New TV show bridges younger generation of Navajos with their elders – St George News
ST. GEORGE- Building healthy relationships and bringing older generations of Navajos together with young people are the goals of a new TV show.
“Navajo Highways” is a new series on YouTube and was created by a small group of Native Americans. The creators come from Montezuma Creek, Utahon the Navajo Nation reservation.
“The Navajo are very visual learners. The show is very meaningful to me because I see there is kind of a gap between our young people and the elders,” said Dachuneeh Martin, the lead puppeteer. “And I believe this puppet show builds a bridge between us.”
Martin is 18 years old and is of Navajo and Omaha tribal ancestry. She graduated from White Horse High School. The show’s creator and screenwriter, Pete Sands, asked her to play the character of 8-year-old Sadie on the show. Sands is a member of the Navajo tribe.
“I learned a few Navajo words doing the puppets. It’s really important to me because I tried to learn Navajo,” Martin said.
Sands and her cast teach Navajo to children through puppets named Ash, Sadie, and their family. The “Navajo Highway” episodes will showcase life in the Navajo Nation and are aimed at all ages.
During Martin’s childhood, she watched TV shows like Dora the Explorer. She still remembers the words in Spanish. But she is still learning her native Navajo.
Martin was excited when she first heard about the TV series. She assumed that Sands would have professional actors or puppeteers to perform the roles of the characters. To his surprise, Sands told him he wanted the roles to be played by Native Americans.
“I’m playing the character of Sadie. She’s an eight-year-old girl learning to speak Navajo. And that’s a really interesting thing to do because I’ve never done puppets before,” he said. she declared.
Martin said Sands writes the series and sometimes the cast ad-libs as well. The show is produced by Sands and hosted by volunteers. She noted that feedback on the show has been very positive.
“People are very excited because there are a lot of people in our community who don’t speak Navajo. Well, a lot of my generation don’t speak it, but they can understand it to a point,” Martin said. “On the Navajo Nation, we’re all kind of a family together. Language unites people, whether it’s the older generation or the younger generation. I think if we learn the language, we can bring people together. people.
Sands agrees. “You can’t have culture without language.”
He hopes the TV series will be an example for other Native American communities. Sands remembers how watching Sesame Street was fun and simplified language. Sands hopes the show will encourage young people to learn the language of their ancestors known as Dine Bizaad.
“The last study I read was that just over 20 percent of Navajo was spoken at home, and that was four years ago,” Sands said.
He is fluent in Navajo and wants to carry on the tradition. Sands uses toys and stories to engage audiences. He anticipates that the children will start the conversation and that the parents will continue it at home. Sands said it was not about perfection but about learning about their ancestors and preserving their language.
“When you pray in this indigenous language, you sing songs in this language; what’s the use if you don’t know what these words mean? Sand said.
As with most native languages in North America, the number of those who speak the Navajo language has declined. Sands said it was absolutely vital that they find a way to preserve their language and culture.
“I created four Navajo puppet characters to launch a children’s television show that follows these puppets as they travel across the Navajo nation to learn about the language and culture. The two main characters are two puppet children named “Ash & Sadie” who are cousins. Then there’s “Uncle Al” and “Grandma Sally.”
His ultimate goal for the show is to get media companies like PBS interested in picking it up to reach more people and make a meaningful impact. A Go-Fund-Me account has been set up to help with “Navajo Highways”.
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