Diné Leading with Fire: Diné College Libraries Special Collections Series Commences

R to L: L-R: Dr. Christine Ami, Associate Professor, School of Business & Social Science, Rhiannon Sorrell, Assistant Professor/Instruction & Digital Services Librarian

Diné Leading with Fire: Diné College Libraries Special Collections Series Commences

14 February 2023

TSAILE, AZ — Dr. Christine Ami, an Associate Professor at the School of Business & Social Science at Diné College, kicked off the first of the three-part Kinyaa’áanii Library Special Collections Series. This series, which is funded through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, highlights essential special collections resources at the library that define the educational and self-deterministic legacy of the college. Dr. Ami, who is also a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, discussed the role of these collections in her forthcoming publications on Navajo sheep butchering and the Navajo cultural arts.

Ami’s lecture commenced with a reintroduction of the library as a fireplace and the librarians as fire tenders. Refurbishments of the Kinyaa’áanii Library were recently completed to emphasize the Diné philosophy of fire as the illuminating witness to the growth and development of Navajo education. At Diné College, the Kinyaa’áanii Library holds responsibility for “leading with fire.” Focusing on resources such as Leading the Way Magazine, Tsá’ázi’, Ádahooníłígíí, and Slaughtering a Goat, Using it Navajo Fashion: A School Project set up and developed at the Fort Wingate High School, Dr. Ami explained the importance of understanding the cultural significance of sheep butchering. “It’s not just about the death of an animal but understanding the role animals play in our lives,” she explained. Dr. Ami also noted that her research evolved from exploring decolonization to a deeper understanding of the existing practice. “It’s not about decolonization or revitalization; it’s about maintaining and perpetuating the process. It has to be a Navajo initiative,” she stated.

The Diné College Library collections are also the home to digital archives such as the Navajo Cultural Arts Program community outreach series. Dr. Ami highlighted the T’áá awołí bee: Conversation Series as well as the soon-to-be-stored NCAP Blog filled with student and Diné artist commentary about the current and future state of Diné art. Dr. Ami edited these series and others featured in the online archive as part of her tenure as the Navajo Cultural Arts Grant Manager.

She expressed gratitude to those who contributed to her research. “T’áá hwó’ ají t’éego is not a one-way street; it’s a two-way street,” she said, recalling how the library became a home for her when she came back to the Navajo Nation. “Lines between students, staff, and faculty dissolve here. We are all just learners,” she explained. Dr. Ami concluded by highlighting the significant role of Diné College librarians. “When we talk about tending the fire, these guys are always on it,” Ami explained, pointing to the artistic backdrop created by Carlon P. Ami II. His oil painting entitled “The Fire” served as the framework for the talk.

Rhiannon Sorrell, Assistant Professor/Instruction & Digital Services Librarian, spoke about the community symposium, part of the Rare Book School Fellowship, which aims to advance understanding of cultural heritage, archives, and special collections. “The focus is on the collection here, the scholarship, the researchers, and the faculty that call this place home,” said Sorrell. “I wanted to highlight those pieces because many of those materials and the scholarly output from them move to outside institutions, and the misconception is that knowledge is out there. I love how Dr. Ami describes the Kinyaa’áaniiLibrary as a place where everyone becomes learners, and the fire is the knower; the collections here represent the tools that our community can use to learn to tend to their fires.”

For more information about Dr. Ami’s work, visit her website at www.christineami.com. Her dissertation, which utilizes resources from the Kinyaa’áanii Library, is available at the Tsaile Library under call number E99 .N3 A45 2016. A recording of her talk and call numbers for resources mentioned in the talk can be found at https://lib.dinecollege.edu/Special…/Navajo-Food-Research

The following lecture in this series will take place on Wednesday, February 14, at the RC Gorman Lecture Hall. At 2:00 pm, Diné Policy Institute Director Dr. Micheal Lerma and Diné College President Dr. Charles “Monty” Roessel will discuss the Navajo Community College Press Special Collections as an invaluable resource that speaks to the college’s mission of self-determination by prioritizing Native voices to Native audiences in publishing.


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