Kirk, Nellie Kathleen 3-31-07

Woman spent professional life aiding Navajo children
Shiprock, New Mexico (AP)
Mar 31
The wife of a former Navajo Nation Supreme Court justice, who spent her professional life helping the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs understand how to teach American Indian children, has died.
Nellie Kathleen Kirk died March 25 at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, said her son, Virgil Kirk Jr., a member of the Navajo Board of Education. She was 87.
Services were held Saturday at the Desert Rock Funeral Home before she was laid to rest next to her husband, Virgil Kirk Sr., at the Shiprock Veterans Community Ceremony.
Kirk was born in Kinlichee, Ariz., and graduated from the Ganado Mission School in 1938 before earning a bachelor's degree in education from Northern Arizona University. She worked for the BIA as a school teacher and received a master's degree in social work from the University of Oklahoma in 1950. She retired from the BIA in 1977.
But it wasn't just students Kirk was teaching, her son said.
"She had to go out and teach the teachers who were coming in and teaching the Navajo children," he said. "She had to show the teachers how Indian children and families were functioning and how to deal with the social problems."
Back then, there were few Navajo teachers, Virgil Kirk Jr. said.
"They were mostly non-Indians coming from off reservation," he said. "She taught them Navajo, she taught them the culture and how the family structure was."
He said his mother never neglected her own children's education, either. She paid to educate each of her nine children at the Ganado school with the proceeds from her sheep herd.
But needy children always came first, he said.
"If a child needed something, they got it," he said with a laugh. "I will come second, third. I understood where she was coming from."
Information from: The Daily Times,; Gallup Independent,