New Spring Term Plans on Immersing Students in Navajo Culture

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The University of Indianapolis is offering a new Spring Term study-abroad course this year which explores the culture of the Navajo Nation, according to a Spring Term flyer on campus. This trip is aimed at teaching students the traditions and customs of the Diné Native peoples, according to the flyer

UIndy Instructor of English Kristine Newton says this Spring Term was created after attending a conference back in 2022 and becoming friends with one of the speakers from Navajo Technical University. After having the speaker for one of UIndy’s faculty series, Newton said she was invited to bring students to Navajo Tech University.

“I went to a conference back in 2022 in May and I heard this woman from Navajo Tech University speak and I was really impressed with her,” Newton said. “I talked with her at lunch and we just struck up conversations and we got along really well and I actually had her as a keynote speaker for a webinar event that I held last year, and then from that we decided to see if we could partner up to have students go out to the reservation because there was so much interest generated from that webinar.”

Newton said students who are attending the Spring Term trip will be visiting places on the reservation like Crowne Point, New Mexico and different museums and sites of Arizona. Students will also be engaging in different activities while attending the Spring Term, according to Newton.

“When we go, it’ll be a week that we spend there at the university.  So we fly out there and we stay on campus, and you will meet all types of people that live in the area,” Newton said. “They’re students, doing all different types of classes and activities. They’ll learn another whole language. Then we will have cooking lessons. They will herd sheep, visit museums and so forth. We’ll even go to the market so they can practice bargaining and speaking Navajo. It will be a transformative experience and I’m really excited about it. I think the students will be excited about it, as well.”

According to Associate Professor and Graduate Programs of English Leah Milne, the Navajo Nation call themselves the Diné. The Navajo peoples are one of the only tribes to have ancestral land overlapping their reserved land, according to Milne

“Diné means ‘the people,’” Milne said. “Essentially, the Navajo define themselves by their people, but they also have a large territory and they’re one of the few, if only, native tribal nations in our country that have reservation land that overlaps their traditional homelands. A lot of native tribes have been kind of pushed into reservations and have been kind of moved away from their traditional homelands and it’s one of the only who have reservation lands that overlap their tribal traditional homelands.”

According to Newton, this Spring Term trip is important because of the opportunity to learn the culture and history of Indigenous People and the effects of colonization.  Learning from past mistakes and acknowledging those affected by systematic racism is important, Newton said.

“It’s important for everyone in America to learn the history and culture of the Indigenous people,” Newton said. “I mean, they’ve contributed so much which has been silenced for so long. I think it’s important to really connect with the Indigenous communities, and they need our support as much as we have needed theirs, so and it’s important for us to learn about the issues like colonization and so forth so that we don’t repeat those mistakes again, and also there’s still a lot to learn from each other, especially when it comes to environmental issues and so forth because systemic racism and it has really affected society and the communities, not just in New Mexico but all over the U.S.

The Spring Term is named Immersion: Sovereign Nation Spring Term 299, and the maximum number of students able to register for this Spring Term is 12 students, according to UIndy Registrar. The course duration is two weeks, from May 6 through 24, according to the registrar

“I welcome anyone who has any questions or would like to sign up and invite all your friends,” Newton said. “It’s a great, great experience.”

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