- The city of Phoenix is not a place you would expect to find Navajo
language classes, but the Indian Center is planning to expand its
classes to include children in August.
Phoenix Indian Center has seen a rise in popularity among the urban
Navajo community. In 2000, the center expanded its services to include
Navajo language and culture classes that are offered throughout
recent funding from the Navajo Nation and several grants, the center's
education department has employed four permanent staff - cultural
specialist Freddie Johnson, language instructor Rachel Antonio,
elder assistant Richard Beyal, and education specialist David Frazier.
staffers were hired to develop a curriculum for beginning and intermediate
Navajo language classes as well as Navajo literacy classes.
we have programs that are structured from traditional curriculum
to non-traditional curriculum, we strive to provide families with
a connection to their mother, the Navajo Nation," said Roberta
Howard, program director.
children may live in different areas, but they still need to maintain
that connection with her."
instructor Rachel Antonio is a graduate of the Diné College
and Arizona State University Diné Teacher Education Program.
instructs beginning, intermediate, and advanced adult Navajo language
classes. Though the classes are not officially accredited, they
are formally structured with regular class work, homework assignments
the classes is challenging because they are constantly being revitalized,"
Antonio said. "But, I enjoy it. It is something I desire to
specialist Freddie Johnson instructs intergenerational family classes
where family members learn the Navajo language and culture through
real-life situations and environments.
favors an informal approach when working with families. Family members
sometimes play "Navajo Jeopardy" and "Navajo Pictionary"
and are encouraged to interact with one another as they would at
teach the parents and the children, the component of a family",
Johnson said. "It is a good way of reaching the children and
reminding the parents that they are the first teachers."
staffers are busy with classes, they often host cultural events
and activities for families. This past winter, the center hosted
the Navajo shoe game and often invited guests from the reservation.
several occasions, I've had a few elders come visit the classes,"
Johnson said. "I once had an 83-year-old grandma from Lukachukai
come in with her grandchildren and tell me that the Navajo language
program was a good thing to do down here."
director Howard promises that the establishment of the classes is
just the beginning.
its many goals, the program hopes to establish a distance-learning
program using modern technology and build partnerships with Phoenix
school districts that have high concentrations of Native American
the program's biggest goal is to become an extension of Diné
is a need for such an extension among the community here both educationally
and career-wise," said Howard. "It would be a wonderful
source of revenue for the college and would serve as an educational
exchange between urban and reservation areas."
fall, the program will welcome some big changes. Currently, staff
members are hard at work to expand the center's focus to include
young children and are eagerly developing a curriculum that includes
games, songs and hands-on activities.
center will begin hosting Navajo language and culture classes for
children this upcoming August.
excited about the children's classes, it will be something new,"
said Antonio. "We want to start focusing on the children because
they are going to be our leaders one day and it is important that
they know their native language."
and language keeps us happy and whole", said Howard. "Without
it, we lose our self-identity. The language is the spirit of the
people and our program hopes to help keep the spirit alive."
city of Phoenix is home to nearly 80,000 Native American from across
the United States.
Phoenix is attractive for families and those seeking a college education
or a change of lifestyle, many within the urban Native community
need language and cultural ties, job training, educational resources,
and opportunities to socialize with fellow Native Americans.
Phoenix Indian Center was established to serve urban Indians in
need of such services.
in 1947, the center provided vendors with a location to sell and
buy arts and crafts and served as a place where the Native community
could receive messages, shower, and connect with other Natives.
the center has become a fully functioning, multi-faceted organization
that seeks to "promote the social and economic self-sufficiency
of the American Indians living of Maricopa County."
center offers child-care services, family counseling, case management
and learning circles. Native Workforce Services, one of the center's
most utilized resources, provides employment and job-training assistance
through its on-site Adult Learning Center.
GED classes and seminars are available through the program. In addition
to employment assistance, Native Workforce Services features a "resource
room" where Internet access, printer access, and fax machines
are available for use for those that qualify for the program.
more information on the Phoenix Indian Center and its services,
please call 602-264-6768 or visit their offices at 2601 North Third
Street Suite 100, Phoenix, Arizona 85004.
Indian Center, Inc.
The mission of the Phoenix Center, Inc. is
to promote the social and economic self-sufficiency of the American
Indians living in Maricopa County.