NAVAJO INDIANS DISPLAY CULTURE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN ME
Added: (Wed Apr 20 2005)
Pressbox (Press Release) -
The famous Navajo Indians from USA’s Navajo Nation, stereotyped in a number of Hollywood movies are currently in Dubai International Endurance City, to participate in the weeklong Second Festival of Cultures and Civilizations of World Deserts. The event organised by the Zayed International Prize for the Environment, World Deserts Foundation and the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) concludes on April 22nd.
“This is our first ever participation in the Middle East,” said Cora Max Phillips, Executive Assistant to the President of Navajo Nation, speaking at a seminar in the Endurance City. “The Navajo Nation continues to forge ahead in its goal to attain economic self-sufficiency and our dineh (the People) still adhere to the cultural, social and traditional values that have made the Navajo Nation unique and fascinating throughout its history.”
“The traditional history of the Navajo Nation, with its sound stress on adapting trends with modern day America will continue to sustain the enduring Navajo into the future,” Ms. Phillips noted.
“The Navajo Indians have been stereotyped by Hollywood filmmakers for decades and treated disrespectfully for so many centuries that it is sometimes hard to recognize when our people are being demeaned and till lately even educational books portrayed our people in a bad light often promoting stereotypes without realizing it,” Ms. Phillips said.
She observed that it was critical to remember that Indians are living people still carrying on past beliefs and practices in today's world. “Stereotypes are not only harmful in their own right but they do damage by fostering prejudice and discrimination and put group/race members at a disadvantage by treating them unfairly as a result of their group/race membership,” she opined.
Ms. Phillips also used the event to highlight the plight of her people who she said were suffering from the American government’s nuclear exploitation. In countless Native American communities, it is well documented that indigenous people were among the first to be targeted for secret government projects and experiments in the 1940s and 50s and were sent underground to mine the uranium that fuelled the first atomic bombs used to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in Japan.
“Though the toxic effects of radiation were known to government officials, no one did anything to protect the Navajo miners,” she said. “Our people toiled day and night in the mines without face masks, ventilation or clean drinking water. They breathed the radioactive dust and drank contaminated water and later paid with their lives and their land,” Ms. Phillips said.
Recent studies on environmental racism show that Native people are disproportionately impacted by the toxic effects of the nuclear fuels cycle. Thousands of Native people have died or suffered health problems from the mining, milling, enrichment, testing and disposal of nuclear fuels and weapons. American government-sponsored uranium mining occurred extensively in lands belonging to the Navajo.
Today, the Navajo Nation Council has grown into the largest and most sophisticated American Indian government in the U.S. It was reorganized in 1991 to form a three branch government - executive, legislative a judicial. It embodies an elected tribal President, Vice-president and 88 council delegates representing 110 local units of government (known as chapters) throughout the Navajo Nation. Council delegates meet a minimum of four times a year as a full body in Window Rock, Arizona - the Navajo Nation capital.
Commenting on traditions of the Navajo Indians, Ms. Phillips said, “Some tribal members prefer traditional Navajo medicine man and firmly believe that a medicine man is a uniquely qualified individual bestowed with supernatural powers to diagnose a person's problem and to heal or cure illnesses.”
When disorder evolves in a Navajo's life, such as illness, herbs, medicine men (diagnosticians), prayers, songs and ceremonies are used to help cure the ailment.
The Navajo woman's traditional style of dress consists usually of foot or knee-high moccasins, a pleated velvet or cotton skirt, a matching long-sleeve blouse, concho and/or sash belt, jewellery and a shawl. Men also wear jewellery, moccasins and preferably a velvet shirt.
Although many Navajo people wear contemporary clothing, they continue to carry on their cultural practices by wearing traditional outfits when the occasion requires it. It is believed that before an individual can receive help from the Great Spirit, one must first wear appropriate clothing in order to be recognized.
The Navajo are known for their colourful belts, rugs, and blankets made from homespun wool. They are also known for their silverwork, which includes turquoise stones.
The stark and incredible beauty of the Navajo Reservation - spilling over into the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah - is an irresistible magnet to film and television producers from all over the world. Canyon de Chelly National Park, Monument Valley, Tribal Park, the Little Colorado River and Rainbow Bridge National Monument, are only a few of the sites that have been immortalized on the silver screen.
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