curator Nonabah Sam displays the award Diné College
received from the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries,
The Ned A. Hatathli Cultural Center Museum at Diné College
received the Museum Excellence Award from the Association of Tribal
Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM). Presented at the ATALM
2015 Guardians of Culture and Lifeways International Awards in Washington,
DC, the award recognizes those who serve as outstanding examples
of how Indigenous archives, libraries, museums, and individuals
contribute to the vitality and cultural sovereignty of Native nations.
Nonabah Sam, the museum's curator, accepted the award on behalf
of the college.
Sam was an influential factor in the awards selection. Since
joining Diné College as the museum curator in 2012, she has
revitalized the facility and its collections. Under her direction,
the museum collections moved to the newly constructed Ruth and Bob
Roessel Archive Building for proper storage, preservation, and cataloging.
Sam also played a key role in the design and remodeling of the Ned
A. Hatathli Cultural Center Museum. The existing museum was identified
for renovation by the Capital Investment and Improvement Planning
Committee at the college. Sam's design of the museum space integrates
traditional Navajo learning areas and provides for ample space for
the display of southwestern Native American objects.
"The idea of having a museum that represents our traditional
way of life and integrating a Diné Bizaad Tééyah
(Navajo Speaking Zone), is what makes our museum very unique. Each
of the areas located in the museum have Navajo names, beginning
with the center as Hooghan Nímazí (permanent gallery).
Moving around the gallery there is the workspace known as Chaha'oh;
the Dibé bighan (Children's Interactive Corner); the Dá
ák'eh (Book Shelves); and we have our Táchééh
Theater (Sweat Lodge)," explains Sam. "Each one of these areas plays
a vital role in the museum and is dedicated to teaching and learning
about Navajo life ways."
To date, the museum has exhibited three unique shows, the grand
re-opening show entitled, "Celebrating Nitsáhákees,
Nahat'á, Iina, Siihasin: From Traditional Aesthetics to Contemporary
Navajo Art," "To Feel the Earth: Moccasins of the Southwest," and
the current show, "Hwééldi Baa Hane: Our Truth, Our
Stories." The current show is dedicated to the 150th anniversary
of the beginning of the Long Walk of the Navajos. The success of
the shows have made the Ned A. Hatathli Museum one of the top museums
to visit in the Southwest and a key destination of the Navajo Nation
Tourism Industry and other travel related agencies in the region.
For her part, Sam works countless hours to make the museum a
success. The award speaks to her exemplary knowledge of museum layouts
and displays. "I cannot take all the credit for how far we have
come to make this museum outstanding, especially in such a short
period of time," says Sam. "It takes a good team to win at the end
of the day and I thank each of you, who have supported the museum
and my staff, including Leon Jackson, Rudy Dixon and Dixon Preferred
Services, Ed Yazzie Construction, and also Pueblo Mechanical."