Nonabah Sam Dine College

Diné College Museum Receives Excellence Award

Lori Tapahonso/Diné College

The Ned A. Hatathli Cultural Center Museum at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona, received the Museum Excellence Award from the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM). The award was presented at the ATALM 2015 Guardians of Culture and Lifeways International Awards in September in Washington, D.C. 

The award recognizes organizations and individuals who serve as outstanding examples of how indigenous archives, libraries, museums, and individuals contribute to the vitality and culture sovereignty of Native Nations. Nonabah Sam, Museum Curator accepted the award on behalf of the College Museum.

Sam was an influential factor in the awards selection. Since joining Diné College as the Museum Curator in 2012 she has revitalized the museum and its collections. Under her direction, the museum collection moved from the cramped museum space to the newly constructed Ruth and Bob Roessel Archive Building for proper storage, preservation, and cataloging.

Sam also played a key role in the design and remodeling of the existing Ned A. Hatathli Cultural Center Museum. The existing museum was identified for renovation by the Capital Investment and Improvement Planning committee at the college. Sam’s design of the museum space integrates traditional Navajo learning areas and provides ample space for the display of southwestern Native American objects.

“The idea of having a museum that represents our traditional way of life and integrating a Diné Bizaad Tééyah (Navajo Speaking Zone), is what makes our museum unique. Each of the areas located in the museum have Navajo names, beginning with the center as Hooghan Nímazí (permanent gallery). Moving around the gallery there is the workspace is known as Chaha’oh (Navajo Work Place); the Dibé bighan (Children’s Interactive Corner); the'Dá ák’eh (Book Shelves); and we have our Táchééh Theater (Sweat Lodge).  Each one of these areas plays a vital role in the museum and is dedicated to teaching and learning about Navajo lifeways,” explains Sam.

To date, the museum has exhibited three unique shows, the grand re-opening show entitled, “Celebrating Nitsáhákees, Nahat’á, Iina, Siihasin: From Traditional Aesthetics to Contemporary Navajo Art,” “To Feel the Earth: Moccasins of the Southwest,” and the current show, “Hwééldi Baa Hane: Our Truth, Our Stories.” The current show is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Long Walk of the Navajos.

The success of the shows have made the Ned A. Hatathli Museum one of the top museums to visit in the Southwest by the Navajo Nation Tourism Industry and other travel related agencies in the region. 

Sam works countless hours to make the museum a success and a destination. The award speaks to her exemplary knowledge of museum layouts and displays. “I can not take all the credit for how far we have come to make this museum outstanding, especially in such a short period of time. It takes a good team to win at the end of the day and I thank each of you, who have supported the museum and my staff, including Leon Jackson, Rudy Dixon and Dixon Preferred Services, Ed Yazzie Construction and also Pueblo Mechanical”, Sam said.

About The Award: The Guardians of Culture and Lifeways International Awards Program was established in 2007. The Guardian Award takes its name from the sculpture that stands atop the Oklahoma State Capitol, the work of Seminole Chief Kelly Haney. Senator Haney’s message to Award recipients and ATALM attendees is to “Dream big. Work hard. Believe deeply... For this just the beginning. Let us all rise to our potential.”

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