BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Melvatha R. Chee
Melvatha R. Chee is Tsé Nahabiłnii, Kin Łichíi’nii, Hooghan Łání and Áshįįhí, originally from Lake Valley, New Mexico. As a Diné speaker, she has over 20 years of experience working with her heritage language in a professional capacity. Melvatha earned a PhD in Linguistics from the University of New Mexico. Dr. Chee’s research focuses on the linguistic analysis of Navajo child speech. Through the analysis of child speech, Chee studies how children analyze information that is packaged into a single word and what patterns are recognized at different stages of linguistic development. Dr. Chee’s research interests include the first language acquisition of morphophonology, polysynthesis, semantics, and morphology, as well as the intersection between culture and linguistics, and language sustainability. Her secondary research goal focuses on building a Navajo language database consisting of literature, conversations, narratives, and child speech. Dr. Chee is a United States Marine Corps Veteran and she maintains a connection to her culture to enrich her Navajo language skills, knowledge and wellbeing. She is Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Navajo Language Program at the University of New Mexico.
Tiffany S. Lee
Tiffany S. Lee is Dibé Łizhiní from Crystal, New Mexico and Naałaní (Oglala Lakota) from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Dr. Lee is a Professor and the Chair of Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Her research examines educational and culturally-based outcomes of Indigenous language immersion schools, Native youth perspectives on language reclamation, and socio-culturally centered education. Her work has been published in journals, such as the American Journal of Education, Harvard Educational Review, the Journals of Language, Identity, and Education and American Indian Education; and in books, such as Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World, Diné Perspectives: Revitalizing and reclaiming Navajo thought, and Indigenous language revitalization in the Americas. She is the former President of the Navajo Studies Conference, Inc and a former high school social studies and language arts teacher at schools on the Navajo Nation and at Santa Fe Indian School. She is also a former member of the New Mexico Indian Education Advisory Council for the Office of Indian Education, New Mexico Public Education Department. She is currently working with colleagues to open a Diné language nest in Albuquerque and to prepare Diné language immersion educators.
James McKenzie Béésh bich’ahii nilį́, Naakaii Dine’é’ yáshchíín, Bilagáana dabicheii, Kinłichíi’nii dabinálí. He holds an M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction, Second Language Education, from University of Minnesota, and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona, focused on maintenance and revitalization of Indigenous language and culture, and Indigenous community-grounded approaches to language and culture-based education. He has worked in academic and community settings to contribute to and organize Indigenous language and culture education work, including as Director of the Diné Language Immersion Institute, and with the Center for Diné Studies at Diné College, where he facilitated Diné language immersion programming, and development of a bachelor’s degree based in Diné language immersion and Diné studies. He has contributed to research and written about instructional strategies to promote oral language development in Indigenous immersion education, addressing historical trauma and healing in Indigenous language cultivation and revitalization, and Indigenous language immersion and student achievement. His interests include research, teaching, and technical assistance around curriculum, pedagogy and holistic planning with his own Diné community, and other Indigenous communities, to revisit the concepts of language cultivation and “education” as defined by Indigenous peoples. In the past James also served as Sr. Policy Analyst and Interim Director of Diné Policy Institute, working with Diné traditional knowledge holders, policy makers, scholars and community members to apply traditional Diné teachings to contemporary cultural, economic, environmental and social issues relevant to Navajo Nation policy.