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FISSURE: A Life Between Cultures


Diné Alphabet Card



Language matters. It especially matters when we talk about contact among cultures and the interstices between them. It matters whether I choose to write "reservation" or "Navajo Nation" or "Dinétah." These three expressions delineate the same locale; yet, on a deeper level, each means something different, and the differences are significant. The language we use to talk about the legacy of colonization––a legacy that virtually no one on Earth escapes––is important. This inheritance carries particular weight in the posts you'll be reading. Accordingly, I have privileged certain words over others, hoping to bring about a small measure of healing by contributing, to a miniscule degree, to the monumental task of decolonization. Thus:


• Diné (Navajos' name for themselves) over Navajo, which comes from the Spanish conquistadors;

• Diné bizaad over Diné language or Navajo language or simply Navajo;

• Dinétah, Navajo Country, Navajo Nation, and the Nation over reservation;

• Indigenous or Native over Indian or Native American;

• Bilagáana (the Diné name for Whites) in addition to White;

• When Black, White, or Brown refer to individuals or a group identified by one of these colors, the words are capitalized as proper nouns;

• Words in Diné bizaad are not italicized, except for emphasis or when referred to as words themselves; this is in a recognition of their legitimacy equal to the legitimacy of English.





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