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Navajo Commission To Document Mistreatment of Native American Students

Hannah Colton
KUNM Public Radio
Jennifer Denet Dale (left), Chair of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, speaks to APS community members at Del Norte High School on March 5, 2019.

The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission will hold a series of public hearings throughout March to gather reports of mistreatment of Native American students in K-12 schools in and around the Navajo Nation. 

The hearings come after a racist incident at an Albuquerque high school in October led Native American families to repeatedly demand action from the school district. On Halloween, students say a Cibola High School teacher called a Navajo student a racial slur and cut the braid of another Native American student.

“This discriminatory behavior is remnant of the days when children were sent to boarding schools, and children were forced to cut their hair and were called derogatory names," said Navajo Nation Council Delegate Olin Kieyoomia about the incident, according to a recent report by the Navajo-Hopi Observer. "And now today, they are trying to silence our identity, so as Navajo leadership, we need to shed light on this for our children and protect them,” Kieyoomia said.

Jennifer Denet Dale, chair of the Commission, spoke at an Albuquerque Public Schools community forum last week.

“We really encourage you – parents, educators, students – to come share your observations and experiences with the Navajo Nation," she said. "I can’t promise you what we’ll do, or what direction we’ll take, but we do need to gather testimony and data before we decide on a direction.”

The Commission is seeking testimony about mistreatment in schools, including verbal or physical attacks, bullying, and unfair treatment based on gender or cultural expression.

The public hearings will be held in nine different cities throughout the Four Corners states, starting Monday afternoon in Cuba, New Mexico. 

Credit Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission


Support for KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, and from KUNM listeners like you.

Hannah served as news director at KUNM and reported on education, Albuquerque politics, and anything public health-related. She died in November 2020.
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