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Rising Stars: Meet Clayton Long

Today we’d like to introduce you to Clayton Long.

Hi Clayton, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I am Clayton Long a Navajo gentleman from Kayenta, Arizona. I retired from San Juan School District in Southeastern Utah. I retired after thirty-eight years as an elementary, middle, and high school teacher.

And after teaching for eight years, I became the Monument Valley High School Assistant principal for five years. After that, I became an elementary principal at Montezuma Creek, Elementary School for six years. Then arrived at Blanding, Utah, at the School District office and became the San Juan School District Bilingual Education Director and serviced the rest of my career.

Of all the work I’ve done, I always taught and promoted the Navajo language and culture as part of the K-12 student curriculum. Why?

When I was seven years old, I started school at the Kayenta Boarding school in Kayenta, Arizona, I was asked, as soon as I entered the school, to never speak my Navajo language, to dress or do the traditional things I was raised with. I quickly went into a silent resistance, saying I will never lose my language and culture. It is, for this reason, I started teaching the language and culture in my teaching and leadership profession.

Diné Nizhóní Inc. and Hózhǫ́ Speaks.

Diné Nizhóní Incorporation has existed within San Juan County, UT for the last two decades. DNI used to be a Non-Profit extension of Blue Mountain Dine Community, an Off-reservation Navajo community group that helps Navajo residents with housing, education support, and community organization.

When the Utah Navajo Royalty Holdings Fund started to help Blue Mountain Diné Community by funding them, We had decided to split to help reach more people, we wanted to help both on and off-reservation Navajo residents of San Juan County, UT. In 2012, we decided to change our name to ‘Shash Jaa’ Educational Services and provided long-distance learning assistance and school scholarships.

And when Bears Ears National Monument started to become a local topic of debate and gain national coverage, we thought it best to once again change our name and we finally found our new vision and mission to help our people become more self-sustaining and we decided on ‘Diné Nizhoni Incoprorated’ Diné is the Navajo word for our people or ‘The People’ and Nizhóní is Navajo for beauty, good and healthy. And that’s what we want to achieve to help our people become symbols of change and unity within their communities.

Our Vision: Hózhǫ́ Leads the Way.

Our Mission: Diné Nizhóní Incorporated actively promotes Navajo youth, adults, and families to become a power of change and unity in their communities, through programs and projects that will help them achieve a sense of “Hózhǫ́.” We look to focus on the preservation and revitalization of our cultural knowledge and language.

Goals: The goals we have set here at Diné Nizhóní Inc. are clear, to help bring a sense of ‘Hózhǫ́’ to the families in San Juan County, Utah, which is one of the largest and poorest in the United States. But we have seen in recent years, noticeable growth, and we wish to help this growth continue to help families become a power of self-resilience and sustainability within their communities.

Hózhǫ́ Speaks Our Podcast

Cultural and Educational Stories- We like to share stories from our people, the Diné (Navajo), and our philosophy of Hózhǫ́, and how we can apply these to our daily lives to better ourselves and learn more.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In Diné Nizhóní Inc. we have found why:

+ We want to revitalize and preserve our Diné language.
+ We do this through our vision statement ʼHózhǫ́ Leads the wayʼ
+ Our board members are mostly the younger generation and truly believe in preserving and revitalizing their language and culture through their own journey of life. They do projects throughout their careers and find ways to preserve and revitalize.
+ We desire to grow and struggle and believe Hózhǫ́ carries us to learn love, be happy, and truly team up with each other and our community members.
+ For us obstacles and challenges become our opportunity to learn and grow.
+ Through Hózhǫ́ Speaks podcast we document our stories of Hózhǫ́ and also allow other successful Navajos through interviews to tell their hózhǫ́ stories.
+ We desire to give hope for a better life to all our Navajo people, especially our young people.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Navajo Translator for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

What do you like best about our city? What do you like least?
I love the Navajo Language and culture.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Clayton Long Photographer

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