Guy Gorman, Sr.

Feb 6th, 2014 | By | Category: 25-3: Preserving and Protecting Knowledge
By Cuyler Frank

FOUNDING FATHER. Carrie Billy (center) and Maggie George (right) present Guy Gorman Sr. with a plaque, recognizing his role in both establishing Diné College and as an early leader in the tribal college movement. Photo by Ed McCombs

Dr. Guy Gorman Sr., a founding father of Diné College, passed away on December 4, 2013. He was 92. Gorman was an instrumental figure in the early tribal college movement and strongly advocated that Native people control their own schooling. He worked to fulfill this vision as a Navajo Nation tribal council delegate, a position he held for 20 years.

Gorman was Tábààhí, born for Tódích’íi’nii. His maternal grandparents’ clan is Tó’áhaní, and his paternal grandparents’ clan is Táchii’nii. A veteran of World War II, Gorman was raised south of Chinle, Arizona, in the heart of the Navajo Nation. He was an electrician by trade and worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs prior to 1962. Gorman would later receive the Indian Leadership Award from the BIA in 1982 for his work in developing the Chinle community.

In 1965, Gorman began lobbying heavily for a bilingual and bicultural project in Lukachukai, Arizona. His efforts translated into the Rough Rock Demonstration School, which is locally controlled and stresses the need to preserve and protect the Navajo culture and language. In 1968, Gorman, along with the late Allen D. Yazzie and Ned Hatathli, would use the Rough Rock blueprint in establishing North America’s first tribally controlled college: Navajo Community College (NCC). He would go on to serve as vice-chairman of the Navajo Education Committee and as the first president of NCC’s board of regents.

“Dr. Gorman was a warrior, he was a voice for the Navajo people in an era when Native Americans had little to say about the direction of their educational sovereignty,” stated Diné College president Maggie George. “His persistence to maintain the Navajo language, culture, and history at the core of the college’s mission was pivotal because this is what makes Diné College unique from other colleges and universities.” At the college’s recent 45th anniversary celebration, Dr. George and Carrie Billy, president and CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, honored Gorman for his lifetime achievement. Just days later, he passed away.

Dr. Gorman once said, “I believe we got what we wanted. Many Navajo children have an opportunity to learn the Navajo language and their culture at many schools.” Such would not be the case, if it weren’t for the pioneering efforts of Guy Gorman Sr.

Cuyler Frank is the senior public and community relations officer at Diné College.

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