Oral Tradition is a concept that is often discussed in American Indian Studies (AIS). However, much of the writing and scholarship in AIS is constructed using a Western academic framework. With this in mind, I embarked on an approximate nine hundred mile loop that circled much of the ancestral lands of the Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone of Nevada. I passed through sixteen towns, stopping at ten reservations (Walker River Paiute Tribe, Yerington Paiute Tribe, Stuart Indian School, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Lovelock Paiute Tribe, Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone, Duck Valley, Yomba Shoshone, Fallon Paiute-Shoshone) and two colleges (University of Nevada, Reno and Great Basin College). At each location I engaged with community members, discussed prevalent themes in American Indian Studies, and in riding my bicycle, I was able to reconnect with the land. To guide my bicycle journey, I used a theoretical framework consisting of four components: history, story, Red Power, and the physical body. Using these concepts, the intent was to re-center the narrative of my experience around the Paiute-Shoshone community of Nevada as opposed to me as an individual actor. Ultimately, this thesis embodies theoretical scholarship in a pragmatic manner in an effort to provide an example of contemporary Indigenous Oral Tradition.
ABSTRACT As referenced in Navajo ceremonial prayers and songs, "Saad bee hahoozhood jini," it began harmoniously with language. This dissertation examines and celebrates in new ways the meaning of language in Navajo literature. The first chapter is an introduction of this dissertation. I share my personal experiences with language, both English and Navajo, and how it has shaped me to be the person I am today as a Navajo speaker, student, educator, and professional. The second chapter contains an analysis and review of Western ideology of feminism and its place in Navajo society and a comparative study of several works written by Navajo authors, including Laura Tohe, Luci Tapahonso, and Nia Francisco, and how their creative works reflect the foundation of Navajo culture, Asdzaa Nadleehe, Changing Woman. The third chapter presents my own short fiction of Navajo characters living in today's society, a society that entails both positive and negative issues of Navajo life. These stories present realistic twenty-first century environments on the Navajo reservation. The fourth chapter consists of a short fiction written originally in the Navajo language. The story also represents the celebration of Navajo language as it thrives in today's time of tribal and cultural struggles. The sense of it being told in Navajo celebrates and preserves Navajo culture and language. The final chapter is the beginning of an oral narrative presented in written form, that of my grandmother's life story. This introduction of her story also is in itself a commemoration of language, oral Navajo language.
This dissertation explores how historical changes in education shaped Diné collective identity and community by examining the interconnections between Navajo students, their people, and Diné Bikéyah (Navajo lands). Farina King investigates the ongoing influence of various schools as colonial institutions among the Navajo from the 1930s to 1990 in the southwestern United States. The question that guides this research is how institutional schools, whether far, near, or on the reservation, affected Navajo students’ sense of home and relationships with their Indigenous community during the twentieth century.
The study relies on a Diné historical framework that centers on a Navajo mapping of the world and earth memory compass. The four directions of their sacred mountains orient the Diné towards hózhǫ́, the ideal of society, a desirable state of being that most translate as beauty, harmony, or happiness. Their sacred mountains mark Diné Bikéyah and provide an earth memory compass in Navajo life journeys that direct them from East, to South, to West, and to North. These four directions and the symbols associated with them guide this overarching narrative of Navajo educational experiences from the beginning of Diné learning in their home communities, to the adolescent stages of their institutionalized schooling, to the recent maturity of hybrid Navajo-American educational systems. After addressing the Diné ancestral teachings of the East, King focuses on the student experiences of interwar Crownpoint Boarding School to the South, the postwar Tuba City Boarding School and Leupp Boarding School to the West, and self-determination in Monument Valley to the North.
This study primarily analyzes oral histories and cultural historical methodologies to feature Diné perspectives, which reveal how the land and the mountains serve as focal points of Navajo worldviews. The land defines Diné identity, although many Navajos have adapted to different life pathways. Therefore, land, environment, and nature constituted integral parts and embeddedness of Diné knowledge and epistemology that external educational systems, such as federal schools, failed to overcome in the twentieth century.