Puppets help teach Native Language

By David Boyle
News Director
A San Juan County resident is bringing Navajo Language education to life with the use of puppets.
The final product of Navajo Highways will include filmed short episodes. Meanwhile, the group is putting on a live puppet show on Friday, April 28 at Star Hall in Moab.
In an interview with Redrock92, Pete Sands explains he has been working on the idea for more than a year. Sands developed a show that features skits, the longest being under 10 minutes. They will eventually be published on YouTube. 
“The little clips I’ve put on social media, people have been going crazy over,” said Sands. “They say ‘It’s amazing, I’ve never seen anything like this, and it’s very innovative.’ YouTube will be the primary place where people can watch Navajo Highways.”
In addition to production efforts, Sands has researched to ensure the program’s Navajo language pronunciation and phrasing are just right.
“It was just a nice little concept that I had about finding ways to reinvigorate interest in the Navajo language and the Diné people to speak the Navajo language,” said Sands.
“So I had the television series in development for a while because it takes a while to get things rolling.
“In the meantime, people started asking if we can do live shows, so I started doing live shows for conferences and seminars. The positive feedback was, ‘This is really funny’, ‘It’s really educating’.”
As a result, Sands has partnered with Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission, Full Circle Intertribal Center, KMZU, and Native Youth Alliance of Moab to bring an evening of entertainment to Star Hall in Moab.
Sands voices the Uncle Al puppet, while Tyra and Drew Wilson of Rock Point, AZ voice the two young puppets. Sands’s mother, Sally Pete, voices the Grandma Sally puppet. 
Sand’s mother not only provides the voice of one character, but also inspired the name Navajo Highways. 
Sands recalls as a kid he would walk three to four miles to a bus stop to attend school. He and his mother called that dirt road the Navajo Highway.
“It’s a road to educating,” said Sands. “People can travel if they want. Anybody can go down a road and learn the Navajo language and Navajo culture.”
While the language education is aimed at youth, Sands says they imagine the show having greater reach.
“A lot of folks asked me, you’re just aiming at the youth. I said yes, but most of the time the kids aren’t watching TV by themselves. It’s usually parents sitting there with them. So parents and children will both watch this show of ours.”
San Juan County residents can get a preview of the show at the live show on April 28 at 7 p.m. at Star Hall in Moab. There is a $5 entrance fee.
In addition to puppet entertainment, the evening will also feature live music, special guests, and traditional Navajo food.

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