Navajo-language video describes condom use

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, January 31, 2013

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(Courtesy photo)

Terry Teller, YouTube user and staff pharmacist at the Tsaile Indian Health Center, has been creating educational material for some time now. His latest project focused on sex education in the Navajo language.

T here is no word for "condom" in Navajo. Could that be part of the problem?

YouTube user daybreakwarrior, known at his day job as staff pharmacist Terry Teller of the Tsaile Indian Health Center, thought the lack of sex education materials in the Navajo language might be contributing to the reservation's high rates of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.

Teller, who is Water Flowing Together born for Coyote Pass People, has been making educational videos in Diné bizaad for a while now, and decided to do one on proper condom use.

"Díí At'áo Jééh Digházhii Chijool'ih" ("How to Use a Condom") was posted last October. (Unable to find a standard definition for "condom," Teller substituted "rubber" — a suggestion of nursing assistant Virgil Begay.)

With the recent increase in HIV, STDs and unintended pregnancies, Teller said he felt this type of video was essential.

"Essentially I thought the info wasn't out there," Teller said. "I thought it would be good to have that information out there. Anything like that hasn't been posted yet so I figured, 'Hey, let's give this a try and see how this project will work out.'"

He passed his script by Begay because "he has a more traditional mindset, and he has more of an understanding of the traditional thought process behind things," Teller said, noting it was important to make the video culturally sensitive.

"Culturally sensitive in the Navajo language, it would also be a good Navajo language teaching tool as well," Teller said.

Faith Baldwin, Prevention Program Coordinator for the Navajo AIDS Network Inc., declared Teller's video "awesome," adding, "It's going to be really helpful."

"The terminology on there is great," Baldwin said, and she looks forward to using his Navajo word for lube—bee nidilt'í. "I think it's a really good video."

Teller said he hasn't had any complaints in regards to the video, but he did notice through other media outlets that it has been considered controversial.

"I don't know if it's necessarily a controversial video. I mean the information is out there, but of course nothing like this has ever been discussed in Navajo," Teller said. "Of course there's like some cultural taboos in regards to talking about these things because back in the day men would talk to men about these things, and women would talk to women about these things, but never in like the open audience in Navajo."

But this is definitely a case where what you don't know can hurt you.

"We need to talk about these things to get that kind of information out there to the public," said Teller. "The understanding is going to be less if it is not commonly discussed."

Navajo Health Program HIV Health Education Fannie Jackson said that she has never heard of a video put out entirely in Navajo about proper condom usage, but "it is needed because a lot of people don't know how to proper do that."

"I'm always looking for things in Navajo," Jackson said. "It will be useful because there are not a lot of educational things in Navajo."

Visit Teller's YouTube page by searching for daybreakwarrior, and that is where his video "How to Use a Condom (Navajo Language Translation)" can be viewed.

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