In 2015 the American Indian Institute continued to develop its youth program at Navajo in partnership with and support of a group of Diné Elders, Medicine People and Youth called Nohooká Diné. Leland Grass, the program coordinator, is a Diné traditionalist from the Betatakin Canyon area of Big Navajo. He is the youngest Ho' ya' nee' (vigilant one) for the 12 traditional Headsmen Council of Nahooká Diné.
The Institute helps traditional leaders to utilize their Diné way of life and their spiritual foundation to create and promote peace and harmony within their communities and with their sacred relatives – Nature and the Horse. Last year the Institute supported two "Youth and Elder Horse Rides" across Big Mountain, one that ended up at the Yii'Bei'Chei' ceremony in Shiprock, and the other at the Yii'Bei'Chei' at Tuba City. The purpose of the rides was to teach the youth the role of horses in both ceremony and the culture. More importantly, for the past year Nahooká Diné has been connecting youth with horses through an alcohol, drugs, suicide and domestic violence prevention equine therapy program.
As Leland Grass describes the program, "Our aim is to save horses and then use them to teach the youth, and heal the afflicted. We believe that wild horses have a lot to teach us if we can bring ourselves back to that place of respect for them rather than looking at them as a nuisance or problem.
"The Colt/Horse Gentling Seminars consist of working with wild colts and horses who have never been saddled or ridden, and pairing them with young adults interested in cultural knowledge of our Original Ways, and with youth or adults in need of therapy and healing. This equine therapy promotes language and cultural preservation, thus adding strength to family bonds. This type of therapy also works with individuals having suicidal thoughts and tendencies, alcohol/drug abuse, domestic violence, or bullying issues. It also helps heal veterans with PTSD, and children on the autism spectrum."
Click Here to view a trailer video about the program. To support the Diné for Wild Horses program Click Here.