Day One: Hózhó Hane’ Writing Conference

Day One— March 16
Early Morning Into Day

Our trek to Canyon de Chelly began as a gathering of strangers, acquaintances, reuniting of friends from close and far. It led to an intimacy seldom felt outside a Bread Loaf inspired community.

A group of 25 or so attendees caravanned to our final destination of Canyon de Chelly. Small talk began tenaciously but soon spun into likenesses and deeper conservations about the purpose of including students in the larger message and how participants could continue the good work already begun. The hour and a half drive seemed much shorter than anticipated…and suddenly we were there.

Our first stop at Spider Rock and our later hike down into the canyon culminating at White House gelled in a better understanding of how we are interconnected through our humanity and our purpose in both time and place. Writing is the equalizing factor.

Rex Lee Jim led us to finding ourselves through writing. He began with the Navajo story of Spider Woman and then challenged us to connect with one another; connect with the tiniest of insects— to find meaning in the smallest of creatures so that we can find meaning in the larger self. And so began this weekend journey of time and place and written truth.

Evening—NGLN Dinner
(Next Generation Leadership Network supported by Middlebury College and funded by the Ford Foundation)

After a day of exhilarating introspection, dinner to greet and reunite NGLN leaders from South Carolina, Kentucky, Vermont, Atlanta, Lawrence, and Navajo was the culminating excitement of the day. Walking into the Green Room of the Quality Inn was a pure visualization of a dream come true. Some forty faces shone with excitement, smiles stretched ear to ear, eyes shining brighter than celestial stars.

As Sonlatsa Jim-Martin welcomed attendees to Navajo, the buzz of excitement hushed to respectful anticipation. Each person listened attentively to individual introductions, not only putting names to faces, but connecting individuals to like purpose. Over and over, themes of unity and collective progression found their voices around the room.

Once individual introductions were given, Mike Schoenfeld, Senior Vice-President and Philanthropic Advisor at Middlebury College, aptly juxtaposed the 100 year history of Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English with that of the centuries old history of the Navajo Nation. Yet, he said, both are situated under sacred mountains and punctuated the fact that the union of both school and nation was a natural fit. He thanked NGLN for the privilege to attend the writing conference and offered his continuing support of the program.

Doug Wood, Program Officer in the Ford Foundation’s Youth Opportunity and Learning Sector, reiterated the sentiment of his thankful participation and support while bringing an air of familiarity to the room by recognizing his connection to Bread Loaf and his participation in the Bread Loaf Teacher Network. His recognition of long standing friendships with individual fellow attendees and his love for all things Bread Loaf-ian united the group with congenial purpose.

Rex Lee Jim was last to speak. His pride and love for the project was visibly evident in his broad smile and his sometimes breaking voice. Never have I seen him so happy. He beamed as he illuminated his and Ceci Lewis’s ageless vision of Stories Walking: Reclaiming Rhetorical Sovereignty. He voiced his palpable hope of reclaiming our voices, strengthening our voices as individuals and as communities. He marveled at the strength and tenacity of those in attendance and reveled in the assurance of a dream come true.

And so Day One came to an end.

Please add your comments to these thoughts.

Susan Miera

3 Responses to “Day One: Hózhó Hane’ Writing Conference

  • Thank you so much, Susan, for this wonderful post. We can be sure that nothing like this is happening anywhere in the world. This is a movement already in motion. Bringing together many of the youth leaders who are at the forefront of this movement was a crucial step in building its strength and momentum. I have no doubt that if we can continue to have conferences and events like this one that bring our youth leaders together with the adults mentoring them, young people WILL lead us out of the darkness. They’re already doing it! What a miraculous antidote to the violence and despair that plagues our country right now! Love, community, understanding, and compassion rule in the Bread Loaf Teacher Network, all informed by our passion for social justice. And what better place in the universe to have this conference than in the Navajo Nation? Many thanks to the the conference the hosts and facilitators, our Navajo brothers and sisters. We are enriched and enlightened by your wisdom and humanity.

  • Tom McKenna
    3 years ago

    Thanks for capturing part of that amazing day, Susan! You asked about adding photos and comments… I do not think that’s possible on this system… Maybe we can create a Google folder.

  • Tom McKenna
    3 years ago

    All: If you have some great photos you want to share, please upload them here: We’ll make a gallery.

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