Kids’ Workshops and Native American Philosophy
Read Nathan Notah on Navajo culture and children
My life has been greatly enriched by my own background in the Native American philosophy and close Native American friends. My great-great grandfather was from the Chippewa tribe, and his granddaughter—my grandmother—told me many stories about the Native American philosophy.
Because Native American Indian philosophy is so important to the Kids’ Workshop, Heather and I decided to interview different Indian people about children.
We went to the Denver March Powwow, where we go each year. It’s one of the largest powwows in North America and the beginning of the powwow season, when Native Americans from various tribes gather for ceremonies, to exchange ideas, to meet friends, and to and take part in traditional music and dancing. It is a time of spiritual renewal. We hoped to connect with Justin Notah, whom we have known for many years. Justin and his family are traditional Navajo people. Some are silversmiths who make and sell beautiful Navajo jewelry.
Justin knew about the Kids’ Workshop and how Navajo philosophy and our school’s philosophy might overlap. We said we had always felt close to the Navajo philosophy and respected and appreciated the way Navajos relate to their children. We wanted to know in what ways Navajos’ attitudes toward their children differed from attitudes found in Anglo and European cultures. And we hoped he would have ideas on how to help non-Native people understand Navajo culture and be more open to other cultures.
Justin introduced us to his older brother Nathan, who said he was happy to talk with us because he wanted to do anything he could for children. He works in Billings, Montana, with the Intertribal Agriculture Council and is program director of American Indian Foods, International Export. He has had experience with many different tribes and many other countries and is often in a position of helping others to understand Native American cultures and philosophy. We talked for more than an hour. In story form, in a very poetic way, Nathan described how the Navajo relate to their children. He validated all of our beliefs and it all made sense and came together in a beautiful piece as a whole. (Nathan Notah’s Story.)