Drinking Among Navajo People (Guest Post #20)

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This is post number 20 in a series of guest posts written by a visiting anthropology student. You can read more about the author and these posts HERE.

Drinking is one of the first things I got to know about Navajo people right after I came to Navajo land. Randy and Jill have talked a lot about the consequences of drinking, generally car accidents. We touched upon the topics such as the genetic influence, cultural traditions and Navajo people’s world views. Much of what we have discussed is sporadic and lacks depth. I felt so especially after I read a scholarly research on Navajo drinking.

Quintero’s study (1997), conducted in the mid-1990s, provides a comprehensive analysis on Navajo drinking from local people’s perspective. By focusing on the narratives of Navajo people about their experience with or without drinking, this study investigates issues such as how and when Navajo people began drinking, how drinking behavior changed during one’s lifetime, what Navajo people’s attitudes to drinking are, and what the alcohol abuse treatment’s effects are, etc.

The author reveals that most people started drinking as an adolescent, as a result of socialization and growing up. Family is an important factor for the start of drinking behavior. The author emphasizes that drinking behavior changes during one’s lifetime due to various reasons such as consideration for children and family, health, religion. This study illustrates that there was a trend that problems associated with drinking happen at an earlier age among younger generations. According to the author, Navajo people consider drinking to have contributed to the decline of ethics. This study also investigates the cultural factors that affected the abandonment of alcohol use when people were older.

As to treatment programs, the author argues that the effects are not clear since people tend to change their drinking behavior while they are getting old, and that the label of sickness associated with drinking suggested in the treatment programs may negatively affect people’s psychology. In critiquing the theories that consider Navajo drinking as problematic for social change, this study emphasizes the social and cultural mechanisms that help control drinking.

Reference:

Quintero, Gilbert. 1997. The Discourse on Drinking in Navajo Society. Ph.D Dissertation, University of Arizona.

(Note from Jill–although I haven’t read the referenced dissertation, I disagree with his conclusions as portrayed in this post in two respects. From what we have heard from “elderlies” in the community, there USED to be more effective social and cultural mechanisms that helped to control drinking. Today most family members throw their hands up helplessly and bemoan the deaths and violence caused by alcohol but state very clearly that nothing can be done about it. Second, we experienced first hand that often the older people who talked with pride about “being on the sobriety road” were actually drunk on numerous days per week. Navajo are very good at giving the expected answer in conversation. I know that we heard occasional joking among Navajo friends who had given nonsense information to outsiders who then believed that erroneous information. The Navajo saw this as a joke, not as something to be concerned about or something to be corrected. It seems to me that this might well have happened to the researcher who wrote the dissertation.)

(I have written a number of posts about our observations of drinking among local Navajo. You can see two of these posts HERE and HERE.)

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Demographics of Navajo People (Guest Post #19)

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This is number 19 in a series of Guest Posts by a visiting anthropology student. You can read more about these posts HERE. This post is a little more scholarly than most of these posts have been. On Friday, I will put up my very non-scholarly musings on what we observed of Navajo families. You can see that post HERE.

From my communication with Navajo people here, I conclude that currently, in this area, a typical household has more than two children, and probably much more than that. I want to know how Navajo population has been changing in relation to the overall population of the United States. The assumption is that if the Navajo population has been increasing at a faster pace than that of the United States, its influence on American society should be increasing.

My method is to compare the Navajo population to the US population at three time points: 1990, 2000 and 2010, in order to know the relative change in Navajo population versus the US. My data is both from secondary sources of scholarly study and US Census Bureau. The data are slightly different from each other. It should be noted that there are two sets of statistical data. One is about the total Navajo population in the US, and the other the population of Navajo Nation which geographically includes part of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The following data is from scholarly studies. According to US Census 1990 (Quintero 1997), the Navajo population was above 225,000. White’s study (1998) shows that the population of Navajo Nation in 1990 was 151,105 according to the US Census. National Center for Educational Statistics 2000 data show that the Navajo Nation population was 181,270 (Haskan 2007). Washington and Hover’s study (2011) shows that the Navajo population in the whole country was 298,215 based on the 2000 Census. According to the Navajo tribe’s census office, the population of Navajo Nation was 300,048 in 2010 (Donovan 2011).

My own search of US Census Bureau website yield slightly different data. The total Navajo population is 225,298 in 1990, 298,197 in 2000 and 332,129 in 2010. The total US population is 248,709,873 in 1990, 281,421,906 in 2000 and 308,745,538 in 2010. Even though there is difference between the above figures, it does not affect the ratio of Navajo population to the US population substantially. We get the ratio of Navajo population to the total US population. It is 0.091% in 1990, 0.11% in 2000 and 0.11% in 2010. For the ratio of Navajo Nation population to the US population, it is 0.061% in 1990, 0.064% in 2000 and 0.097% in 2010.

The trend is that both the Navajo population and Navajo Nation population have been increasing relative to the US population from 1990 to 2010. In recent years, however, the increase rate of Navajo population to the US population seems to have slowed down. For Navajo Nation, the increase rate has been accelerated. Further research is needed to understand the causes of total Navajo population and Navajo Nation population changes, so is the complications of the changes for Navajo and the US society.

References:

Donovan, Bill. 2011. Census: Navajo Enrollment Tops 300,000. Navajo Times. http://navajotimes.com/news/2011/0711/070711census.php

Haskan, Melanie Lee. 2007. How the No Child Left Behind Act Impacted Bilingual Education in a Rural School with Navajo Students. Ph.D Dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University.

Quintero, Gilbert. 1997. The Discourse on Drinking in Navajo Society. Ph.D Dissertation, University of Arizona.

US Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/

Washington, Elizabeth and Stephanie Hover. 2011. Diné Bikéya: Teaching about Navajo Citizenship and Sovereignty. The Social Studies 102(2): 80-87.

White, Kalvin G. 1998. Navajo Adolescent Cultural Identity and Depression. Ph.D Dissertation, The University of Utah.

Questions and Answers

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(Disclaimer: This post and all future posts are written personally by Jill Emmelhainz and do NOT necessarily represent the beliefs or positions of the overseeing board of Lybrook Community Ministries.)

There have been some big changes for our family and for Lybrook Community Ministries in the past few months. Here is a summary in Q&A format:

Q:        We hear rumors that your family is leaving?

A:        Yes, that is unfortunately true. As of Christmas, our family has moved back to Ohio to live with family while we figure out what is next for us.

Q:        Why did you leave?

A:        This is complicated to answer. The simple version is that there hasn’t been enough money for many months to cover the expenses for an “anglo” family to live in this remote location. Beyond that, for this or any other ministry to make a significant difference in local lives, we are convinced that a much larger program carried out in partnership with local Navajo leadership would be needed which would take significantly higher amounts of support. This did not seem feasible when basic support levels were not being met.

Q:        Are you just “abandoning” the Navajo?

A:        We hope not! We are trying to maintain contact with friends and Christian leaders via calls and texts. The Navajo-led church we attended made it clear that they were sending us back to Ohio as part of their Navajo family, to represent them and their needs to the outside world.

Q:        But don’t the Navajo need people there to help them?

A:        The Navajo in the Lybrook area certainly need help as many families are being ripped apart by alcohol, abuse, and suicide. However, during our time there, and in conversation with many Christian and secular leaders, we realized that outsiders often do more harm than actual good. Change in the community can only come when their own leaders step up to challenging the status quo, something that doesn’t bring change when done by “Anglos” who can be ignored as not really understanding what is going on.

Q:        What about the young people who attended that “Transition to Adulthood” retreat last spring? What’s happening with them?

A:        We are quite happy to share that (so far) all 12 of those students are still attending classes for 9th grade. (By this time in past years there have usually been a few students who have already dropped out of high school.) They are spread among three different high schools with some living at home and some in weekday boarding situations. They appear to be keeping in contact with each other and encouraging each other to continue on. They have asked for a follow-up retreat. We are hoping to gather them together for a day-long event when we travel back to New Mexico sometime in the spring.

Q:        What about the work you were doing at the local public school?

A:        We miss the contact with “our” kids. We miss the opportunities to encourage them, challenge them, and speak hope into their lives. However, the school district is facing financial crisis. Even if we had stayed in the area, there was not enough money to renew our contract through the end of the school year. (And that income was a significant part of covering living expenses that were not covered by donations.)

Q:        What’s happening at the school now?

A:        Both of us worked hard to transition our responsibilities to the other teachers. We believe that through example and conversations, we gave those teachers additional “tools” to better meet the challenges of teaching such at-risk children in ways the traditional teacher-training programs never equipped them for.

Q:        What’s happening with Lybrook Community Ministries now?

A:        The overseeing board is evaluating that question. They are looking for a long-term way to keep the mission open, perhaps with a retired couple as caretakers. If you want updates, you could contact Ken Frantz at frantz@haxtuntel.net As stated above, both we and this blog will continue to communicate, but will be independent from the mission.

Q:        What’s happening with this blog?

A:        We still have a few more guest posts. In addition, Jill plans to continue writing about our family’s experiences living and working in Navajoland. Beyond personal reflections, as we keep contact with our friends in the area, we will share new stories and new insights.

Q:        What’s happening with your family?

A:        We don’t have a clue! As mentioned at the beginning, we have moved back to Ohio to live with family until we figure that out. Jill and Anna are currently living in Germany for a few months, to help friends with their new baby and their active family. We continue to look for the “open door” that God has next for our family.

Q:        What can we do to help during this transition?

A:        Please keep reading this blog (and let me know what topics you would like to know more about!) Keep praying for the Navajo people in the Lybrook area. We know God has good things for them. And, we greatly appreciate continued prayers for our family during this time. Transitions are filled with uncertainty!

Navajo Personalities (Guest Post 16)

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This is the 16th guest post written by Jianping (Corey). You can read the introduction to this author and to these posts HERE. Some posts have been illustrated with photos taken by the author. Photos in this post were taken by Jill Emmelhainz.

It is difficult to generalize the personality of an ethnic group, especially considering the diversity within a society and the small sample of local people. However, it cannot be denied that there is something in common in terms of people’s personalities. By looking at people’s way of thinking and acting at the society level, we can understand both the similarities and differences of personality within a society.

Most Navajo people usually do not talk loud and looked like they preferred keeping to themselves. Some of the students I met did tend to keep silent or try to avoid me. My impression was that most of them were curious about me, but few of them asked questions or initiated a conversation. However, I met other people who seemed to be more outgoing. So, I have no idea how to place Navajo people’s personality along the continuum between introvert and extrovert.

Lybrook students: sometimes quite...

Lybrook students: sometimes quiet…

I did meet some students who tried to approach me. When I was at the school, one small child came to me and gave me a strawberry. He and a couple of other small kids showed curiosity about me. Another time, an eighth grader approached me and initiated a conversation with me, and we talked about his plan for the future. It turned out to be a quality conversation.

Church mealtime was also conversation time. Here I want to mention talks with two families. The first time, I sat randomly close to a family. The husband talked to me and asked me a lot of questions, such as how I liked New Mexico. He talked about his family and children, and his wife talked about education with me. The conversation was interactive and informative. The couple did not talk loud, but they were open-minded. The other time, I talked to a woman about Navajo food. Her parents were also there. Her father played jokes with me. The conversation with them ended up being quite lighthearted.

Lybrook students: sometimes full of fun!

Lybrook students: sometimes full of fun!

At school or church, I often met a woman who works at the school. She always said hello to me loudly, which made me feel that I was not so strange to the community. If I remember correctly, I talked to her first when I met her for the first time. Maybe it is just an issue of familiarity? Also, it seems to me that the younger people are easier to talk to.

So I think in every society, there are various types of personalities. Here many Navajo people look reserved, but there are many other people who actively engage in communication with me as well. I noticed that the older people’s English was not as fluent as young people. Maybe this is one reason why they seem quiet? The ways people communicate with each other may be complicated and situational. However, I consider the diversity of personality to be universal.

Scholarly Research on Navajo People (Guest Post #9)

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This is the Ninth in a series of Guest Posts written by Jianping (Corey) Yang. You can read an introduction to these posts HERE.

Having collected several dozen  scholarly articles on Navajo people, I am trying to find what the focuses of these studies are. The following categorization certainly cannot capture all the themes. However, it gives a general idea what social science studies are concerned with relating to the Navajo people. These focuses are education, health, identity, adolescence, and way of thinking.

The cultural aspect is emphasized in the studies on education. Studies on education involve not only students but also the superintendent and school administrators. Examples of these studies are the effects of bilingual education, superintendent turnover, and the cultural impact on school administrators’ career, etc. Although these studies were not conducted in New Mexico alone, they certainly provide insights into the education and administration of Lybrook Elementary/Middle School. Health is another major theme, which deals with obesity, drinking, mental health, and so on. Other articles look at Navajo adolescence focusing on cultural identity, pregnancy, etc.; and Navajo way of thinking, such as in terms of wellness.

These studies involve both urban and rural areas. They particularly emphasize the influence of Navajo culture on people’s lives. Jill, Randy and I already talked a lot about these topics which also apply to the area where we live. I believe they are valuable in providing insights into the transformation of Navajo community in this area.

A Busy Summer…

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It has been a busy summer for our family here in Navajoland. I’m a bit horrified to realize no blog posts were published for over two months. That certainly doesn’t mean a lack of activity!

Here is a summary of the past few months:

We had a guest staying with us for a few months, a friend of our oldest daughter from her days as an anthropology student at Texas A&M. Starting Monday, we will be publishing a series of guest blog posts written by Jianping, reflecting on life here in Navajoland.

To celebrate my 50th birthday at the end of May, I was able to take a two week trip to England to visit with my sister at the end of June. I so much appreciate family and friends who gave special Christmas and Birthday gifts so we could afford for me to do this…and an extra thank-you to my sister who paid for many wonderful “extras” while I was visiting!

Anna spent a week at Bible Camp near Gallup NM with a friend from school. Both of them had a great time and hope to go back again next year.

Jakob so much enjoyed his week at Bible Camp that he paid the fees to go back for a second week later in the summer. He earned money working long days at Mustang Camp from April to mid-August, helping to tame wild mustangs so they can be adopted. We are all glad to have him back home again.

Randy squeezed in a trip back to Ohio in July to spend time with family. He also left our beat-up ancient PT Cruiser with our older son who is transitioning from a career back to grad school a year from now.

There were two weddings this summer at the Navajo church we attend. As a gift to each couple, Jill did the photography for both weddings. (There will definitely be a blog post about this in the future…)

Lybrook School, the local K-8th school, started the new school year on July 16th. It is a year-round school which holds classes on Mon-Thurs. This year Randy’s schedule is lighter: teaching 2 math classes in the mornings with no contract to do tech-work. Jill has significantly upped her hours and responsibilities: now doing Reading intervention full time on Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus significant prep time to deal with 7 small groups ranging from 1st to 8th grade!

In addition to the visitor from Texas A&M, we had a number of short-term visitors this summer, including a dad & daughter from Maryland, a few supporters of LCM, my sister and her family, and our oldest daughter (home for a week from Kazakhstan where she lives and work). It is always fun to share this starkly beautiful place with visitors, often including a trip back to Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

We also hosted a fellow for a few weeks who got stranded while traveling the country by horseback. He is currently back east, driving a truck to earn enough money to come back and retrieve his three horses. In the mean time, he is paying feed costs for us to pretend we are horse-owners (and for Anna to get a chance to learn to ride).

Now that all of the area schools are back in session, we have a number of students to check in with occasionally at their various locations. 3 of last year’s 8th graders are living in a dorm and attending highschool in Bloomfield (45 miles away); 1 is in the dorms and attending Navajo Preparatory School. At least 2 are attending Cuba Highschool (45 miles the other direction), including one fellow who has stuck with the challenges of practices so far and is on the football team. 1 student has already dropped out of highschool (after only 2 days) and we are uncertain where the remaining students are.

In addition, we made significant efforts to help 3 young men from church apply for and attend colleges this fall. Jeremy is attending the Master’s [Bible] College in Southern California, Kevin is living in our RV in Farmington and attending San Juan Community College, and Koby is living with his Grandma in Albuquerque and attending Central New Mexico Community College. We are continuing to keep contact with all 3 fellows (and with their folks) as they make this difficult transition to living away from their family in this area.

I will write more detailed posts about these students in the future, including photos, so you can keep them in your thoughts and prayers, and can possibly encourage them…

This gives you a general idea of what we have been up to this summer. Now that I know there are actually people who regularly read this blog (and miss it when I don’t write new posts) and now that I’ve somewhat settled into my expanded role at the local school, this blog should go back to posting new stories each Monday and Friday.

See you then!

Announcing Lybrook Science Fair Winners…(finally!)

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We finally have the results for the school-district-wide Science Fair. If you remember, in an earlier post I talked about some of our Lybrook students who did well with their projects and advanced to the district level.

judging science fair

Interactive Judging of Projects

I was quite proud of all of the students who competed on this level. They often find it difficult to talk with strangers, ducking their heads, speaking hardly above a whisper. I challenged them to at least look at their display boards, even if they couldn’t manage to look directly at the judges.

Most of them were quite nervous, but when it was their time to be interviewed, each of them moved out of their comfort zones and stepped up to the challenge. They talked clearly about what they had done in their projects. They answered questions quickly, without long silences. Some were even animated, looking at the judges, pointing to their displays, gesturing with their hands as they explained their ideas.

Unfortunately, only 7th and 8th grade students can progress to the Regional Science Fair. None of our students at that level won at the district competition. However, we have three beautiful big rosette ribbons in the display case at Lybrook School.

Maurice won 3rd place in the Middle School competition (6thgrade) for his project on AIR.

maurice

maurice

Anna won 3rd place in the Elementary School division (4thgrade) for her project on G-FORCE and centripetal force on merry-go-rounds.

anna

anna

Noah won 1st place in the Elementary School competition (4thgrade) for his project on identifying different  types of FINGERPRINTS.

noah

noah

A big CONGRATULATIONS to all of the Lybrook Students who participated in the Science Fair competitions this year!

(And here is a little more information about Noah’s project for readers who would like more details…

On the day before Lybrook School’s science fair, one student was excited about the previous day’s fieldtrip to Sandia Labs in Albuquerque.  At this by-invitation-only event, students had solved a mystery using a variety of forensic techniques. Noah was fascinated by the fingerprinting process. He had previously shown little interest in completing a science project. But now he wondered if he could do something with fingerprinting.

His teacher asked if I had time to help him. I was happy to do so. We talked about what he had learned, made some plans, and ran around the school collecting fingerprints from a variety of teachers, staff, and students. “I promise I won’t use this for anything bad…really…”

Noah then analyzed the fingerprints, decoding which type of print each one was: loop, double loop, tented arch, whirl, and more. He spent a long time making a bar graph of the results and carefully coloring the bars to make it more visible. He gathered his thoughts and made a report, summarizing what he had learned. He put together a nice-looking display. He interviewed well, not too shy to tell the judges what he had learned.

Noah was quite excited to be chosen as one of the students representing the fourth grade class of Lybrook School for the district-wide event. Again, he talked excitedly with the judges about what he had learned. At the end of the day, he was pleased to find that a number of spectators had noticed his invitation and had added their own fingerprints to his collection sheet. More prints to analyze…heaven!

It took a few weeks for the results…but you should have seen Noah’s grin from ear to ear when he was given his big, blue, rosette ribbon for 1st place at the Elementary Science Fair District Competition! Way to go, Noah!)

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