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In becoming Sa'ah Naaghai Bik'eh Hozhoon: The historical challenges and triumphs of Dine College

This qualitative study seeks to determine the critical elements and activities that comprise the cultural history of Diné College as the first tribally controlled college in the United States. An oral history methodology utilizing a narrative Diné "story-telling" inquiry approach allowed this study to blend stories, songs, prayers, and ceremonies from the Diné creation stories to challenge a host of social, educational, and cultural issues which the Diné people confronted in establishing the first post-secondary educational institution on tribal land, owned and operated by tribal people. Goals of this institution were to prepare students for further academic studies, employment, and culturally astuteness. Cultural history reflects the traditional stories, songs, prayers, and ceremonies of a people, and is used here to reconstruct the events of the past to gain a fair, accurate, and objective understanding of Diné College's unique philosophy of Sa'ah Naaghai Bik'eh Hozhoon and its related components: Nitsahakees -Thinking, Nahata -Planning, Iina -Living and Siih Hasin -Achievement. Through oral history narratives of four key Navajo individuals who were directly and indirectly involved in the College's founding, five key themes are revealed: land, leadership, mission, philosophy, and curriculum. They converge together to weave the cultural history of Diné College.

The idea to examine the cultural history stems from the dearth of literature regarding the cultural activities which contributed to the unique identity of the first tribal college. A review of literature regarding the cultural activities which contributed to the unique identity of the first tribal college. A review of literature on Diné College’s founding is followed by an analysis of primary and secondary written sources. Information gained from interviews, primary and secondary sources, followed by systematic processing and cross-referencing of gathered materials through a coding process revealed core themes and patterns. The findings derive from narratives transcribed and translated from Navajo into English and are presented in chronological and thematic order. As “the story” of Diné College unfolds, a deep appreciation and understanding of the strength and vision of the original founders emerges. In weaving the story of Diné College in becoming Sa’ah Naagháí Bik’eh Hózhóón, which will take a lifetime to accomplish, this study celebrates both its challenges and triumphs.


Ferlin Clark


Manley Begay





Arizona State Museum: 

P9791 C62i 2009


ATT 3360201
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences