Lucasfilm and the Navajo Nation Museum have worked together to create a Navajo-dubbed version of Star Wars. More precisely, the movie is being dubbed into Diné bizaad, a language spoken by around 210,000 people spread across reservations in Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.
According to an article posted by Melissa Locker on the Time News Feed, the release of the movie was to have taken place Fourth of July weekend at the Navajo Nation Fair in Window Rock.
In the article, Manuelito Wheeler, the director of the Navajo Nation Museum was described as the driving force behind the project. He approached Lucasfilm with the idea, and described the project as an entertaining and educational way to preserve the Navajo language. It’s also a way to engage younger members of the Navajo tribe and teach them their native tongue in a fun and captivating way.
I think this is an excellent strategy for preserving language and culture through modern media. You see similar efforts in countries where dialects are quickly disappearing as older generations of speakers pass away. A good example of this type of effort is in Italy where dialects are quickly disappearing. There has been a movement among scholars to publish more books and videos in an attempt to preserve the dialects for future generations.
Language is an important part of the tradition of story telling and culture. I still fondly recall my father telling me stories about his Native Italy in Calabrese dialect which only added to the charm of the stories. I hope this effort by the Navajo Nation Museum helps to carry forward the Diné language and Navajo culture into the future.
There are far too many languages disappearing every day as documented by the Enduring Voices Project.