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Museum of Northern Arizona: Fostering Navajo Culture and Traditions

September 17, 2015

The Museum of Northern Arizona was one of 10 winners of the 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for libraries and museums that are serving their communities in exceptional ways. Community member Jeneda Benally traveled with President Dr. Robert Breunig to Washington, D.C., in May to accept the award.

The Museum of Northern Arizona has been a part of Jeneda Benally’s life and her family’s life for as long as she can remember.  She and her family have performed traditional Diné dances at the museum’s annual Navajo Festival since she was a teenager. As a young person, Jeneda felt empowered by the dialog, education, and celebration of both traditional and contemporary Navajo culture fostered by the museum. As an adult, Jeneda performed at the museum as a bassist and co-vocalist alongside her brothers in a Navajo punk rock band, “Black Fire” and more recently as part of a multi-award winning rock duo Sihasin. The museum contributed to Jeneda’s music and dance success, and also helped her become an advocate for her culture and a mentor to Navajo youth through the museum’s Discovery Camp.

Jeneda says, “The Museum of Northern Arizona plays an important role in building bridges of respect for cultural diversity. I wish that all youth could have the opportunity to feel a sense of value, like I have, from their local museum.”

IMLS is now accepting nominations for the 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Nomination forms are due October 1, 2015.