Diné bí' íína' (Navajo Lifeways)

N.G. Manymules Bitsoi, DBI President
P. O. Box 539
Ganado, Arizona USA

Diné bí' íína' is a nonprofit organization founded in Arizona in 1991. It represents the Navajo Nation Sheep and Goat Producers, providing leadership, technical information, and economic development assistance to individuals and families, and supporting traditional lifeways associated with sheep, wool, and goat producing. The organization seeks to restore status to sheep herding and to promote the education that is necessary for its pursuit in the modern world. Recent activities include:

  • A sheep shearing school with a team of Spanish shearers brought in to instruct the Navajo producers. The team traveled for a month to different home places, shearing a total of 13,000 head. Planned workshops include improving lambing rates, meat production, and wool quality through nutrition.
  • Workshops on processing wool, felting, and spinning, with youth and elders, and demonstrating uses of non-traditional equipment such as the spinning wheel.
  • Integrated range and land management courses for livestock producers.
  • Distribution of 100 Navajo-Churro ram lambs in 1997 and follow-up with recipients.
  • Distribution of guard llamas, with training programs for management and care.
  • Projects in the planning stages include: 1) a summer-long traditional sheep camp where young people can come for several weeks at a time to herd and take care of sheep; 2) creating culturally-relevant economic development projects based on sheep and wool; 3) workshops explaining the benefits of the Navajo-Churro breed, nutrition requirements, and animal husbandry procedures.

Most Diné do not raise Navajo-Churro. Diné bí' íína' is conducting education programs throughout the Navajo Nation stressing that the Churro is a desert animal that can take care of itself; is more drought-tolerant; has a higher lambing rate; has healthier lean meat; can produce two wool crops a year; and that the wool is easier to use, more durable, and more valuable if marketed properly. Today, a normal size sheep flock is 40 to 50 head.

A Navajo-managed organization, Diné bí' íína' serves any person interested in sheep raising. DBI hosts Sheep is Life, and has invited speakers and presenters, as well as organized activities for children and adults to explore Sheep Culture during the Celebration.

The Navajo Sheep Project,
a nonprofit 501c3 corporation

Dr. and Mrs. Lyle McNeal
NSP Utah Office
P. O. Box 4454
Logan, Utah 84323 USA
phone: (435) 753-7982

The Navajo Sheep Project was established in 1977 to bring back the almost-extinct Navajo-Churro breed and reintroduce it into Navajo and Spanish communities. The Navajo Sheep Project recently incorporated as a nonprofit organization and has received its federal 501c3 status.

Dr. and Mrs. Lyle McNeal founded the Navajo Sheep Project in 1977 to establish a breeding Navajo-Churro flock, from which livestock is returned to Navajo and Hispanic weavers and sheep raisers. Recognizing the intimate relationship between sheep, wool, weaving, land, and traditional cultures, the project seeks to support agro-pastoralism and create culturally-relevant economic support for the continuation of these cultures.

Dr. McNeal, an animal scientist, became familiar with the Navajo-Churro breed more than 20 years ago while working with families on the Navajo Nation. He recognized the genetic and cultural significance of the Navajo-Churro and set out to bring the breed back from the brink of extinction so it could be reintroduced into the Southwest. Since 1977, the Navajo Sheep Project has placed many breeding stock with Navajo families, and NSP stock formed the nucleus of Ganados del Valle flocks in Los Ojos, New Mexico

In 1985 and 1990, the Navajo Sheep Project sponsored conferences on "Sheep and Wool on a Small Scale" in Logan, Utah. Many Navajo shepherds and weavers requested that a conference be held closer to their homelands.

After presenting the celebration at San Juan College in Farmington, New Mexico for two years, DBI entered into a collaboration with Diné College, in Tsaile, Arizona, to host the event.

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