LEUPP, Ariz. – After years of delay, the Navajo Nation will formally incorporate the wisdom and knowledge of its traditional teachings to address modern social problems found across its land.
After being stalled since 1987, the Diné Action Plan is ready to move. The Nation’s director of its Division of Social Services credits an order given to him by the tribe’s new, young president for reviving the DAP initiative.
“When Dr. Nygren came in, he really gave it a push,” said Thomas Cody, executive director of the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services. “‘Let’s get some money into it,’ he said. So, that is what we did.”
Cody said the involvement and support of Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren, Navajo Nation Council Speaker Crystalyne Curley and Navajo Supreme Court Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne, the Diné Action Plan is showing real progress compared to years before.
What makes the Diné Action Plan different than most social service modalities is a Diné-centered approach that incorporates traditional Navajo values. These are Nitsáhákees (thinking), Nahat’á (planning), Iiná (action), and Síhasin (reflecting). Through a process based on these values and practices, the Navajo Nation will address modern-day “monsters.”
According to traditional Navajo teachings, seven monsters preyed upon the Navajo people since time immemorial. They are laziness, sleepiness, jealousy, hunger, poverty, lice and old age.
The DAP identifies violence, domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse, suicide, and missing or murdered Navajo relatives as modern-day monsters.
An Advisory Group established to rejuvenate the DAP has met every quarter to update the plan with progress reports and action items from its five task groups.
This week, the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services and the DAP Advisory Group received reports from the group at a two-day seminar. These updates from the groups included:
- Substance Abuse Prevention Workgroup: As the Navajo Nation pushes to open the treatment centers on Navajo, progress is being hindered by few applicants for staff positions to run the programs.
- Suicide Prevention Workgroup: Outreach to chapter houses and schools is a major focus of the group. Community members are being sought for their workgroup.
- Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives: The MMDR model, they shared, will better position the Navajo Nation to respond to new reports from public safety that is community-oriented and multidisciplinary.
- Domestic Violence Workgroup: They group shared that they aim to build upon the assistance from Arizona State University and other institutions to improve support for victims and those who are at risk of ongoing domestic violence.
The group has a goal of a comprehensive strategy to reduce social ills and to accomplish this, the members include leaders from the Navajo Nation government, social services organizations and community groups who offer their direct input. Partners include the Navajo Division of Behavioral and Mental Health Services, Navajo Division of Public Safety, Office of the Speaker, Judicial Branch and Department of Diné Education. The President’s dedicated Missing and Murdered staffer provides additional support from the President’s office.
President Nygren has called DAP “a comprehensive roadmap developed through extensive consultation with Navajo citizens, community leaders, health experts and tribal programs.”
“Overall, the Diné Action Plan gives us a roadmap to rebuild in a manner that honors our traditions and takes care of our most vulnerable populations,” he said. “As one Navajo family, we will emerge even stronger than before.”
When 16 new Navajo council delegates were seated in January, the legislative branch also reinvigorated the initiative with key legislator support.
“There are six delegates out of the council’s 24 members who are attending our seminar here,” Cody said. “Speaker Curley was on the phone, too. We have Speaker’s staff here. The support is really there.”
Cody said Navajo Nation Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne always comes aboard, as well, aligning lawmakers, executive programs, and judicial goals.
With this approach, Cody said the plan will be embraced by the Navajo people who want to see leadership who work together.
“We are making progress using a collaborative approach to combat serious problems affecting too many of our people,” Cody said. “The Diné Action Plan will integrate the work and resources of all involved to provide a coordinated response to social problems.”
Over two days, the group reviewed proposals and initiatives from partners across the Navajo Nation. They discussed expanding prevention programs, improving access to treatment, promoting cultural wellness practices, and getting community members more involved.
Navajo Nation Council Delegates Curtis Yanito and Cherilyn Yazzie attended the seminar and Delegates Amber Crotty and Germaine Simonson participated virtually. All who took part praised the progress being made to develop the plan.