President Buu Nygren and Delegate Andy Nez discuss preservation of Diné language, $1.7 million legislation
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Before getting down to the business of signing the legislation, President Buu Nygren and Delegate Dr. Andy Nez conversed about what they could do to encourage students to learn Navajo.
The two leaders met on Friday to sign Navajo Nation Council Delegate Nez’s. But before they discussed the legislation, they began talking about language preservation.
“Just imagine, they're the future,” said President Nygren. “What if they're the only ones, fifty years down the road, who know how to speak? And how do we encourage more people to study for it?”
Delegate Nez said 14 students, at one point, passed the bilingual test.
The students are Kabibe Yellowhair from Pinon High School, Howlingwater Yellowhair from Many Farms High School, MacKalee Williams and Sara Billy, both from Holbrook High School, and Elxcia Smith from Ganado High School. The five were awarded the 2023 Navajo Nation Bilingual Seal Award.
On May 4, President Nygren met and congratulated five students for their endeavors to learn the Diné language.
The president joined the five students at an awards ceremony held at Fire Rock Casino.
The students are proficient in speaking Navajo and took a test to demonstrate their knowledge of the Navajo language.
President Nygren encouraged them to continue to learn Navajo because thinking in Navajo presents the world differently compared to just believing in one language.
In the Navajo language home, the frequency of speaking the language is around two percent and has a combination of Navajo language and English., which is up to 28%. And English-only in the home and family is around 72%.
“It begins in the home. The value of our language, it’s a compelling language,” said President Nygren.
To encourage students to learn their language, Nez suggested an incentive could be given.
“I was thinking like two grand, but also even just like if it's not money, it's like an Apple MacBook Air or something,” Nez said
The President agreed and said the laptops could contain programs that would help students in school.
“To help them out, I think a MacBook, a laptop, that's got Word Document on it — that would work too,” said President Nygren.
Dr. Nez added that giving students the equipment and software needed for a school was worth more than just giving them the money.
Delegate Nez and President Nygren agreed they’d begin working on it and get ready for next year’s bilingual test.
Both returned their attention to Nez’s legislation for his chapters.
“So, we're here for your phenomenal legislation that you got through. You have the chapter house equipment purchase of a grader, cistern system in Sawmill, rural addressing,” the President said to Delegate Nez, who represents Crystal, Fort Defiance, Red Lake, and Sawmill.
Through resolution No. CJN-29-22, the Naabik’íyáti’ Committee and Navajo Nation Council allocated more than $1 billion of the Navajo Nation Fiscal Recovery Funds, or NNFRF, for chapter and other projects on the Navajo Nation.
The NNFRF will fund public safety emergency communications, E-911, rural addressing, water, broadband, electricity, housing, bathroom additions, and other projects.
The NNFRF was signed into law in July 2022. The Navajo Nation approved total funding for the NNFRF Chapter and Chapter Projects Expenditure Plan from the Navajo Nation Fiscal Recovery Fund for $211,256,148.
President Nygren indicated the Council expects the NNFRF to be encumbered by June 30, 2024. And if any changes to the regional plans are made, they must be approved by the Council.
Instead of signing funding worth $2.2 million, Dr. Nez indicated they were signing for $1.7 million.
President Nygren asked if some of his chapters were certified or not. Nez said there were.
According to the Division of Community Development, just Fort Defiance was certified.
“One of the things I’m chatting with my team is we trying to figure out how to help non-certified chapters,” said President Nygren. “It gets a little tricky because it goes to the Division of Community Development.”
Dr. Nez said funding was given to the four chapters before his tenure.
“They're the first of our four chapters to be fully funded based on their allocations,” said Dr. Nez.
Just Sawmill Chapter was on the legislation. They requested funding to purchase heavy equipment for $300,00, a cistern system for $500,000, and rural addressing for $233,662.