Monday, December 19, 2011

Ya'at'eeh Keshmish

by John Aldrich

That's Merry Christmas in Navajo.

Salt Lake City is a choral kind of place. From the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on down through a variety of professional, semi-professional, highly talented amateur groups, and on to the neighborhood church choirs, there are a lot of people singing here.

Our own Joyce Trapman, administrative assistant at ANE, is one of them. Joyce belongs to the Jubilate choral group that presented their annual Christmas concert on December 10th. As part of a selection of music from around the world, the group offered both We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Little Drummer Boy in Navajo. To add authenticity, the choir was augmented by Rose Jakub, a local Navajo woman with ANE connections. Rose also offered a short solo, accompanying herself with a drum.

Here are pictures of Joyce and Rose followed by each of them performing:

We hope you have a joyous holiday season and a New Year of peace and service to the Elders.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


by John Aldrich

After the rug show the heavy lifting is pretty much done for the year. It's a time for volunteers to reflect on another year of service to the Elders as well as on the good spirit created by working with one another. We do this at the annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the warehouse. It's a pot luck affair that can handle up to 100 people. The warehouse is transformed, as much as a warehouse can be, into a party setting with decorations appropriate to the season:

As people arrive with their assigned dishes, the long food table starts to fill with tempting sights:

There's plenty of time to socialize before eating:

And our new Shi Yazhi princess was introduced by Eileen Quintana:

Finally it's time to eat. The big question every year is which table will get to go first. Those who try to outguess Linda often find they are at the end of the line:

But there's plenty of delicious food for everyone. Three large turkeys and a Honey Baked ham served as the main staples while the variety of enticing side dishes seemed endless. And there was no shortage of desserts.

After we were all sated we sat back in our chairs anticipating being entertained by a song or two from Harry James. But Harry had other plans, and we ended up being the entertainment ourselves. Harry taught us a song in Navajo and asked everyone to sing along. Stumbling through this as part of the group was humbling enough, but he then invited individuals to come up and join him. As most of us were trying to hide under the table, Harry spotted Paul Barron who stepped forward and did a credible job:

Finally Linda got her turn:

She handled the song with sufficient aplomb that we suspect she wasn't totally unfamiliar with it.

It was a wonderful evening of food and fellowship.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rug Show Moments 2011 - Veterans Ceremony

by John Aldrich

The Veterans Ceremony on Sunday morning remains one of the most moving parts of the rug show. This year's event was no exception. We have been honored to have a Navajo Code Talker at the majority of ceremonies in recent years. Because  of their advancing age and dwindling numbers it has become a challenge to find one who can make the journey to Park City for the event.

This year Howard and Beverly Benally answered the challenge by inviting Raymond Smith Jr. of Lupton, Arizona. Raymond is a veteran himself and the son of Code Talker Raymond Smith Sr., who passed away several years ago.

Here is Raymond with his wife Theresa and daughter Savannah:

And here is Raymond with Beverly and Howard:

The ceremony began with the stirring drumming and singing of the White Lake drum group:

- combined with the entrance of the colors:

Rhonda Duvall once again offered her inspiring rendition of the national anthem in Navajo:

- which was followed by Raymond's talk:

Raymond combined reminiscences of his own military career with others about his father. The Navajo are a very patriotic people which strikes many as a contradiction in view their past treatment by the U.S. Government and the army in particular. As a group the Code Talkers have been modestly unassuming about their key role in World War II, often not even discussing it among their own family.

From Raymond's talk we understand that his father was a man of great integrity, and a man in whose footsteps his son tries to walk. Integrity is a value we all need to embrace in our modern world.

Following Raymond's talk we had the prayers of the traditional Elders for all veterans and active military, and in closing, each of the veterans attending the ceremony was individually honored.

There were many vets in the audience, but to the best of my knowledge, this friend of LaRee White-Engel was the only one in full uniform:

The final photo shows Rhonda again in her beautiful dress and jewelry:

We express our gratitude to Howard and Beverly for orchestrating this moving event.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rug Show Moments 2011 - Fine Dress

by John Aldrich

The rug show is a feast for the eyes. The displays of rugs, jewelry, baskets, and crafts certainly create an extravagant visual treat. But add to that the traditional dress of the Elders and their families and you have something extraordinary.

Although I'm only guessing, I doubt that Navajos living their daily lives on the reservation have too many occasions to bring out their finery. But the rug show is one event where they show their best.

This photo of the Blackhorse-Benale family of Forest Lake shows multiple generations all dressed in the traditional manner:

Brightly colored velveteen blouses and skirts augmented by silver and turquoise jewelry make a dazzling display of color. Turquoise is the favored stone for jewelry as it traditionally provides protection to the wearer.

Here are Frances Bahe and her daughter Marie wearing their beautiful jewelry:

Frances is also wearing a Pendelton coat, another favorite among traditional Navajos.

Most traditional Navajos do not cut their hair, but wear it done up tightly and tied with yarn in a hair bun. This style is not limited to the women as Julius Chavez demonstrates:

Another aspect of traditional dress is leather moccasins complemented by deer hide leggings. Here Darlene Furcap is fitting the leggings for her daughter:

Young Navajo women often wear rug dresses at special occasions. These are woven in the same manner as blankets. At the show this year were two very special rug dresses. The first was created for Marty Whitehair by her parents for her graduation. It incorporates a horse in keeping with a theme often seen in the weavings of this family:

The other unique dress is a multiple rug design made by Darlene Furcap for her daughter Dianna:

And finally, back to the topic of hair, Harry Begay shows that he has talents beyond roping as he fixes the hair of his niece, Bobbi Jo Whitehair:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rug Show Moments 2011 - Fun and Games

by John Aldrich

In recent years at the show, we have taken time on Thursday afternoon for some light-hearted diversion. A variety of games having been offered to entertain the Elders. This year it was a double header starting with stick ponies followed by a roping contest.

Janet Dalton has been the organizer for these games, and this year, in keeping with the horse theme of the show, the activity involved stick ponies. During the course of the year volunteers took standard toy ponies and transformed them into a variety of fanciful creatures such as giraffes, leprechauns, pigs, and cowboys.

Here's Janet, at one of the rug show planning meetings, with a small selection of these creations:

At the show, volunteers "rode" the horses out and presented each one to an Elder. Here are a few of the riders waiting in the wings to make their appearance onstage:

- - - while Linda is priming the audience for what is about to happen:

- - - then out came the riders:

Katie Furcap seems pleased with her Miss Piggy horse:

The second entertainment for the afternoon was roping. By way of explanation it should be noted that horses are an integral part of Navajo culture and most older Navajos grew up with and own them. Skills such as riding and roping are second nature to Navajos, both men and women.

Several years ago we had a calf roping event at the rug show, and Buster Bigashi was created as the target. This year Buster was transformed into a horse and renamed Hidalgo. Every Navajo attending had a chance to exhibit their skill and win prizes. Grace Smith Yellowhammer starts out with a bullseye:

- - - while Elizabeth Clah shows good form as her rope uncoils toward the unsuspecting Hidalgo:

Mary Lou Gleason looks determined as she begins her warmup:

In the end, many prizes were presented. Here are some of the winners:

In the background is Harry Begay to whom we owe many thanks for supervising the event.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rug Show Moments 2011 - The Grandma Idol Contest

by John Aldrich

Held on Saturday afternoon, this is one of the popular events of the show. Loosely based on American Idol, the Grandmas are given a theme about which to make up a song. In keeping with this years rug show theme, they were asked to sing about their horse and how it helped them in their lives. After a few minutes to think it over they stood up to present their song.

To add color to the event each Grandma picked out one of several brightly colored western hats to wear while they sang.

One of the early contestants, Lena Cowboy, was the eventual winner:

Additional entertainment was provided by Jay Tavare and his stick horse:

Most of the contestants sang of the merits of their horse, however a few lamented that their horse was lazy and just cost them money to feed.

Last year's winner, Carol Blackhorse, was back to defend her title but didn't pull it off this year:

Grace Smith Yellowhammer conscripted Jay to be a part of her presentation, and this was very popular with the audience:

The Grandmas were divided into groups and the group winner was decided by audience acclaim. As Jay held his horse over each contestant, the audience responded:

Other colorful participants included Jane Benale:

And Elsie Benale:

Eventually a winner emerged from each group and a final overall winner was proclaimed:

May Shay, Elizabeth Clah, Grace Smith Yellowhammer, and Lena Cowboy share the stage with Jay and Miss Indian USU. The winners each took home a basket of prizes.

At the end, overall winner, Lena Cowboy, takes a victory lap on Jay's horse:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rug Show Moments 2011 - The Auction

by John Aldrich

The show opens to the public on Friday night with a gala fund raiser, and the auction is the center of attention for the evening. A festive atmosphere helps set the mood, and attendees receive a 10% discount on rug purchases. Proceeds from the evening are used to help defray the cost of staging the show.

Deer Valley served tempting food:

Music added to the ambiance. Nancy and Gary played beautiful flute music:

Fred Engel entertained with cowboy poetry:

And the musical duo Stampede wowed the audience:

As we moved toward the actual auction, people had a chance to peruse the various packages that would be offered:

This beautiful horse-themed textile piece by ANE volunteer Gina Zimmerer was one of the highlights:

Our auctioneer for the past several years has been Richard O'Keefe who conducts a fast-paced and highly entertaining event:

Art Sleeper once again did an outstanding job organizing the auction. This year he added an additional feature in which bidders could win free raffle items based on a drawing of paddle numbers:

Another unusual auction feature was the opportunity to purchase Rainbow Food Boxes for delivery on food runs to the reservation. Bidders could jump in at any price that suited their inclination and budget:

Four rugs were included in the auction this year. The most unique was this ceremonial rug by Dorothy Cody, one of our Elders at Leupp:

This offering produced the most spirited bidding of the evening:

Thanks to the result of this package plus all the others and the generous bidding by the audience, we had the most successful auction in rug show history.