Diné teachings steer troubled young men into a more positive
Window Rock, AZ "From what we understand
by a lot of the researches done, yes," said coordinator of the 2013
Youth Culture Festival, Lucy Laughter-Begay. "It builds resiliency,
meaning if they know where they are coming from, the strong identity
will help them face the challenges they have."
Using traditional teachings to address issues such drug addiction,
bullying and suicide among youth was among the topics discussed
during the event, which was sponsored by the Tséhootsooí
Medical Center's Methamphetamine Suicide Prevention Initiative and
held last week.
"Since school was out for summer we thought we would have this
event for the community to promote the use of traditional teachings,"
said Begay, who is also the project director for the Initiative.
We can encourage our people, especially our youth, (about)
the concept of their identity to give them confidence and strength
as Dine' people, and using that information for their own protective
According to Begay, though the event was targeted at the youth,
parents were also encouraged to attend, as there were workshops
on parenthood and the importance of setting a solid foundation.
Among the speakers was traditional consultant Rex Harvey, whose
presentation was titled "Traditional Roles of Navajo Males."
"For young men, I just want them to take care of themselves
and to be proper with themselves," he said. "To have respect for
themselves and grow individually, internally and externally so they
are able to have a brighter future for themselves..."
Currently living in Montezuma Creek, Utah, Harvey works for
the Utah Navajo Health System's Behavior Health Department as a
traditional consultant, working with troubled adolescent males,
using his traditional teachings and lessons in his practice.
"I believe the Navajo youth is where we have to get the traditional
teachings embedded in," he said, "so down the road they can learn
how to be better parents and people."
Unlike the other speakers presenting, one thing that set Harvey
apart from the others was his use of humor.
"I just want to make it fun for the youth because I find that
humor is the key to get them to listen and to understand," Harvey
With many cheers and laughter from his audience, it seemed Harvey's
humor was indeed working as he drew the attention of everyone in
"I love it when a kid laughs, I like it when they're smiling,"
he said. "I like it when a kid is receiving something good and they
walk away saying, 'Hey that was really good, I'm going to share
it with my dad and my grandma.'"
Another expert who presented was John Tsosie Jr., a traditional
counselor for the Tséhootsooí Medical Center.
"The Navajo youth have issues with substance abuse, frustration,
" he said. "As long as they understand where
they're coming from, it helps."
Tsosie said some of the young people he works with using his
philosophy has helped many graduate and to prevent high school dropout.
"In that way, I do believe it is effective," he said.
Of next year, Begay said she hopes to make the youth festival
an annual event.
"If our funding and donations keep coming we want to have this
event annually," she said. "Since our funding comes directly from
Congress, they're asking 'what is it? What is the secret to the
Navajo still being recognized as a people?'
"And the secret," she said, "is the use of our tradition, our
own teachings, our own language, we're saying it's a strong, sacred