August 30, 2018
TSAILE, Ariz. — It’s somewhat customary for colleges and universities to celebrate important occasions in their histories, such as an anniversary, and to come up with something to commemorate the occasion — like a one-time coin or a special sweatshirt.
When officials at Diné College wanted to do something unique to celebrate the college’s 50th anniversary, they came up with a commemorative Navajo blanket. This past spring, they asked a few students to take some time from their studies and come up with a design that would reflect the college’s journey over the past 50 years.
The blankets are now being made and will cost $225 apiece when done. The college has an online link that will allow people to pre-order the blankets. Visit www.dinecollege.edu to pre-order and for more information.
“Including students in this endeavor is important,” George Joe, communications and marketing director at Diné College, said. “Our students are very talented, no matter the field that they’re in.”
Anthony Williams, a student majoring in business administration, came up with the design college officials felt best incorporated what they wanted to commemorate and now a limited amount of the wool blankets have been produced for sale for the general public.
In deciding who would produce the blanket, the decision was to go with the Seattle-based Eighth Generation. The Native-owned firm was founded in 2008 when Louie Gong started customizing shoes in his living room. Eighth Generation is now the first Native-owned company to ever produce wool blankets.
“We chose Eighth Generation because of what the owner does for the community,” Nonabah Sam, curator of the Ned Hatathli Museum at Diné College, said. “He gives back in many ways and that is what drew our attention to him,” Sam said.
Profits from the sale of the blankets will go toward providing scholarships to students in need of financial help. Upward of 80 percent of the student body at Diné College receives some kind of financial aid.
“Every year, I have seen students come and leave and not attain their degrees because they lack the necessary funding,” Sam said. “I know that same hardship because I was in their shoes at one time. I think we all were — so now it’s time to see what we can do to see our students leave college debt free.”
The design that Williams came up with focuses on the college’s logo and uses elements of the Navajo culture to represent the path that Diné College has taken over the past 50 years. Diné College started as a mobile home in Many Farms, Ariz., and now boasts six campuses in Window Rock, Chinle, Tuba City, Shiprock, Crownpoint and Tsaile.
The corn on the logo represents growth and sustainability, “because you can use the seeds year after year and it can grow anywhere,” Sam explained. She added, “It’s like our students. They come here and those seeds are planted in them. Where they go from here and replant them (the seeds) is up to them.”
Sam continued, “Over the past 50 years, we have seen many successful individuals come through our doors and that’s what makes us so unique. It’s a story for all to interpret in their own way,” she said.