those that might have spent their complete lives in academia. This primary-class cohort, she says, will assist fine-tune this system as wanted to make it even stronger. Finally, extra school, workers, and assets might be essential to this system’s success, Tuttle says.
“The college must put money into extra workers, extra school, which is one thing we have now to maintain engaged on,” says Tuttle. “In addition they must develop a tradition of getting a graduate faculty — we have to construct admin assist for it, for school, and for the scholars, and we have to construct up our library.”
These sorts of assets might be accessed by means of partnerships with neighboring colleges just like the College of New Mexico (UNM). Man says NTU’s engineering division is working hand in hand with UNM to doubtlessly develop a fabric science doctoral program. UNM has the school however not the lab area, and NTU has the lab area however not the school. Coming collectively, the 2 can serve their area, state, and nations.
“They need to collaborate with us. The [Diné Culture and Language Sustainability] Ph.D. is absolutely opening up alternatives to provide our school the boldness to construct up their packages — and I believe we’ll have one other Ph.D. not lengthy from immediately,” says Man. “We began out small, and once we rejoice the day our college students graduate, [when we] honor and hood them, once we publish their analysis, there’s going [to] be a variety of curiosity.”
Man says he appears to be like ahead to the day NTU can rent its personal graduates to show, to construct up a linguistics program, maybe. With the correct school and a secure administration that believes in its TCU mission, he says, the sky is the restrict to what NTU can do.
Dr. Cheryl Loopy Bull, president and CEO of the American Indian School Fund, a charity group supporting Native American college students’ entry to postsecondary training, agreed.
“NTU is educating a cohort of native students that may be disseminating their expertise and giving to, not simply different TCUs, however extra broadly to indigenous research as a tutorial area — there’s a variety of alternatives to solidify that, at quite a lot of totally different establishments,” says Loopy Bull. “What does this imply for predominately white colleges which have indigenous research packages? They need to strengthen these packages, and I believe partnerships. Wanting on the work NTU is doing can contribute to that in a constructive means.”