Diné Bina’nitin Béé’ As’ah Oodááł – Be in balance and harmony with nature

ST. MICHAELS, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation Division of Behavioral and Mental Health Services (DBMHS) hosted its annual Traditional Cultural Summit which was free to the public and lasted four-days from June 11 to 14, at Summit, Arizona. The theme was Diné Bina’nitin Béé’ As’ah Oodááł meaning to Be in balance and harmony with nature to promote mental, physical and spiritual wellness. The event included traditional and faith-based concepts and closed with a NAC ceremony.

The purpose of the Summit was to promote healthy lifestyles through cultural teachings and spiritual healing concepts, with sessions about empowering individuals to confront everyday life issues and challenges in a holistic manner rooted in Navajo tradition. During the outdoor summit, DBMHS wanted attendees to get in touch with themselves and nature to help individuals avoid negative behaviors such as substance abuse and domestic violence.

Nelvin Tohonnie was one of the traditional practitioners who presented at the summit about clan system and kinship. “Our theme for the summit is utilizing Navajo cultural teachings to promote balance and longevity among native families and communities,” he explained. “I did presentations and my topic was about clan system and kinship which is one of the foundations of Diné culture, it identifies who we are, our history and existence, into today’s lifestyle.”

Through teachings of the ‘Diné Lifeway’, DBMHS promotes balance and harmony in native communities through inward healing and personal growth. The concepts and teachings presented each year at the Traditional Cultural Summits, help individuals become empowered to overcome challenges and cope with pressure. The sessions are intended to instill the many generations of traditional cultural teachings in the youth and adults.

The Summit was the culmination of planning over the last five months, led by Karina Watson, Prevention Specialist at Fort Defiance Outpatient Treatment Center. “A lot of the sessions came from the traditional practitioners at DBMHS following daily themes such as Connecting with Nature, Family, and Youth and Elder and incorporating the Navajo Wellness model,” she explained.

The feedback was positive, with insights and questions posed from participants seeking traditional education and clarification pertaining to origin, clan and relationships and other stories. “We got a lot of good feedback; we heard that participants wanted more time to hear more of the story than the session allowed. That’s something we learned about our practitioners here; they’re good storytellers.”

DBMHS is a culturally based and family-oriented program; with most of its participants and communities serviced being traditional. By integrating traditional lifeways into its clinical programming, behavioral and mental health services are both comprehensive and culturally appropriate.