Ken Hale, our Beloved Linguist Who Loved the Navajo People and Navajo Language, spent his Last Time with us during NLA July 2001 Workshop
I first met Dr. Ken Hale in Rough Rock, Arizona when he came out for the summer to teach thoses of us who took part in the Navajo linguistics workshop that summer in the early 1970s. I remember he brought some of his students with him like Paul Platero, Ellavinia Perkins, and Ellen Schauber to teach us aspects of Navajo linguistics. My interest in linguistics was there, but just there. I had seen how "dry" it might be, but I wanted to know more. My real interest did not catch on until a decade later.
Ken taught us syntax; he could come up with the most unusual Navajo sentences and they made sense. How is that possible, I used to think, a Bilagáana who knows so much about Navajo and can speak it well at that! Where is this man from and how does he know Navajo? Some people are like that--they can grasp a language so quickly and speak it so well. that's how Ken was as I got to know him better. He worked with languages all over the world like the Australian aboriginal languages, South American indigenous languages, and so on. But, he never forgot his first love, the Navajo language. He used to say, "Diné bizaad shi? nizhóni."
I knew that the July 2001 workshop might be the last time we saw him; he didn't look too healthy then, though I didn't realize we were going to lose him that quickly! We lost him on October 8, 2001. I felt really bad. On the other hand, I was very fortunate to have known a really decent, most intelliogent, and most sensitive linguist ever! I will always remember him becuase he paved a part for us as Navajo people to follow in working with our Navajo language. He studied the structure of Navajo and passed that o nto us, with his many writings and workshops about our language. how fortunate we are to have had him, as a very good friend and as one of our linguists.