Earlier this month NASA reported some very uplifting news about their Perseverance Rover Team's research on Mars. Via Forbes, because "...a big contingent of Perseverance science is centered in universities and national labs in New Mexico and Arizona, which include traditional Navajo land...", the team is naming a number of Martian geological features with words from the Navajo language.
The article continues:
"Before launch, Perseverance’s team divided the Jezero Crater landing site into a grid of quadrangles...The team decided to name these quads after national parks and preserves on Earth with similar geology. Perseverance touched down in the quad named for Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument...
...Mission scientists worked with a Navajo (or Diné) engineer on the team, Aaron Yazzie of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, to seek the Navajo Nation’s permission and collaboration in naming new features on Mars.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Vice President Myron Lizer, and their advisors made a list of words in the Navajo language available to the rover’s team. Some terms were inspired by the terrain imaged by Perseverance at its landing site. For example, one suggestion was “tséwózí bee hazhmeezh,” or “rolling rows of pebbles, like waves.” Yazzie added suggestions like “strength” (“bidziil”) and “respect” (“hoł nilį́”) to the list. Perseverance itself was translated to “Ha’ahóni.”
For updates on the Perseverance team's research, including images and sounds of the Red Planet, visit NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover page.
Mr. Yazzie and the Navajo Nation view this as a significant opportunity to inspire Navajo youth not only to learn the value of their native language, but to appreciate Navajo contributions to science and engineering as well as to seek out careers in those fields.
Today, the traditional homeland of Dinétah has reached out and spoken to another planet. Those of us who are the Navajos' Southwestern neighbors send them our very best congratulations for enriching the cultural history - and the future - of us all.
/s/ webmaster [Images of Perseverance via Electronics Weekly; Aaron Yazzie via NASA; President Nez via Navajo Nation.]