AZTEC — November is Native American Heritage Month, and if you enjoyed Code Talker Chester Nez's recent appearance at San Juan College, you can continue the celebration Monday evening at the Aztec Senior-Community Center when storyteller Sunny Dooley will share her Native Diné (Navajo) "Blessingway" stories.

The free event is organized by the Aztec Public Library and sponsored by the New Mexico Humanities Council's Cahutauqua Program, which promotes the state's cultural heritage through performances and events.

Dooley is a storyteller, poet, playwright, lecturer and folksinger from the Four Corners from a community called Chi Chil Tah (Where the Oaks Grow). She has been telling Navajo origin and creation stories for the past 20 years.

"Navajo storytelling season is upon us," Dooley said, "when nights grow longer and the black ants hibernate and the corn has been harvested. Our stories can be heard through dreams. There is a saying that the person you are talking about will come to see you soon. There is a protocol to be polite."

The traditional stories that Dooley recounts are the same stories that have been handed down from one generation to the next in her family. The stories that she tells are stories that have been told from her matrilineal clan of the Saltwater People.

Diné stories examine the world and the relationship between people and their surroundings, often with humor, irony, and the element of surprise.


"I tell the story of growing up Navajo in the Anglo world," she said, amidst free rolls of easy laughter. "But anyone in the universe can tap in and find something about themselves there."

One recent creative repository for such stories can be found in the 2010 book "Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection," edited by Matt Dembicki, which pairs stories and illustrations and includes a tale by Dooley called "Mai and the Cliff-Dwelling Birds." The tale features Coyote, a crafty character who tries to trick birds into teaching him to fly, with unexpected results.

"I think stories are a real affirmation of humankind," Dooley said, when asked about her upcoming performance. "As well as a remembrance of the humankindness' events in our collective experience."

Dooley believes her stories promote a wisdom and an understanding that connects the past, present and the future. Each attempts to show a common humanity, with humility. "The very act of sharing stories speaks to the nature of trying to get along and being aware of each other," she said. "Let's be kind to each other."

Having Navajo as her first language, Dooley is one of the primary storytellers to interpret her people's stories with its rich cultural, traditional and historical context into English. She is the first in her family to interpret these stories of the Dine people for everyone to enjoy.

Angela Watkins, program coordinator for the Aztec Public Library, selected Dooley as much for her wide breadth of publications as her powerful performances.

"Sunny has the ability to remind you of your common humanity in the most entertaining and surprising ways," Watkins said. "I encourage everyone to come out for an experience they will never forget."

Students are encouraged to come and experience Dooley's stories. "They can get a stamp toward credit in school for attending," Watkins said.

Sunny Dooley shares her stories, in Navajo or English, at 6 p.m. Monday at the Aztec Senior-Community Center, 101 S. Park Ave. The event is free and attendees are encouraged to arrive early.

For more information, call the Aztec Public Library, 319 S Ash, at (505) 334-7657 or the Senior-Community Center at (505) 334-7617.