The JI is pleased to announce that Farina King has agreed to join the JI full-time. See here for her fantastic guest post on the Miss Indian BYU pageant. Here is her extended bio:
Bilagáana nish?? dóó Kiyaa’áanii báshíshchíín. Bilagáana dashicheii dóó Tsinaajinii dashinálí. In Navajo, we always introduce ourselves by our four clans. We are born to our mother and her clan, and we are born for our fathers and their clan. Navajos are a matrilineal society, so the clans represent the maternal family lines. We then introduce the clans of our maternal grandfather and paternal grandfather. I am “Bilagáana” (Euro-American), born for “Kiyaa’áanii” (the Towering House Clan) of the Diné (Navajo). My maternal grandfather was Euro-American, and my paternal grandfather was “Tsinaajinii” (Black-streaked Woods People Clan) of the Diné.
I am a second-year graduate student in the U.S. History Ph.D. program at Arizona State University. My dedication to history began with casual conversations with two of my uncles who were Navajo Code Talkers. I became fascinated with Navajo military voluntarism and patriotism during World War II in spite of long-sufferings of civil injustice and inequality. I rejoiced in the opportunity to create a new archive by recording the memories and experiences that my uncles shared with me, and since my uncles recently passed away I treasure even more the interviews I had with them. I have learned to gather oral histories through relationships, which must be continually renewed and offer much knowledge.
I directed my research to the history of the American Indian Program at Brigham Young University (BYU) after participating in the Miss Indian BYU Pageant. The Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at BYU hired me as an interviewer for the Latter-day Saint (LDS) Native American Oral History Project because of my interviews with former Miss Indian BYU contestants. The BYU Harold B. Lee Library stores my interviews, which the public can access to study LDS Church relations with Native Americans and experiences of Mormon Native Americans. I refer to my experiences and research from this project in various papers and presentations. I am also collaborating with the Assistant Director of the Charles Redd Center, Jessie Embry, on a manuscript about the history of Navajo Mormons in the twentieth century. This research taught me how to maneuver as an “in-between insider and outsider” scholar towards the community under study, since my own history and family were personally associated with Mormon Navajo history.
At BYU, I also started comparative colonial histories of West Africans and Native Americans. My honors thesis assessed the similar intimate relationships that French traders developed with métisse women in West Africa and those in the Great Lakes Region of North America before the nineteenth century. I learned to work in American and international libraries and archives including in Senegal and France. I established contacts with African professionals such as archivists, professors, and research center directors. I became familiar with ideas of intimate colonialism, which permeated the interracial relationships of African and Native American societies respectively and shaped new communities in colonized spaces.
I always wanted my research to address the needs and pertinent questions to my people, the Diné, in conjunction with my interests in comparative colonial studies. I interned for the Diné Policy Institute (DPI) on the Navajo reservation before graduate school. The resulting paper of my internship, “Journeys of Navajo Social Workers: A Formula for an Effective Social Worker on the Navajo Reservation,” is accessible through DPI where I presented my work. The Director of DPI, Robert Yazzie, impressed me to consider how my research could affect Navajo tribal policies and community. I continue to assess the influences of my work on society and my people.
As a master’s student, I wrote my thesis on French colonial education in the twentieth century simultaneously as I wrote a paper on the boarding school experience of Navajo youth in the 1930s. My thesis examines a process of contradictions between educational ideas and policy implementation that I call “distant education” in colonial schools of Dahomey (modern-day Benin) between 1932 and 1952. The paper depicts the students’ experiences and possible struggle with ambivalence, which affected their sense of place in colonial society and relation to home. My study on Navajo boarding schoolchildren traces how Navajo youth also faced conflicting messages in school to be “Navajo” but only through the ways and practices that government officials mandated in the twentieth century. I seek to understand how colonized experiences of indigenous peoples affect their lives and familial relationships. The history of colonial education as a form to subjugate indigenous peoples intrigues me as I try to comprehend societal and familial dynamics of Native Americans (specifically the Diné) to this day.
I aspire to become a History Professor for a research institution who specializes in colonial studies and indigenous peoples’ histories. I focus on colonial education in comparative world settings. My doctoral research seeks to revise Navajo educational history, as I concentrate on Navajo transient schooling experiences in the twentieth century to trace the impacts of estrangement from family and community through colonial forms of education and distant learning. I see the Navajo experience as a point of comparison to other national and global trends in post-colonial societies.
I look forward to participating in the Juvenile Instructor blog and learning from all the scholars involved. Thank you for including me.
Please join us in welcoming her.