Thursday, August 8, 2013

Navajo Reservation Cultural Immersion Course

Last spring, Ashland University (AU) nursing students and faculty traveled to Window Rock, Arizona as part of the Navajo Reservation Cultural Immersion course.  The Navajo reservation is the size of West Virginia. Window Rock is the capital of the Navajo Nation.  Nursing students Scott Cyders, Samantha Green, Jonathan Horst, Wesley Kyser, and Sara Mull participated in the week long immersion.  Faculty members Sharon See and Nancy Thorne led the students on this cultural journey May 14-20, 2013.  

The week started with the students and faculty meeting Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden.    Jill was staying at the hotel on the reservation then traveling to Navajo Technical College to give the commencement address.

Back: Wesley Kyser, Scott Cyders, Jonathon Horst
Front: Sara Mull, Samantha Green, Dr. Jill Biden, Sharon See, Nancy Thorne

While at the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital, students and faculty learned how the hospital integrates traditional Navajo healing practices into western medicine.  They had the opportunity to see traditional Navajo Hogans and sweat lodges used in patient care.  The students and faculty joined Aaron Sams, a traditional healer employed by the hospital, for two blessing ceremonies.  One was in a Hogan and the other in a teepee.   Students saw both Christian and traditional Navajo beliefs integrated in the blessings.  Herbs, feathers, a bone whistle, singing and praying were part of these ceremonies.  

Students were able to see various types of sweat lodges while at the reservation.  Most sweat lodges were circular in shape and covered with earth.  The Navajo placed heated rocks in the center of the sweat lodge and people would sit around the hot rocks in the dark.  Sweating in the dark is viewed by the Navajo as a purifying type of healing practice.

Left to Right:  Wesley Kyser, Scott Cyders, Sharon See,
Samantha Green, Jonathon Horst, Sara Mull, Nancy Thorne
Ashland University nursing students also hosted a cookout at the Rio Puerco Youth Center for the children.  Students enjoyed playing games with the Navajo children.  After last year’s cultural immersion trip, the AU Student Nurse Association (SNA) began a “Shoebox Christmas” program.  Students and faculty purchased small toys, educational supplies, mittens, hats, gloves, and other items for the children on the reservation.  The College of Nursing sent 50 decorated shoeboxes full of small gifts to the children at the Rio Puerco Community Center last year.  

Left to Right: Jonathon Horst, Scott Cyders,
Sara Mull, Samantha Green, Wesley Kyser
 While at the reservation, students enjoyed hiking Canyon De Chelly, Window Rock, and exploring the White House Ruins.    

The Navajo Cultural Immersion course, HS 380, is offered every spring semester.  During pre-immersion coursework students study the Navajo culture and traditional healing practices.  At the course conclusion, students spend a week on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona in May.  For more information on the exciting opportunity please contact Sharon See or Nancy Thorne .