Diné Policy Institute - Alumni Biographies

Alastair Bitsoi

"A lot of what I now know about Navajo politics and society stems from my experience of being a summer intern with the Diné Policy Institute in 2007. The policy think-tank essentially reformed what I would say was a capitalistic and pro-colonization mindset of a naive 21-year-old. In particular, the internship exposed me to the realities around the Navajo Nation, such as the need for government reform, the plight of poor health outcomes, which is associated with years of natural resource exploitation, and learning first-hand the socio-economics of the Navajo people. 

If it were not for the Diné Policy Institute internship, I would have probably continued with the thought of corporate chains like Wal-Mart coming to the Navajo Nation being a better economic idea and plan over Navajo entrepreneurs. Yes, I wrote about the pros of Wal-Mart coming to the Navajo Nation at DPI, because then Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr was proposing it, but I now know why Wal-Mart in the Navajo Nation is also a con. Being exposed to topics like this inspired me to look at other issues and opportunities for the Navajo people.  

DPI also played a larger part in giving back to the Navajo people, from working with the Navajo Nation Council as a communications director and also my four-year stint as a reporter for the Navajo Times. I basically learned to think globally as a citizen of the Navajo Nation, then simply being acculturated to American values. This is key, because my experience at DPI was critical in my development as a Din being." - Alastair L. Bitsoi, 30, of Naschitti, New Mexico.  

Presently, Bitsoi is a graduate student in the College of Global Public Health at New York University, where is he is pursuing a Master of Public Health in Health Management and Policy. He has a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. 

Bitsoi also free-lances for the Navajo Times, where he's an award-winning news reporter, and other news publications, and advocates for healthy living among the Navajo people. 


Dana Powell

Dana Powell is a cultural anthropologist and ethnographer whose work on the Navajo Nation has focused on energy activism, development, and political subjectivity. She worked with DPI from 2007-2008 on DPI's research on indigenous government reform, food sovereignty, and on environmental action in community-based Diné organizations. Powell collaborated closely with Andrew Curley on these projects, as well as with Moroni Benally and Nikke Alex of DPI, and Dailan Jake Long of Diné CARE. 
Some resulting publications from this work include:
    1) Powell and Curley
    2) Powell and Long
    3) Powell
Powell's new book, Landscapes of Power: politics of energy on the Navajo Nation, explores the social life of energy development controversies and the Desert Rock Energy Project, in particular. (Forthcoming on Duke University Press).

Building on this body of work, Powell is currently collaborating Curley, Benally, and others at DPI in a new project looking at development, infrastructure, and climate change on the Navajo Nation. She is looking forward to initiating a new project with DPI in late 2016. 


Farina King

DPI Summer Intern 2008

Bilagáanaa niliigo’ dóó Kinyaa’áaniiyásh’chíín. Bilagáanaa dabicheii dóó Tsinaajinii dabinálí. Ákót’éego diné asdzá̹á̹ nilí̹. Farina King is Euro-American, born for the Towering House Clan of the Diné. Her maternal grandfather was Euro-American, and her paternal grandfather was Black-streaked Woods People Clan. She was a summer intern for the Diné Policy Institute in 2008 with a Brigham Young University field study program. During her internship, she gathered oral histories of Diné social workers throughout the Navajo reservation. She developed a report on Diné social workers’ education and experiences working with communities. Her research focused on the impacts of Diné social workers’ educational and learning background on their work.

After the DPI internship, she received a B.A. from Brigham Young University with a double major in History and French Studies and later a M.A. in African History from the University of Wisconsin. She was the 2015-2016 Charles Eastman Dissertation Fellow at Dartmouth College. Her main area of research is colonial and post-colonial Indigenous Studies, primarily Indigenous experiences of colonial and distant education.

In May 2016, Farina received her U.S. History Ph.D. at Arizona State University. She is The David J. Weber Fellow for the Study of Southwestern America at the Southern Methodist University Clements Centers for Southwest Studies (2016-2017). She also accepted a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in History at Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
 
Her current project explores how historical changes in education shaped Diné collective identity and community by examining the interconnections between Navajo students, their people, and Diné Bikéyah (Navajo lands) through the twentieth century. The study relies on Diné historical frameworks, mappings of the world, and the Four Sacred Directions. She primarily applies oral histories and cultural historical methodologies to feature Diné perspectives, which reveal how the land, mountains, and directions serve as focal points of Navajo worldviews and learning experiences. Farina has received support for her research from various organizations including the Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, PEO International, American Philosophical Society, Navajo Nation, American Indian Graduate Center, and others. You can learn more about Farina’s work and background at her personal website, farinaking.com.


James Singer

James Singer worked first as an intern and then research assistant. His work while at DPI included looking at alternative economic models and their cultural appropriateness for the Navajo Nation, the colonization of Navajo social institutions, a series of presentations on using an indigenous/Navajo paradigm to inform public policy on education, tobacco usage, the environment, and intellectual property, and contributing to the Navajo Nation Government Reform project.  His work at DPI prepared him for graduate work at Westminster College in the Master of Arts in Community Leadership program. He is currently a doctoral student in sociology at Utah State University in the Labor Markets and Social Policy program. He is working on his dissertation, which is a phenomenological study of Navajo perceptions and experiences of work in the New Economy. James is also active in speaking out about systemic racism against Natives and has been featured on television, radio, and print media. He has also given talks at various events and venues on the subject.


Mike Lerma

I worked on the Constitution Feasibility doc. I am listed as a co-author on the Restructuring doc. I'm currently Associate Professor of Politics and International Affairs and Applied Indigenous Studies at Northern Arizona University. My first book, "Indigenous Sovereignty in the 21st Century" came out in November 2014. I have a new book coming out called, "Guided By The Mountains" on Navajo Philosophy of Governance. It has major contributions from Avery Denny and Robert Yazzie. It should be out by the end of the year from Oxford University Press.

Jeremy Meek

Jeremy Meek worked as an intern for DPI in 2007 where he conducted field research on the driving forces behind disproportionately high rates of unemployment among 18-25 year old Navajo males. The results of his research were presented at the Native Indian Education Association Conference in 2007, and Navajo Studies Conference in 2008. He is currently based in Washington, DC where he works as a photographer and videographer. Jeremy returned to the Navajo Nation this summer to work with DPI on several visual projects including a photo essay addressing Navajo LGBTQ issues and video depicting the long journey many Navajo students take from home to school. 


Emeritus Directors

Robert Yazzie

Robert Yazzie is currently teaching Diné and Law Studies at Navajo Technical University. Robert Yazzie is a retired Chief Justice who served from 1992 to 2003.

Amber Crotty

Amber Crotty is currently a council delegate(Toadlena/Two Grey Hills, Red Valley, Tse’Alnaozt’i’i’, Sheepsprings, Beclabito, Gadiiahi/To’Koi).

Moroni Benally

Moroni Benally is a Ph.D candidate in the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at University of Washington. He studies policy making in Native communities. Benally previously worked as DPIís policy analyst for two years after receiving his Masterís in Public Policy from Brigham Young University in 2008. Benally helped write DPIís 2009 recommendations on Navajo Nation Council restructuring and 2008 Navajo Nation constitution feasibility study. He is a member of Tohlikan Chapter.

Staff & Contact

Staff

Michael Parrish
Coordinator
928.724.6945
mparrish@dinecollege.edu

Majerle Lister
Research Assistant
928.724.6944
mlister@dinecollege.edu

Contact:

Call
928.724.6942

Fax
928.724.6837

Mail to
Diné Policy Institute (DPI)
Diné College
1 Circle Drive
PO BOX C-5
Tsaile, AZ 86556