Navajo tribe member presents at Belfry School

In connection with the Native American Thematic Learning Unit, Navajo tribe member, Dr. Rosemarie Dugi of the National Indian Education Association spoke to Belfry students about various tribal topics. On Tues. November 5, Dr. Dugi, who works in the MSU-Billings Education Department, presented to grades 5-12 on matters including life of a Navajo, tribal government, symbolism throughout their tribe and code talking during WWII. Social Studies teacher, Scott Felchle helped organize the event to enhance student’s knowledge about Native American tribes located throughout the country. Felchle said that while Belfry is located in the Clarks Fork area, the students were able to experience a different tribe and culture, as the Navajo Nation extends into the states of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, covering over 27,000 square miles. Diné Bikéyah, or Navajoland, is larger than 10 of the 50 states in America. Dr. Dugi’s presentation explained how the unique Navajo language was used during WWII to transport messages in secret codes that the enemy would not understand. Navajo men were selected to create codes and serve on the front line to overcome and deceive those on the other side of the battlefield. Today, these men are recognized as the famous Navajo Code Talkers, who exemplify the unequaled bravery and patriotism of the Navajo people. Dr. Dugi further spoke to about various symbolisms of the tribe. She discussed how the number "4" is traditionally a sacred number among the Navajo. For example, the Four Mountains that border the reservation represent the major parts of the traditional Navajo religious beliefs, helping them to live in harmony with both nature and their Creator. She also shared to them how the color turquoise is important in their tribe. Turquoise serves as protection. Finally, she shared the experience growing up and tending to the Churro sheep. For centuries, the Churro provided the Navajo with what they needed to survive in the stark desert: meat for sustenance, wool for weaving clothing and blankets, sinew for thread. Thus, the Navajo are grateful, even reverential when it comes to the Churro. After the presentation, Juniors, Marli McCampbell and Kobee Burkhardt interviewed Dr. Dugi who stated, “I am proud of who I am and I want people to know that. I want to share my knowledge of my culture with people.” Felchle explained that each classroom was responsible for a Native American project and later shared the projects during parent teacher conferences.

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