Two Weeks in a Different World

 Students travel to Navajo people reservation for the Winter Term course.

Who knew a writing course could immerse you in the culture of a community you may never have known existed? From hiking a canyon to learning how to basket weave there are countless new experiences that our students are participating in by joining the Winter Term Travel Course to Navajo Nation. 

   Navajo Nation is a Native American reservation of Navajo people located in the three connecting parts of Northeastern Arizona, Northwestern New Mexico, and Southeastern Utah. The Navajo Nation is a community with a unique culture that differs from the west in their values, beliefs and traditions. It allows Boxers to have a financially affordable experience to travel to a location that will teach them about a new culture and community lifestyle. Students can explore their tribe to firsthand learn and experience their culture. This travel writing course can be described as a service project that allows students to deepen their understanding of a different culture while strengthening their journaling skills to describe what experiences and observations they encounter. 

   Over the course of a few weeks, the students will partake in service work that is requested by the local community. The main task the expedition will ask of the students is to chop firewood for elders, as well as other service needs such as shoveling snow, herding animals, hauling water to homes, and other needed duties. These chores are completed in sometimes near-zero degree weather and are physically demanding. All the help that is done by the students is greatly appreciated by the community. This helps students learn the value of their work for the people they are serving.

   Taking them on this journey is Professor Brent Johnson and Professor Mike Miller. Before setting off on the journey, the students took a Fall term preparation course teaching about Navajo culture and beliefs. 

   “Topics from uranium and coal mining, to boarding school history, bring greater awareness to the historical impacts felt today on the reservation,” Professor Johnson explains the importance the preparation course has prior to the expedition. The students learned about the history of the tribe, including acts of oppression against the Navajo people by the United States government and large corporations. While gone for the travel course students relate back to this prior knowledge by diving right into the community they learned about. “They will journal about conversations with people students meet to see how poverty and cultural suppression plays out in the local economy and infrastructure,” Johnson continued.

   Students will attend traditional ceremonies, visit with local families, and attend workshops on culture. Housing for the Boxers will be at Diné College where students will be staying in a dorm. While engaging in town life they will also be able to participate in crafts such as basket weaving, silversmithing, moccasin making, and the creation of stories.


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