Our speaker was Dr Lucia Dumont Renard, whose talk, 'The Navajo Way to a Successful Education', outlined the development of modern education within the Navajo nation. After some decades of education in a dominant centralised style, aiming to produce English speakers, it was realised that the Navajo language also needed supporting, and that a more diverse approach was required. This was achieved by ensuring that children, whilst prepared for the wider world, were informed and taught about their history and culture, through language, history and art.
During her talk, Dr Dumont Renard gave us an intriguing glimpse of the society and culture of Diné Bikeyah or Navajoland when she described the symbolism on the Great Seal of the Navajo Nation. This shows the four sacred mountains. To the east, which is at the top, stands Mount Blanca, Tsisnaasjini, the Dawn, or White Shell Mountain. Moving around the circle, one next encounters Mount Taylor, Tsoodzil, Blue Bead or Turquoise Mountain to the south. This is followed by San Francisco Peaks, Doko'oosliid, the Abalone Shell Mountain. To the north is Mount Hesperus, Dibé Nitsaa, the Black Obsidian Mountain.
Our second speaker was Jeanne Chassereau, a student at the Lycee Saint Agnes in Angers. In May this year, she represented the Loire Valley in the finals of the ESU International Public Speaking Competition in London. Her witty speech and good presentation demonstrated the high standard students achieve in this competition.
As we took our leave, we felt that we had had an opportunity to explore the use of language and its relation to art and culture, as well as enjoying a social lunch with plenty of conversation.