Youngster loves learning Navajo, teaches mom

Navajo Times | Ravonelle Yazzie
Second-grader Makay Owens, 7, sings a song in the Navajo language on Nov. 1 at Tséhootsooí Diné Bi’ólta’.


“Nidá!” said MaKay Owens to his little brother who was climbing around the booth at the Diné Restaurant in Window Rock.

Navajo Times | Ravonelle Yazzie
Second-grader Makay Owens, 7, top center, sings to his classmates in the Navajo language on Nov. 1 at Tséhootsooí Diné Bi’ólta’.

Later, MaKay would be writing dibé, oolkił, yá’át’ééh and ííyáá’ on the back of a receipt.

When asked what his favorite Navajo word is, MaKay said “mágí,” which is monkey in Navajo.

He is the only child in his family who is nearly fluent in the Navajo language. He has four siblings, two older and two younger than he. MaKay is Salt People born for Filipino.

“His mom really doesn’t understand it either, so, he’s teaching her,” said MaKay’s stepfather, Lambert Holyan, who speaks the language fluently.

“He’s also teaching the (older) brother and the (older) sister. Now he’s teaching the younger ones to talk.”

MaKay said he likes being able to speak Navajo and teach his family.

For Darlyn Owens, Makay’s mother, it was moving to begin to learn the Navajo language from her son. She grew up with her grandparents, who only spoke Navajo, until around eighth grade. Then her family moved away from them to Phoenix.

Over the course of 10 years being away from home she lost her ability to understand Navajo.

“It was really touching for me once he started to picking it up and for him to try to teach me,” Owens said. “It was a lot because I’ve always wanted to learn. It’s been a joy for us to have him bring that light back into our lives.”

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Categories: People

About Author

Pauly Denetclaw

Pauly Denetclaw is Meadow People born for Towering House People. She was raised in Manuelito and Naschitti, New Mexico. She was the co-recipient of the Native American Journalist Association's 2016 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Reporting. Denetclaw is currently finishing her degree in multimedia journalism from the University of New Mexico - Main. Denetclaw covers a range of topics including genetic research, education, health, social justice issues and small businesses. She loves coffee, writing and being with her family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Her handle is @pdineclah