This #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth we are featuring indigenous language advocate Candice Tallsalt, the creator of the Navajo Children's Coloring and Activity Book series. Her books focus on teaching Diné Bazaad (Navajo language) in parallel with English; an effort in preserving the Navajo language by teaching the children who will carry the traditions forward.
You can purchase the Navajo Children's Color and Activity Books on amazon.
Tell us a little about yourself.
“My name is Candice Tallsalt. I was born and raised in Tuba City, Arizona located on the Navajo Reservation. My clans are Naakáí dinéʼiʼ (Mexican clan) born for Tł’ízíłaní (Manygoats clan). My maternal grandfather's clan is Ashįįhí (Salt Clan) and paternal grandfather's clan is Chíshí (Chiricahua Apache Clan). I am married and have two beautiful children and two cats! I live in Livermore, CA which is about 45 mins from San Francisco. I currently work in Biotech at a midsize company primarily dealing with DNA synthesis, protein production and purification and cell line development. I have a bachelor's degree in Microbiology and a Master's degree in Regulatory Affairs."
What inspired you to develop your idea?
“My daughter. My oldest, my son, was born and raised on the reservation until about 6 years old when we relocated to the Bay area. My daughter was born here and she didn't have that relationship with the reservation that my son did. Every time we would go back home to the reservation to visit, I would look for books, clothes, jewelry and crafts to bring home so she would be surrounded by her culture off the reservation. I always found it difficult to find Navajo books for her age. So I decided to create them!”
What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning of your journey?
“First of all, I am not an author, an artist, or computer savvy. I am also not fluent in the Navajo Language. That didn't stop me from researching and using my own knowledge of Navajo culture/language to create something that would in turn be used as a teaching tool. I also had to learn how to create using different programs, overcoming the complexities of formatting a book and just learning the entire publishing business.”
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to become an entrepreneur?
“You have to have a profound purpose. For me it was my daughter and trying to give her a bridge to her culture from so far away. That progressed into thinking of all the young children that will be using my books to initiate their Navajo Language learning journey.”
What are your hopes for these coloring books/businesses?
“I just hope that this gives children an updated and fun way of learning about the Navajo language. Making these books available on a larger platform such as Amazon, Target and Barnes and Noble improves accessibility to more families. The younger we introduce these words the easier it will be for them to learn the language. I have also been working with many of the Navajo Language programs on the reservation to use my books in their programs. Which also helps both teachers build curricula geared for little ones!”
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