Dine be'iina Inc. (Navajo Lifeway)

Our mission is to restore the balance between Navajo culture, life, and land. We seek to preserve, protect, and promote the Navajo way of life; to encourage the participation and cooperation of the Navajo people among themselves and with other people and organizations; and to engage in research, education, development, establishment and promotion of projects and activities which further these ends.

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Ya' at' eeh - Hello Friends. Diné Bé Iiná' is a grass-roots, nonprofit organization founded in 1991. Diné be' iiná, means the way that we, the people live. We promote a sustainable livelihood through the Navajo Way of Life. Traditionally, this has been sheep, wool, and weaving and whatever comes from that. Our mission is to restore the balance between Navajo culture, life, and land. We seek to preserve, protect, and promote the Diné way of life.

Our agro-pastoral lifeway and our Navajo-Churro Sheep evolved in the vast deserts, plateaus, and mountain ranges of Colorado Plateau. For centuries, sheep and goats provided us with economic self-sufficiency. Diné culture and spiritual practices reflect to the ebb and flow of traditional shepherding and weaving practices. We provide education and outreach to assist sheep and goat producers, and fiber artists sustain economic self-sufficiency. Our curriculum address issues relevant to Dine' producers. While serving all sheep producers and fiber artists, DBI is particularly dedicated to conserving the traditional Navajo-Churro Sheep breed, T'aa Dibei. DBI's Goals are to restore status to sheep herding, wool processing, and fiber arts, and to promote the education that is necessary for their pursuit. We seek to develope value added sheep and wool products and help producers gain access to markets. Due to success of our community outreach efforts, and sheep producer and fiber artist development programs, we are experiencing increased demands for resources, information, networking opportunities, and community presentations.

DBI's activities provide leadership, economic development, and support for traditional lifeways of Navajo shepherds and fiber artists. Funds raised with this campaign will support education and outreach activities including:

1. Sponsorship of community based Spin Off groups. These are grass roots community groups that form to learn about fiber arts and traditional ways of life. Participants bring fiber arts projects they are working on and share with each other what they are learning and doing. Dine Be Iina assists these groups with providing speakers and fiber artist presenters and mini-workshops. We also help with encouraging local leadership and organizational skills. We recently completed a guidebook on how to organize and run a Spin Off group. We currently sponsor 6 active spin off groups and are constantly receiving inquiries for assistance in forming groups and providing guest presenters.

2. DBI's has been involved in the re-introduction and conservation of the Navajo-Churro breed of sheep we call T'aa Dibei. The mainstay of our traditional lifeway was the Navajo-Churro Sheep, a land race developed over 400 years by Diné shepherds, which is highly adapted to environment of the Colorado Plateau. This land race (breed) of sheep retains natural instincts and immune systems, finishes well on grass and rangeland forages, and costs less to raise than commercial breeds. Its multi-colored fleece is excellent for spinning, weaving and fiber arts. The meat is lean, sweet and nutritious. Chefs prize unique flavor of the meat. The Long Walk, severe livestock reduction measures by the Federal Government, introduction of "improved" breeds of sheep, and imposition of the grazing permit system reduced sheep numbers and destroyed the Diné economy. Navajo-Churro sheep were near extinction in the mid-1970s' when Dr. Lyle McNeal of Utah State University began efforts to restore the breed. He developed a foundation flock with enough genetic diversity to re-establish the breed. Diné Bé Iiná has been instrumental in ensuring the return of Navajo-Churro sheep to its homeland. Today we have a growing number of dedicated Diné breeders and producers of wool lamb and mutton. Still the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy considers Navajo-Churro Sheep in danger of extinction and there is much work to do to bring economic opportunities to Navajo sheep producers and fiber artists. DBI has assisted several Navajo-Churro producers in registering over 200 sheep with the Navajo-Churro Sheep Association's national registry. This will help in value added marketing and allowing our producers to have a say in the future of our own breed of livestock.

3. We have recently launched "Sheep to Table" a project to retain and increase the knowledge of traditional foods, foster food sovereignty and self-sufficiency of Navajo families. We will create educational events, cookbook, producer directory, database, and improve Navajo-Churro sheep production for our local food system. The aim is to capture and enhance our traditional knowledge of foods, shepherding, land stewardship and secure our food sovereignty before this knowledge and wisdom is lost.

4. Since 1996 we have conducted "Sheep is Life" - "Dibe' Be' Iina", a our annual event. It is a Celebration of Shepherding and Weaving culture: our traditional Navajo lifeway as well as cultures from around the world. This year, 2017, will be our 21st annual celebration to be held June 16-17th at Dine College campus near Tsaile AZ. With your help and input, we want to make this the best event ever. This two day event is offered free to the public. It includes educational programs and hands-on demonstrations about Navajo weaving, felting, spinning, dying and other arts and crafts; culinary arts featuring lamb and traditional foods; sheep production; land management; stories and presentations about traditional lifeways; a Navajo-Churro sheep and wool show/clinic; demonstrations on discussion of important issues; sheep camp activities, shade house activities, youth activities, and an awards ceremony.

5. General outreach and education to the public is a large part of what we do. Your donations will help us maintain a viable office, internet presence and develop our capacity to train presenters, provide much needed technical information to Navajo sheep producers and fiber artists, and participate fully with our partners in securing a economically viable future for agriculture and traditional ways of living.

AZ State Tax Credit Info: No Arizona Tax Credit
Alliance Member?: No
Service Areas: Navajo, Coconino, Apache
"Whenever we go to a Spin Off meeting to share our sheep stories we find the Navajo people still miss the connection to the land that came with the sheep. Even the elders still miss the sheep, which remind them of being with their grandparents, and relatives, or spinning and carding wool, or shearing and butchering. Navajo people miss the family influence of the sheep. Those memories are not completely forgotten, the story is the connection. This is why what DBI does so important" Tahnibaa Naataanii, fiber artist.