Successfully incorporating Navajo language into literature
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Founded in 1994, by Eric and Kenneth Lockard, Salina
Bookshelf Inc., has become the premiere publishing company of Navajo
language textbooks, educational children's books and electronic media
assistive in learning the Navajo language.
Sadly, these days, it's all too common that indigenous languages are fading
into the periphery of cultural standards. The Salina Bookshelf, based out
of Flagstaff was created to help bring the Navajo language back to its
traditional place within the foundation of Navajo culture.
Interestingly enough, the Lockard brothers are not of Navajo descent. They
did, however, grow up on the Navajo Nation in a rural town known as
Cottonwood. Having attended public school in the neighboring community of
Pinon, Ariz., the brothers noticed a significant emphasis placed on
teaching the English language in the school's curriculum. Yet, there
weren't any Navajo language classes being offered.
The Lockard brothers agree that the primary goal of the company is to
provide educational material for Navajo language instruction as well as
providing authors the opportunity to share their work with a broader
community. Salina Bookshelf strives to bring a sense of authenticity to the
publishing arena while emphasizing the voice of authors they work with.
Their current catalog lists more than 30 titles, as well as instructional
audiocassettes, compact discs and interactive CD-ROMs.
Of the many products in their catalog, the most dynamic is an interactive
Navajo language dictionary that comes in the form of a CD-ROM. "The Navajo
Language: A Grammar and Colloquial Dictionary" by Robert W. Young and
William Morgan Sr., contains a clan chart, as well as, money, math and time
tools. The dictionary allows the user to search for Navajo translations by
typing in English words. It also contains a complete chart of all Navajo
verb forms and downloadable Navajo font software which is ideal for word
processing in the Navajo language.
Throughout the series of "Baby" books, young readers are guided by Baby's
adventures to learn how to count, the names of colors and animals, and also
about family relationships. Each book provides the reader with an
opportunity to learn basic elements of the Navajo language and culture. The
"Baby" series has been beautifully illustrated by Beverly Blacksheep, a
Renowned Navajoland artist, Bahe Whitethorne Sr., has authored two books
for the company. Both "Father's Boots" and "Sunpainters: Eclipse of the
Navajo" are prime examples of stories steeped in culture that are
brilliantly accentuated with Whitethorne's artwork. The images draw the
reader's attention to the storylines which give insight into the
significance that religion plays in the life of a traditional Navajo.
Books retail anywhere from $7.95 to $17.95 and the CD-ROM sells for $99.95.
A privately-financed endeavor, the Salina Bookshelf relies on profits from
the books they produce to help pay for the publishing of other projects.
Although the profits are considerable, the Lockard brothers haven't become
millionaires in the process. They make enough to pay the bills and employ
six full-time workers, who fill the range of positions from graphic
designer to editor to marketing director.
Many of the books they publish come from manuscripts submitted by Navajo
authors. According to the guidelines on their Web site, priority is placed
on books that deal with the Navajo people, their language, and/or their
culture. Manuscripts should be focused accordingly. Eric Lockard said the
company has been receiving more manuscripts that are written in the Navajo
language, which is preferred.
"Concepts in Navajo translate better into English than English to Navajo,"
It's fairly common for authors who write in Navajo to translate their work
into English. However, the Salina Bookshelf works with exclusive
translators that help edit the material that's submitted in Navajo.
"We're a small enough company that we try to get the authors and editors
together," he said.
According to Lockard, one of the best things about running a small
publishing company is they don't have to consider the restraints of what
format is most profitable. Therefore, Salina Bookshelf produces books of
all shapes and sizes.
Does the variation in book sizes make it difficult to publish so many
"It makes it exciting," he said. "When you have the manuscript, you have
kind of an idea of what the book is going to look like. You don't really
know until you sit down and figure out what format you would like to try
To learn more about the Salina Bookshelf, or to order some of their
products, visit www.salinabookshelf.com.