Mitzie Begay, Navajo Oral History

Mitzie Begay, was Navajo-Cultural Liaison Ft. Defiance Hospital

Mitzie Begay, Navajo Oral History

 Photo by Tom Grier/Navajo Oral History Project.


Mitzie Begay – Navajo-Cultural Liaison Ft. Defiance Hospital – Living History Video

Mitzie Begay lives in Fort Defiance, Arizona.
Her title is cross-cultural coordinator for the home-based care program at Tséhootsooí Medical Center, formerly known as Ft. Defiance Indian Hospital, for over 30 years.

Project completed by:
David Dvorak – WSU
Molly Golden – WSU
Tashina Johnson – DC

Michael Ruka – WSU

This documentary film was researched, photographed, edited and produced by students of Winona State University (Winona, Minnesota) and Diné College (Tsaile, Arizona, Navajo Nation) during summer 2009.

This documentary film is archived at the Navajo Nation MuseumNavajo Nation LibraryWinona State University Library, and Diné College Library, and will be archived at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.

The film is part of the Navajo Oral History project, a multi-year collaboration between the Winona State UniversityMass Communication Department and Diné College– The official Tribal College of the Navajo Nation



Mitzie Begay - Navajo-Cultural Liaison
Photo by Tom Grier/Navajo Oral History Project.

In her work, Mitzie helps bridge gaps between traditional ways of healing with modern medicine.

She meets with Navajo patients and caregivers and helps build understanding and comfort with difficult medical decisions while ultimately respecting each patient’s cultural values.

Mitzie Begay-NYT-article

OUTREACH Gina Nez, right, and Mitzie Begay visited Jimmy Begay (no relation), 87, a “code talker” in World War II, who signed an advance directive on end-of-life care.
Photo courtesy of The New York Times

Mr. Begay has signed the poem and the advance directives, and so has Mitzie Begay.

“Traditionally, it’s our belief to always have a positive attitude,” even when someone is dying, she said. “The family has a five-day sing” — a Navajo ceremony — “drink herbs and paint their bodies. All these things are done for the patient, and then we know we did all we could.

“After a patient dies, you don’t hang on, because the deceased is no longer on Mother Earth. You wash up, take your corn pollen and go on with life.”

Courtesy of The New York Times
Published: January 24, 2011