First Book on Navajo Masculinity Explores Changes & Identity of Navajo Men

ALBUQUERQUE — From the creation of the first Navajo (Diné) man and each one that followed had defined roles and responsibilities to continue Diné life.  But with contact with the first non-Indigenous person, the male Diné’s life would transform drastically, from language to culture to a sense of identity.

First book that addresses Navajo masculinities released.

First book that addresses Navajo masculinities released.

Today’s Diné man has many definitions of himself — with some saying that their way of life is eroding and with others stating not much has changed. Peter Walker says the jaded history between the United States and the Diné continues to linger. “I think our people are still recovering from this horrible history,” Walker says. “I think it can be difficult sometimes as a Diné man to keep our heads up in the face of the outside world and all the internal problems the Diné nation faces. I think it may be easy to escape from it all through alcohol or drugs, or adopting the ways of non-Natives to gain material wealth or prosperity. We have to adopt some of those ways, but we also can’t forget who we are or where we come from.”

A new book, “Diné Masculinities: Conceptualizations and Reflections” (Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2013), explores these changes and how colonization has impacted Navajo men. The first book published on the subject, “Diné Masculinities” bring together 30 perspectives of Diné men ages 24 to 70 from diverse backgrounds, including education, sexual orientation, religion and residency, as they discuss their upbringing and explanations of what it means to be a Diné male.

Starting from the creation of the First Man and First Woman, author Lloyd L. Lee, Ph.D., explains traditional male roles and responsibilities, including the male puberty ceremony, which is practiced less today.

Dr. Lee is an Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico’s Native American Studies Department. A citizen of the Navajo Nation, Dr. Lee is of the Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House) clan, born for Tl’ááschí’í (Red Bottom).

Male puberty ceremonies are more intimate, with initiation done with immediate and a few extended male family members, where as the female ceremony, the kinaaldá, is communal.  With the lack of knowledge in these ceremonies and the influence of modern American society, interpretations of what it means to be a man, a Diné manvary.

Using research exploring American masculinity where American men express manhood through sports, military service or violence, Lee discovered some Diné males also embraced those concepts in identifying their manhood.  But while the concepts of how to become a man varies, each person universally said their caring roles and responsibilities to their families whether married or unmarried were a big part of being a Diné man. Although all worried about the Navajo way of life diminishing, they also had hope for the future of the Navajo Nation

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