50 years ago: Church plans new college, but offers no details

Just weeks after it was announced that the Navajo Reservation would get its first community college comes a story about the second community college to be established. Yes, it seems that officials for the Episcopal Church have been working for the past year to set up a community college as well. The new liberal arts college will be called Teller College and it will be located in the good Shepherd Mission in Fort Defiance.

The announcement came as a surprise to a lot of people, including those who are working on establishing Navajo Community College, which is expecting to have its first classes in a few months. A catalog that was put out in late April said the church plans to integrate the Navajo language and culture into every course it plans to offer. The idea is to provide a liberal arts education as well as a vocational school that will meet the needs of the Navajo people.

The church hopes that the courses offered at the new college will train a generation of Navajos for the type of jobs that currently exist on the reservation as well as those that are being planned in the near future. The scope of the education that will be provided at the school appears to be based on Navajo traditions as well as the modern education that is available in schools off the reservation. “The training in engineering, electronics, industrial arts as well as mechanics arts for men along with domestic courses for women” will be the mission of the new college, according to the catalog. T

his was the only information provided in the article in the Times so as to when the first courses will be offered to just how big student enrollment at the school would be was unknown.

There was also no information on who would be heading the new college. The only thing that was indicated was that the church will be providing more information about the new college in the near future. Aides for Navajo Tribal Chairman Raymond Nakai said he was surprised to hear of the plans but was happy to see the new college will provide a strong emphasis on Navajo culture in everything it is planning to teach.

Speaking of Nakai, he still apparently hated the Navajo Times and still refused to sit down for an interview with anyone from the staff. But in recent weeks, he has sat down with reporters from the Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune to talk about economic development on the reservation.

The AP article, which came out in late April, and the Tribune article, which came out in the summer of 1968, were positive and gave Nakai a lot of credit for trying to bring the reservation into the 20th century. The AP article was published in many newspapers cross the country and the Tribune article included a photo of Nakai taken inside of his office. This marked the first time that a photograph had been taken of Nakai without his sunglasses.

Dick Hardwick, the new editor for the Times, would later say that the spring and summer of 1968 was probably the worst time the paper had because of Nakai’s refusal to talk to a Times’ reporter. But Hardwick would say later that he found a way around Nakai’s refusal to talk to the Navajo Times.

Both Howard Graves and the reporter from the Tribune came to the Navajo Times before doing their interview with Nakai so Hardwick had an opportunity to explain to Graves his situation with Nakai and to the Tribune some of the problems he would have when interviewing Nakai.

Graves already knew of the problems since he had interviewed Nakai before and had gone through the experience of having to take notes in an almost completely dark room because of Nakai’s sensitivity to light. But meeting with the reporters gave Hardwick an opportunity to ask Nakai some questions he had hoped to ask if he ever had the opportunity to interview him. So he gave them three or four questions he would like answered.

The two reporters agreed and they both managed to get these questions answered during their interviews. They later came back and told Hardwick what Nakai gave as a response.

Hardwick then waited until their articles came out then published the responses Nakai gave to the questions. Most of Hardwick’s questions pertained to problems only of interest to reservation readers so they were not part of the articles by the AP or the Tribune. This didn’t matter because Nakai never seemed to remember what was in the articles. Hardwick would say he was able to do this throughout the rest of Nakai’s term in office.

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Categories: 50 Years Ago

About Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.