The problems experienced by the Navajo people in the United States were similar to those of Indigenous communities in Australia, says CDU Palmerston lecturer Georgie Walton.
Ms Walton has just returned from the 16th Navajo Studies Conference at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Indigenous academic support lecturer learnt about the US’s biggest indigenous culture, its achievements and challenges for the future.
Keynote speakers covered a variety of issues ranging from education, health, business and political priorities of the Navajo people.
Ms Walton attended on behalf of the Gagudju Association, of which she is a committee board member.
She said the Navajo people feared losing their language and culture in a modern society.
‘This group of Navajo academics and community representatives were very clear about their future and what they wanted to achieve,’ she says. ‘And they refused to let the past historical issues effect their pathway into the future.’
They also closely identified with land, with many choosing to live on established reservations, which heightened their sense of community, culture, language and support for each other.
Ms Walton says she learnt about successful programs in health education, business and enterprise driven by the Navajo people.
She says much of the information from the conference will assist her in identifying strategies for the future of Indigenous communities, particularly in relation to the retention of Indigenous students at university.
‘The Navajo motivation and resolve is inspirational and they have a real thirst for education, which is encouraged by the older generations who have not been able to experience the same opportunities,” she says.
Speakers called on the Navajo to return their communities and help train young people. Many of them have progressed to university education and become doctors, lawyers, authors, teachers and even politicians.
Ms Walton said it was inspiring to see how the Navajo nurtured, mentored and encouraged the younger generations.