A Glimpse of the Navajo (or “Diné” as they call themselves)

One of the biggest highlights of attending the photo workshop put on by Photography Life in Colorado this past fall was meeting pro photographer John “Verm” Sherman and, a few weeks later, his pro photographer girlfriend Dawn Kish.

Navajo Indian Dreamcatcher in Arizona

An Navajo dreamcatcher twists and turns in the wind

Dawn is a contributing photographer for Arizona Highways and she shoots for National Geographic as well. Her photography is so unique that one of her photos was selected by National Geographic Traveler as being among the Top 30 photos of the Last 30 Years.

Wow!!! Better yet, she is a vivacious and fun-loving woman who spends her leisure time rock climbing and mountain biking.

We were lucky enough to camp alongside her and Verm recently. When I told her we had just done some exploring in the Navajo Nation, she told me she had just finished an assignment making a video of the Navajo Nation Fair.

Suddenly, she plopped her laptop on our table, set up our two chairs to face it so we could watch, and brought up this incredible video.

I was spellbound.

I don’t know much about the Navajo (whose name for themselves is not Navajo but Diné). They are a very private people, and like indigenous people on every continent, they have been continually challenged to try and integrate into the society that enveloped them while hanging onto their traditions.

Dawn’s client asked her to make a video that honored the Navajo, and the result is both evocative and moving. She has captured their spirit and essence beautifully, and I had tears in my eyes as I watched a young Navajo girl dressed in full ceremonial splendor singing the American National Anthem — in Navajo.

Enjoy this beautiful glimpse into the lives of a special people whose roots in Arizona go back hundreds of years. It is ten minutes long and the link is below. Putting it in full screen is best!

If you are prompted for a password, it is Dine.

A few years ago, we watched a fabulous PBS “Independent Lens” documentary of a young Navajo girl who participated in the Miss Navajo Pageant, a competition that tests teenage Navajo girls’ mastery of women’s Navajo traditions, including slaughtering a sheep and speaking the language.

After seeing this PBS documentary, we traveled through Window Rock, Arizona, and saw their unique memorial to the Navajo Code Talkers. I picked up a fantastic book that gives a little insight into the Navajo, their patriotism to America and the unique (and arguably tide-turning) role they played in the Pacific theater of WWII: Search for the Navajo Code Talkers.

Just prior to that, while traveling in Mexico, we also had a special encounter with the little known indigenous Lacandon people of Chiapas who were “discovered” in 1948, a scant 66 years ago.  Like the the Navajo in America, they are working to find ways to integrate with mainstream Mexican society. You may enjoy this post about our trip there:

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