The Lost Child: A Navajo Teaching Story

We have all been nurtured on stories. Story is the umbilical cord that connects us to the past, present, and future. Here is a story about story, from Terry Tempest Williams:

“I have become acutely aware of story’s circular logic as I’ve traveled among the Navajo. I was searching. I wanted to learn where I was and with whom. But the Navajos did not disclose themselves directly. They spoke to me through stories.

I remember asking a young boy, ‘What is the most important thing you learn in school?’ I was expecting the usual linear response: ‘Reading, math, P.E.’ This was not the case. Instead, he shared the following story:

The boy’s answer:
” ‘I knew a boy who everyone thought was retarded. He was slow and had little life in him. He went to the BIA school away from home. Finally they sent him back to his family and told them he was of no use. The family transferred him to the Shiprock Alternative School, where he learned who he was. He was brought up by his cultural roots and felt support by his Navajo brothers and sisters. This boy became president of the student council.’

What is the most important thing one learns in school? Self-esteem, support, and friendship, all poignantly revealed. As a result of many encounters such as this, the Navajo taught me to listen in a way I had never imagined.”

From Pieces of White Shell: A Journey to Navajoland, by Terry Tempest Williams (University of New Mexico Press, 1987).

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Magyar Girl
Past Member 3 years ago


Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola3 years ago

Thanks for the info

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Robert O.
Robert O.4 years ago


Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.5 years ago


Samantha C.
Samantha A.5 years ago

I must share this with my class! we read stories from all over the world - there is so much wisdom to learn, to share. School teaches kids to look for the 'right answer', to learn something only for a gold star. Deep shame.

Julie F.
Julie F.5 years ago


Ruth R.
Ruth R.5 years ago

How true that each of us would do well to be able to be in safe places where we can become ourself -- and find ourself, and live out life.

Philippa P.
Philippa P.5 years ago

Good story.

Bb La Desh
.5 years ago

Great article, thanks for sharing.

Stories are so important, they influence people in so many different ways.
Where would we be without our stories?