Researching My Way to Hózhó

By Imagining America | September 11, 2016

DSC_1380By Winoka Begay, a Doctoral student in Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies at the University of New Mexico and a 2016–2017 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow. This PAGE Blog Salon explores themes of intersectionality and public scholarship, important topics of the upcoming Imagining America national conference, Oct. 6-8, 2016, in Milwaukee, WI.

Yá’át’ééh, shí éí Winoka Begay yinishyé. Tłogí nishłį́ doo bit’ahnii bashishchíín ‘ashįįhí éí dashicheíí doo tó’aheedlíini eí dashinalí. Ákót’éego diné asdzáán nishłį́. T’áá Diné nishłí dóó Diné Bizaad bee yáshtį’.

Hello, my name is Winoka Begay. I am of the Weaver-Zia clan born for the Within His Cover clan. My maternal grandfather is of the Salt People clan and my paternal grandfather is of the Water Flows Together clan. These clans define me as a Navajo woman. I am a member of the Navajo Nation and a speaker of the Navajo language.


In my Diné (Navajo) culture; our language, beliefs, and life ways are embedded in everything we do. When we introduce ourselves to other Indigenous people, we share our clans, our birthplace, and how those two identifiers define us as people of the earth, as Diné. This is known as Sa’ah Naaghai Bik’eh Hozhoon (SNBH), which means, to live a life in balance and in harmony with oneself, one’s surroundings, and each other. SNBH can be acted out through various components, such as K’é, which helps identify clan relations between Navajo people; bizaad (language) and i’óol’iił (culture), which help shape cultural identity. As Diné scholars, how we engage with our research and scholarship is a reflection of our Navajo teachings and our community. The academic goals we strive to achieve are not only for us but also for the betterment of our community and our Indigenous people. In the Diné culture, K’é (kinship) reminds you that you have a responsibility not only to your community but also to your culture, and as a Diné scholar, I have the responsibility to care for my community and to make sure that my culture is never forgotten and my language is always spoken. As an Indigenous scholar, my responsibility is to help create a voice for our Indigenous people. We are too often hidden in the shadows of our past, and viewed as people with no future. Scholarship often neglects to include the Indigenous voice, and if it is included, a non-Indigenous commentator often tells it. I believe my position as a Diné woman in this hierarchy we call academia is to not only help create a voice for our Indigenous people but to also inspire others to take action in their communities, whether that is through activism, policy-making, language planning, language revitalization, or creating new Indigenous learning opportunities for future generations. In my Diné culture we are told, “’ayóó ‘áda’ahííníi’níí dóó beé saad bee ha’ ahónínígíí ‘ałch’į’ háádeiidzih dóó bee chánah daniidlį́į́ dóó bee k’é da’ahidii’ní,” which means to always walk in beauty, to have beauty in our voice, and to have beauty around us. To do this we must always encourage one another, love one another, help one another, and relate to one another. This is engagement in my eyes; it is a way of life for my Diné people, and for many Indigenous people around the world. It is my belief that we must live, learn, and teach in hozhó.

Check out Winoka’s blog and follow her on Instagram @nokab.