‘Stars Wars’ Goes Navajo in Bid to Save Tribe’s Language

Guest blog: Lucasfilm and Arizona museum hope dubbing encourages tribe's youth to preserve their language and culture

In a first for both Hollywood and the Navajo tribe in America, Obi-Wan Kenobi will soon be saying, "May the Force be with you" in the Diné language.

Yes, you heard me right: An innovative educational dubbing project is currently under way to dub “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” into Diné, with a cast of 20 Navajo voice actors and actresses working with the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Ariz.

Think Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Grand Moff Tarkin all speaking Diné.

According to Manny Wheeler, director of the museum who has been steering the project in co-operation with Lucasfilm for more than three years, the dubbed version is expected to be completed in two months.

"We hope to be finished in July," he told me in a recent email. If all goes according to plan, the dubbed version will premiere at the annual Fourth of July fair in Window Rock.

Wheeler, in conjunction with Navajo Parks and Recreation and the Lucas camp, came up with the plan to dub the film as a way to help preserve the Navajo language.

The dubbing project is not just for entertainment, according to the organizers.

Wheeler and his team hope to encourage tribal youth to better learn their language as a means to both preserve the Navajo language and the Navajo culture.

When asked how he first made contact with the people behind the “Star Wars” franchise, Wheeler told me: "I made contact with [them] through their website."

And Lucasfilm is solidly behind the project, saying in a press release that while the “Star Wars” films have been translated and dubbed in a variety of languages, the film company “is now proud to have [a Diné-dubbed version] as its most recent addition.”