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Navajo Nation shares language with NASA to help name items on Mars

NASA has teamed up with the Navajo Nation to bring the Navajo language to the red planet. In a partnership with the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, NASA has begun to name features of scientific interest with words in the Navajo language.

NASA said, the first scientific focus of NASA’s Perseverance rover is a rock named Máaz, the Navajo word for Mars.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said a team from the Navajo Nation came up with a list of 500 words to present to NASA, which was narrowed down to 50 and includes words like bidziil (strength), hoł nilį́ (respect), and Ha’ahóni, which is Navajo for Perseverance.

President Nez said, our Navajo language was used to win World War II. Now our language is being utilized to identify rocks and sediments and areas. They're on Mars. So it's very exciting for the Navajo people to be a part of this project.

President Nez says he hopes the collaboration between NASA and the Navajo Nation will help younger members of the community become inspired to re-learn the Navajo language.

Nez said, when I say re-learn, it is said in our culture that you are born with the language within us. We just have to bring it out. With our Navajo people here on the Navajo Nation, our language is really slowly diminishing. With the Covid-19 here, a lot of our elders who are very fluent in the language have passed on. So what we want to do is [use] this to honor our elderly who have passed on.


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