Della Toadlena Author, Professor, a Living History

Della Toadlena Living History Video


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 2013.

It contains stories Della Toadlena of Chinle, Arizona, told to the students during several hours of interviews about his life.

This documentary film is archived at the Navajo Nation Museum, Navajo Nation Library, Winona 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 University Mass Communication Department and Diné College – The official Tribal College of the Navajo Nation

Della Toadlena was born in Canyon Del Muerto and grew up around the Black Rock area in northeastern Arizona.

Della began school at age five, going on six, at a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. When she arrived at the dormitory, her parents learned their daughter had not been previously registered, and there was no more room, so she could not be admitted.

Della Toadlena Portrait

Besides, the school personnel said, She’s just five and won’t be six until October. We can’t take her; she’s underage. However, at the end of the day, another little girl who had been registered did not show up, and the school had to fill its quota, so it allowed the author to stay and go to school.

She went on to earn an AA and a BA in Elementary Education and an MA in English. Then the author joined the Humanities Division faculty at Dine College and taught English and Introduction to Native American Literature until she retired in May 2007.

Della Toadlena

Navajo Della Toadlena felt that her children didn’t know the history and origin of her
Navajo clan. It was this reason she decided towrite a book, “Our Story: Nihahane’”

The book begins with the history of Toadlena’s people and ends with her present-day life as a grandmother and retired college professor.
She wrote the book as a way of documenting her family’s history for her grandchildren and future generations.

Della Toadlena-Front Porch

In “Our Story,” Toadlena describes where and how her traditional clan came about, and then shares her childhood growing up on the Navajo Reservation along with her educational experiences at the Bureau of Indian Affairs Mission Schools.

An excerpt from Della Toadlena book “Our Story”:
As a child I remember sitting up late at night with my sisters helping Grandma, Asdzaan Altsisi and our mother preparing food for the next day. Often it was roasting and grinding corn into meal for cornbread, pudding, dumpling or mush. Asdzaan Altsisi was our mother’s paternal grandmother. My mother was just three when her mother died, and this old lady took her under her wings and raised her. She was already a very old woman with white hair when we lived with her. Another time when there had been the butchering of a sheep, it was peeling the inside lining of the skin and running skewers of fat through it.
“I believe my book will appeal to young Native Americans who are constantly looking for people that will provide positive role models and help them see that they can become and accomplish whatever they set their minds to,” explains Toadlena.

Source: Amazon books Bio and Google books