The Rosetta Stone software produced by our Endangered Language Program possesses a unique goal. It attempts to portray the people, culture and geography of an endangered language in a way that excites young learners to study their ancestral tongue through novel technology and the accurate representation of their lives and culture.
When we began thinking of images to use in the Rosetta Stone Navajo software, there were some obvious choices — the Navajo Nation tribal offices, Window Rock and the reigning Miss Navajo. These were highly recognizable, but we also wanted to feature ordinary people engaging in every-day activities. And if we could spotlight ordinary people doing something extraordinary, even better!
We spent two whirlwind weeks shooting almost 500 custom photos that will be included in the Rosetta Stone Navajo software, with a one-day stop in Blanding, Utah. Blanding may not be a town populated by high profile celebrities, but the Lickity Split Chocolate Studio and its exceptional proprietors were just the kind of celebrities we were looking for.
The Lickity Split Chocolate Studio began as the pet project of VISTA volunteer Elaine Borgen when she came face to face with the cycle of poverty in the region. Her dream was to help kids gain the necessary skills and assets to run a successful business. With an inspirational synergy fueled by the creativity of budding minds, it soon grew into a full-fledged enterprise with over 30 Native owners, all under the age of 16. Granted, chocolate may not be all that hard to sell, but an energetic 10 year-old marketing manager doesn’t hurt! When we visited the shop in June 2009, production was in full swing and in the hands of three capable young girls with no adults in sight. The signature creations of the shop, like the Navajo wedding basket lollipop and Kokopelli-shaped figures, all use themes from Native traditions.
Some of my favorite shots at the shop are of a young owner, standing at the door and bidding her customer “Hágoónee’.” Her face shows all the self-assurance of a successful entrepreneur and the pride of a job well done — and I can think of no better representation of Native youth and their potential.
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