City, AZ. - Philosophy professor Dr. Herbert Benally visited Tuba
City Unified School District Nov. 5 to share a presentation on the
Navajo T'aa'Dine' teaching philosophy, which incorporates daily,
clockwise four direction driven values and principles for teaching
young students how to become successful, productive, honest, inspired
and environmentally sensitive people.
In the next couple of months, a presentation for teachers and
staff will take place on incorporating Hopi tribal values and lifeways
into the daily curriculum and activities for the student population.
The district is in its second year of incorporating Navajo and
Hopi cultural values, language and lifeways. The district is taking
tribal heritage and culture along with technology into the next
century, building self-reliant, contributing, respectful student
citizens of the world.
Benally explained there are four directions and four main principles
of T'aa'Dine' teachings including east, south, west and north directions
and life tasks that go along with those sacred directions.
The strength of T'aa'Dine' philosophy is a harmonious life and
holistic view of life that strives for beauty, peace, harmony and
joy in daily living. Understanding and practicing these directions
gives strong foundation to all decisions for everyone.
Benally's presentation startrf with the east direction. East
also means Dawn, the Spring and Mt. Blanca means character development
and excellence of the heart and mind. Dawn also means light and
clarity, which helps make more thoughtful decisions.
According to Benally, decisions made without this eastern direction
can be greedy or socially unjust, which can lead to degradation
The south direction, means Blue Horizon, summer, Mt. Taylor
and travel for a purpose.
Benally said the south means to provide for oneself and maintain
dignity and self-sufficiency through travel knowledge. To achieve
this goal, one must work in all dimensions. That work has an ethical
and social dimension and impact on one's environment. Work also
has the added dimension of modernization and excessiveness which
can be a concern in Navajo philosophy. To take anything in excess
is harmful and evil. To ensure balance, one must not forget their
environment and only take what will actually be used in one's life
for a meaningful purpose.
The west represents twilight or autumn, the San Francisco Peaks
and family cohesiveness. Benally said the west represents positive
human relationships. This type of relationship begins in the home,
where kinship rather than names are generally used to address family
members. The use of appropriate kinship names between siblings and
family members strengthens positive family ties and connections.
The use and acknowledgement of clan systems is also very important.
How one reacts within their own home community, their cooperative
attitude to help and assist and willingness to show respect all
comes from this direction.
The north, represents darkness, winter, La Plata Mountain and
hope. Benally said this fourth area of knowledge represents self-fulfillment,
respect and reverence. It also represents the interconnectedness
and inter-dependence of all life. In the current time of pollution
and toxic concerns, tribal people are aware of the inter-connectedness
of all things on the planet to one another including animals, people,
plants, landscape, water and air. They must be mindful of the balance
that should be maintained for a healthy life and outlook.
Benally told the teachers and staff that his presentation was
to help them with their daily interaction with students.
"To really listen to them, to be respectful to them, to hear
them," Benally said, adding this type of tribal philosophy was "really
the whole purpose of life skills education."
Benally reminded the staff that the elders weren't lazy and
used themselves as role models to help the kids or grandkids learn
a daily positive work ethic. The elders also used kind words to
encourage their young ones to learn. He also reminded everyone that
daily prayer is extremely important to keeping a spiritual balance
and to be flexible and that sometimes circumstances are difficult
and you must work around them to learn.
"Don't let the mattress beat you everyday," Benally said. "Remember
to have discipline, get up early, go out and pray or go for a walk
in the dawn and appreciate your life and your family and your surroundings.
Start off each day with a purpose."