From Professional Development to Native Nation Building: Opening Up Space for Leadership, Relationality, and Self-Determination through the Diné Institute for Navajo Nation Educators

Many of us have multiple stories that would be appropriate to tell given the theme of this Special Issue. I am compelled to tell a story about my work with teachers, teacher leaders, and other allies on the Navajo Nation. The Diné Institute for Navajo Nation Educators (DINÉ) was started by teacher leaders who envisioned a collaborative professional development institute specifically for K12 teachers on the Navajo Nation. In their rural, Indigenous-serving schools, teachers are often asked to deliver scripted curriculum that is decontextualized, dehistoricized, and therefore, dehumanizing for their students, themselves, and their communities. Their vision for the DINÉ was developed and honed over many years in response to this context. In this essay, I will briefly describe the DINÉ, how and why it began, and its current status. I will focus on three critical spaces that have opened up in and through the DINÉ: teacher leadership, connection/relationality, and activism/self-determination. In reflecting on these three spaces, I suggest that our work in the DINÉ is fundamentally about Native Nation building.