[R-G] Navajos in China [Navajo Times] -- with additional comment
hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Sat Nov 23 14:09:49 MST 2002
Note by Hunterbear:
Navajo [Dine'] delegations have occasionally visited Mongolia
[People's Republic of Mongolia] but visits to China have been less
frequent. There are some striking cultural similarities between the
Dine' and the tribes of the Gobi.
The Navajo Nation presently numbers a quarter million. Its
reservation -- mostly in Northeastern Arizona and Northwestern
New Mexico [with a slice of Southeastern Utah and just a bit of
Southwestern Colorado] is bigger than West Virginia. It is very
much intact culturally and is taking specific steps to ensure
The attached article gives clan identification. A brief explanation of
a very complex socio-cultural dimension:
When a Navajo baby is born, he or she takes the clan of the mother.
In other tribal nations -- depending on the respective nation and its
cultural mandate -- clan membership must be taken from the mother
[matrilineal] or from the father [patrilineal.] However, one is always
required to marry outside one's clan and, among the basic reasons for
this, is prevention of incest. In the Navajo way, one introduces oneself
very precisely by indicating both the maternal and paternal clans on
both sides of the family. A Navajo child is born-to the clan of the
mother -- and is born-for the clan of the father.
Clan membership carries important rights and responsibilities -- and
it often involves extending hospitality and other assistance to a fellow
In some situations, clan membership extends across tribal
lines. A "Bear" [not a Navajo clan] from one tribe may well be recognized
by a Bear from another tribe -- say, at an inter-tribal pow wow and by a
bear claw around one's neck -- and be immediately offered family
Navajos in China
Mother and son travel in China in cultural exchange
By Jan-Mikael Patterson
The Navajo Times
WINDOW ROCK | Nov. 21, 2002
Charlotte Kahn, 45, and her son, James Foguth, 11, visited China in
September for 28 days.
James Foguth, 11, center, wearing traditional Navajo
attire, and his mother, Charlotte Kahn, back, poses
with a class of Chinese students for whom they made cultural
presentation. The two, on a trip sponsored
by the Native American Ba'ha'i Institute, traveled to
China in September to share the Navajo culture.
Their purpose was to share the Navajo culture and to stress the
importance of cultural identity to Chinese students.
Kahn is Tóhadleenii born for Bit'ahnii. Her parents are Annie and
Chester Kahn. Chester Kahn painted the "Circle of Light" mural displayed at
Ellis Tanner's in Gallup, N.M. She works with the Native American Baha'i
Institute in Burntwater, Ariz.
Foguth is Tóhadleenii born for Tachii'nii. His parents are Kahn and
John Foguth. He is in the sixth grade but for the semester he is being
home-schooled because he was traveling in China.
In China, their appearance in traditional clothing attracted the
attention of the curious in and out of classrooms.
"The Chinese people are small. I couldn't believe how small they are,"
Charlotte Kahn said. "I'm big compared to them."
Kahn said she stood tall over some of the people and long hair was
unusual for the people of China.
"They were really approaching James. They thought he was a girl
because of his long hair," she chuckled. Foguth dressed traditionally with
his hair tied in a bun.
When they took bus trips, people spoke to them in Chinese.
"They thought that we were from a different province," Kahn said. "We
tried to tell them that we were Americans then finally someone who spoke
English translated for us.
"When they found out that we were Americans they were really happy to
meet us," she said.
"It's a huge country," she said. "The people are really nice and very,
very hospitable. They wouldn't let us lift a finger. They insisted on doing
things for us."
"There is a lot of people. I mean there is about a fourth of the
world's population right there," she said. "The city was huge, apartments
stacked on top of one another."
In China a married couple is only allowed to have one child by law.
"There is a lot of young people. They really prize their children.
During the day the grandparents would take care of the children while the
parents worked. That went on until they were old enough to go to school,"
"You can really see the love they have for their children," she said.
"There is a lot of compassion. The people laughed a lot. They are
happy people," she said.
Kahn and Foguth visited over 20 different classes, from elementary to
"The children were really receptive of the things we were telling
them," she said. "We told them about the importance of language. We also
told them about the code talkers and how the language helped in creating an
"A lot of them of them are ashamed to be Chinese," she said. "They're
all learning the English language and learning about the Western world."
"They're learning not just the English language but some of the good
things from the history of the English language," she added.
Kahn said most people are adapting to trends coming from the Western
world, like music, clothing and lifestyles.
However, the reach of the government was ever present. Kahn said she
spoke to a student who excelled on the soccer field.
"This guy was a soccer player and he wanted to go play professionally
but he can't," she said. "The government already had chosen his profession.
They have him going to school to become an engineer."
"They don't have the freedom to choose," she added. "He wasn't very
happy about that."
"I just encouraged him to see it out and maybe sometime in the future
things could change," she said.
Kahn said she is not sure as to how their future is chosen by the
government but a lot of the people are not happy.
"The government is strict," she said.
Kahn said students who want to come to the United States for academic
purposes are granted permission from the Chinese government and they make
sure that the students return.
"The people out there are getting restless by doing the same thing day
to day," she said.
"They are not encouraged in what to do," she said. "A lot of them feel
trapped. There is an empty space inside them because they are unsure of what
" Some of them would come up and tell me about their situation asking
for advice," she said. "A lot of the things we take for granted here is
helpful for them."
In many different Native American nations, Native teachings include
philosophies of appreciation, strength and courage and she used that to
encourage Chinese children to remember their history.
"We encouraged them to remember who they are," she said. "A lot of
them didn't know their history or traditions. I asked some of the students
and they gave me their perspectives on certain things they did know."
"I told them about how the government and Spaniards came and killed
off many different members of tribal nations. A lot of them were in tears
hearing about our history from genocide," she said.
"I also told them that the Navajo culture and language is being taught
in schools because the Navajo government saw how important it is for our
Kahn and her son took turns with the presentations. Each presentation
was changed for each grade level of the classes they visited.
"The (Chinese) kids start school at the age of three," she said.
"They were all typical children, too," she said in comparison to
children here on the reservation. "There were some naughty ones."
Children were impressed with Foguth and some of the things he talked
about, she said.
Their presentations included the creation story, the four sacred
mountains, clan system, hair-tying demonstration and the story of Changing
She said the children were receptive of the lessons and asked
James even sang a round dance song with a hand drum as well as the
Kahn said she was taught many things from her parents.
She admits that she does not know everything about the Navajo culture.
"With the little that you know of your culture and tradition, it is
enough to inspire other people to learn of theirs," Kahn said.
China is an accomplished nation because of the material things the
country produces, Kahn said.
"The material things they make is only a small part of what the
country can do. You can feel it. What we're going to see is something big. I
hope I'm still living when that happens," Kahn said.
"It was really inspiring. We came back with the conviction of
appreciation that we are Navajo," Kahn said.
Kahn and Foguth's trip was sponsored by the Native American Ba'ha'i
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
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