This piece first appeared in The Gallup Independent on August 13, 2016. Reprinted with permission.
Nelson Willy (not his real name) became a convert to Christianity while my father was a missionary in the Navajo Nation. After becoming a church member, Mr. Willy lived as a Christian for more than fifty years. Not long after he passed away, I had a conversation with Nelson Willy’s nephew. Robert told me, “Near the end of his life, Nelson started singing the old songs again.” He meant traditional Diné songs.
When I was growing up, Protestant mission churches had a definite policy that Navajo ways and Christianity could not mix. I don’t see that embracing Navajo traditions needs to be incompatible with being a Christian, and that rule is even changing in the church of my youth somewhat. In his case, however, Mr. Willy had gone against Read More