Thursday, September 29, 2011

Amasani Program Classroom Activities - Fall 2011

by April Wilsey

The Classroom Amasani Program recently presented mini rug shows for Trailside Elementary School in Park City and Community Montessori School in Salt Lake City.

There were 100 second graders who attended the rug show at Trailside Elementary School that was held in the gymnasium during school hours.  Some of the activities the students participated in were:  making a talking stick, grinding corn, hair tying, experiencing some weaving on a loom, and learning about the rugs made by Navajo children on the reservation.  The students seemed to enjoy the activities and were able to keep the talking sticks that they made with their partners.

Shirlee Silversmith taught the students to grind corn while listening to a corn grinding song sung in Navajo.

Carla Sydenham and Linda Myers talked to the students about how the rugs were made by Navajo children.

Tanisha Quintana did traditional hair tying for the students.

The students experienced weaving at a two-sided loom.

The students enjoyed making talking sticks.  A talking stick was used by the Navajo while having group discussions.  The person holding the talking stick was the person who was allowed to talk.  This solved the problem of people interrupting one another.

The rug show held at the Community Montessori School in SLC was held in the evening in their gymnasium.  About 50 people, including parents and children, attended the show.  The parents seemed to enjoy experiencing the Navajo culture with their children.  Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program’s Shiyazhi Princess, Sariah Williams, was able to attend this evening show wearing traditional Navajo clothing and performing a dance with her father, Jonathan.

Shiyazhi Princess, Sariah Williams, and her father, Jonathan, performed the Eagle Dance.

Rodger Williams helped students make talking sticks.

Beverly Benally helped the children experience weaving at the loom.

There were books about the Navajo culture and a variety of Navajo crafts on display.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Weaving Wild Horses

by Linda Myers

(note: This piece was written for the September 2011 ANE newsletter. Weaving Wild Horses is the theme for this year's rug show to be held in Park City in November. The inspiration for the theme came from the Whitehair family who are described in this article.)

In the Native cultures, the horse has always been honored for bravery and grace. The horse is a soul mate and a comrade.

Most native cultures decorated their horses by beading bridles. The Navajo made turquoise and silver bridles as well as beautiful saddle blankets. In the early 1930's some of the weavers started making handspun rugs depicting the horses, sheep, and cattle. I began asking weavers about seven years ago if they had ever woven any rugs with horses, sheep, or cattle. Most of the Elders replied that they wove the more traditional designs.

When you meet someone like Martin Whitehair, you feel not only his love for horses, but a deep sense of the understanding and respect he has for horses. Has trained many horses.

His brother, Wayne, had a beautiful three-year-old golden mustang stallion he named Bucky. Martin felt deeply connected to this horse and began drawing pictures of Bucky and other horses.

Martin and his wife Rena had grown up riding horses and they taught their children to also ride at a very young age. The girls have participated in many horse races. They all seem to share their dad's love and respect for horses.

When I asked Rena and Martin if they could weave a rug with horses in it, Martin said he would draw a horse that Rena could weave into the center of a Chief's Blanket. The first horse rug had Bucky, the golden mustang in the center of the rug. Rena and Martin then began working on their horse rugs together. For the last few years, they have designed many different one-of-a-kind horse rugs.

Rena began weaving when she was about seven years old. Her mother, the late Sarah Robertson, taught her how to weave and also told her to weave for a living, not as a hobby. Sarah raised and supported ten children through her weaving.

She told Rena to think of her weaving as a full-time job. Weaving rugs is the only source of income for Rena and her family.

When her daughters were around six years old, she began to mentor three of them to weave beautiful horse rugs and other styles as well. Miriam and Marty have grown up weaving to help with the family's needs. Bobbi Joe is in her teens and likes to weave and help design the rugs, while Marklyn and Israel, her only son, are up-and-coming weavers.

I have great respect for Rena and Martin and their family. It is very challenging to carry on the traditional way of life in the modern world today.

Rena also weaves many other styles of Navajo rugs - Storm Pattern, Two Greyhills, Ganado, Pictorials, and the Tree of Life.

This last year she has been working on Blue Canyon design rugs that are very intricately detailed. One of the featured rugs that will be in the rug show is a beautiful Blue Canyon rug with a golden mustang.

 Each of the girls has been working on their own designs of horse rugs for the opening night of the show when several will be auctioned.

Martin and Rena are both very humble as they share about their work. Martin states, "We were not brought up to speak about ourselves or to share what our personal goals were. ". Each of these horse rugs they are weaving for the show comes from a deep place in their hearts.

It is very moving in my life to see what came from a desire to see horses woven into rugs again and to watch the rugs become beautiful stories of a family's love for horses.

Someone asked me once, "What is your most favorite rug? You've sold so many in the last 25 years." I have watched many of them weave rugs just to sell for food, but the rugs I enjoy most are the ones you feel are a deep part of their lives, and they hold it for a moment before they give it to you for you to take and sell for them. It has a story of their lives woven into each day, and you feel that release of themselves.

I want to thank Rena and Martin and their family for creating these rugs. And to all the weavers who are trying to weave horse rugs and make it a part of the show, I feel their trust and love and their desire to challenge themselves.

It has been a beautiful journey to this year's show.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Food Box Packing 8/10/11

by John Aldrich

The past two Saturday mornings have been devoted to packing the Rainbow Food Boxes for the upcoming series of food runs. We didn't have the Alta High School soccer team this time but we still ended up with plenty of help to get the job done. A previous blog about the spring packing shows more of the overall activity in the warehouse. In this blog I will show some of the faces.

As has been the case for the past several years, the packing day was the culmination of a great deal of hard work on the part of Roger Daley who purchases all the food, sees that it gets to the warehouse, and organizes everything for the actual packing day. A great deal of preparation takes place behind the scenes to make this all happen.

Here's Roger with Kathy Wilde:

United Stationers, a wholesale office supply warehouse, has a community-service-oriented perspective, and three of their employees came to pitch in:

Rob Netzler, Sheri Thurgood, and Pam Getz were all hard workers who were busy the entire time and never took a break. Rob, in particular, was an enormous asset as he lifted all the boxes from the shopping carts onto the taping table. As you can see he's a strong, burly guy, but this was still more than we would expect any one person to do. If these three are representative of the work force at United Stationers, it must be a remarkably productive operation.

Family groups aren't unusual on food packing days, but the size of the group rounded up by Kate Maxwell-Stephens from her family must have set a new record. Here is Kate with a bunch of name tags to distribute to them:

While here is the whole group:

There are actually four generations represented in this photo.

Another multi-generation family was the Berryhills with three generations present:

Mary, Sandra, and Jackson, age 12, were all diligent workers.

The youngest-participant-award went to this infant whose mother, Misty, shows that juggling motherhood and ramen is a piece of cake:

The last photo shows a bit of an overview as the carts make the rounds of the warehouse:

Now the food is all packed, and the food runs will commence soon to get it all delivered to the Elders.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

ANE On Turning Point October 11th

by John Aldrich

All those who have been aware of this video project have been eagerly awaiting the announcement of its airing. In the spring, volunteers attending the Rainbow Food Box packing events at the warehouse or the Many Farms food run were aware that a major video project was in the works. BYUtv in Provo had conceived a series called Turning Point which would feature non-profit and humanitarian endeavors and their founders. The concept was to explore what had affected the lives of these key people to alter the course of their lives and pursue these new goals. BYUtv had contracted with Cosmic Pictures in Salt Lake to produce a segment about Linda and ANE.

As we watched the video crew at work in the warehouse and on the food run, we realized that this would be a very special production. And now the air time has been announced. If you're in the viewing area for BYUtv plan to be watching on October 11th at 8:00 p.m. (Please note that BYUtv is a differnet channel than KBYU.) Each one hour broadcast in this series will feature two segments of roughly 25 minutes. ANE will be featured in one of those segments on that date. If you are not able to watch or receive the broadcast, there are several options. If you are out of the viewing area, check with your local PBS station to see if they will be airing this series. It should also be possible to watch the segment via streaming video  through the BYUtv web site once it is released.

Here's an online feature from BYUtv about the upcoming program.

The Cosmic Pictures video crew that was assigned to this project was very personable and engaging, and a number of volunteers made nice connections with the three who came to Chinle to film the Many Farms food run.

Here are a few photos from the production process:

The first filming event took place at the warehouse when we were packing food boxes on April 9th for the upcoming food runs. Here is Rich Patch who was the field director, both on this date and in Chinle:

 Here is the filming of an interview with Linda that day. Rich is watching over the shoulder of Gordon, the cameraman:

In Chinle, the crew of three accompanied  Linda on home visits to local Elders for two days prior to the food run at Many Farms, and I was able to join them for the second day. The next three shots were taken at Jennie Todechine's homeland in Nazlini, south of Chinle. The first shows Jennie with Elizabeth Clah who was along to facilitate and translate, and the other two shots show an interview with Jennie.

The next two shots were taken at Elizabeth Clah's homeland in Many Farms, the site of the Many Farms food run. In the first, Phil is setting up a camera on the roof of the storage building to do a time-lapse sequence of the outside activity at the food run. I hope some of this footage makes it into the final production because I expect it is fascinating.

Last is Greg Kiefer working on the ground. It appears that he's interested in the sanitation facilities, but he's really documenting the box crew setting up the Rainbow Circle which is out of sight to the left.

A technical note that might be of interest to a few readers is that the crew used digital SLR cameras with video capability for this production rather than what most people would think of  as traditional video cameras. Digital SLR's offer certain advantages over videocams in achieving what is considered the classic look of movie film.

All told, the crew produced many hours of video from which the final production was made. It would be wonderful to be able to see it all, but we'll still eagerly anticipate the 25 minutes that will be available for us to see on October 11th.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shonto Trading Post

by John Aldrich

The trading post era is all but history on the reservation. For the most part the traditional functions of these outposts have been supplanted by conventional retail outlets in towns that are now much more readily accessed thanks to improved roads and transportation. Instead of being the regional source of food and supplies, often provided on credit through the pawn system, the modern-day trading post is more likely to be just a convenience store or a tourist stop for purchasing locally made crafts.

One post that still serves at least some of the traditional functions is the Shonto Trading Post. Shonto is a small settlement south of Navajo Mountain which is still relatively isolated. The post is both a gas station and convenience store, but also extends credit (but not via pawn), serves as the hub for local mail service, and provides a market place for local artisans. Adding to its "authentic" look is the fact that the buildings are mostly unchanged from the early 20th century.

Established in 1914 by the famous trader John Wetherill, the Shonto Trading Post was a satellite to his primary location in Kayenta. Initially it was a tent operation, but after World War I stone buildings were built that still exist today as the core of the operation. The trading post was built in a beautiful canyon with water supplied by a nearby spring. Shonto means "spring water in the sunshine" in Navajo.

We visited Shonto following the recent food run to Navajo Mountain. The populated settlement sits on a bench near the canyon, and this sign directs the traveler toward the canyon:

Dropping down through these red rock walls, the approach to the canyon is very inviting:

In the canyon itself is the trading post and the chapter house. Many large cottonwoods attest to a reliable water source over many years. Here is the front of the post:

The bulletin board shows that the location still serves a significant community function for the local residents.

Over the years a variety of traders have operated this location. Trading families often operated multiple posts, and after marriages between families the same names keep popping up at different locations across the reservation. After Wetherill, other well-known names that have owned or operated here include, Turpen, Richardson, Carson, Heflin, and Foutz.

The Shonto Trading Post is now owned by the Navajo Nation through the local Shonto Chapter. The current trader, Al Grieve, came out of retirement to operate the post several years ago after the previous trader left and the post was closed briefly. He and his wife Margaret, a Navajo, have a year-to-year lease arrangement with the chapter.

During our visit, Al was generous with his time in helping us understand the history of the trading post as well as the challenges of its current operation. Here he is holding a beautiful basket by Fay King:

The subsequent sale of this basket to my brother perhaps helped him to feel that his time with us wasn't entirely wasted.

This area of the reservation is probably better known for its basketry than for rug weaving. Despite its modest size, Al's "rug room" had a nice selection of baskets, rugs, and pottery.

A number of our Navajo Mountain Elders have post office addresses at Shonto. It turns out they don't live there, but use this location to collect their mail. Given the Navajo tradition of dispersed living, they may live many miles from their post office box in very remote locations. Daily mail delivery would be an inconceivable concept to these people. This photo shows the line up of post office boxes:

And here's the convenience store end of the post which, of course, doesn't look much different from countless other similar places:

Walking about the grounds we saw this old stone building behind the post:

Adjacent to the trading post is this stone hogan:

It was built in the early years of the operation to serve as lodging for Navajos who had to travel long distances to reach the post and couldn't return home in the same day.

The final picture shows a plot of corn to the rear of the post:

Al assured us that the life of a trader was not an easy one - long hours, seven days a week, with no respite. Also missing are a few modern conveniences we take for granted like TV and internet access. But Al says there would be no time to enjoy these amenities anyway. And furthermore, he doesn't even consider them amenities. The trading life is clearly in his blood.

If you're ever in this area of the reservation, a detour to the Shonto Trading Post would be worth your time - it's a beautiful, restful location as well as a fascinating trip back in time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wilhelmina Manyboxes

by Fientje Allis

One thing is for sure: when you drive the ANE van (otherwise known as Wilhelmina Manyboxes) you get noticed, sometimes in surprising ways.

It started in Nephi. I had grabbed a quick coffee for the road on my way to the reservation to do a backpack delivery for the schools recently. As I climbed into the van and took a quick sip ready to go, I noticed three women standing in front of the van looking, pointing, and discussing something amongst themselves. Finally one of them came up to my window and told me that there was a lot of fluid coming from the van they felt I needed to know about. I figured it was probably water from the air conditioner as it was a hot day, but got out to check just in case. The women proceeded to tell me they had recognized the logo on the van and were concerned for my safe travel.

One of the women introduced herself as the owner of the former weaving shop in Salt Lake City and asked after Linda. She shared fond memories of Linda bringing Elders to her shop and the special time she had with them-now many years ago. Several stories followed. I thanked the women for their concerns and assured them I thought the van was o.k., but that I would make sure I kept an eye on my dials on the dashboard indicators for any sign of trouble. I got back on the road some 30 minutes later.

Once on the reservation it didn’t take long either. Parked at Bashas in Dilkon and later at the swap meet in Leupp people instantly recognized the ANE logo on the van. It was like we had driven into our hometown. We were greeted by: “Are you guys in town?” (meaning: are you here on a food run?) “No”; Or: “my grandma is in the program” or “do you know so and so, she is my grandma?” Since that has been my regular food run area for years I did know some of the Elders mentioned and conversations followed.

To be greeted in that way was very special. It wasn’t that long ago that Linda was spat at when she first started the program. And I feel both proud and humbled that we can go on the reservation and be treated like friends. As I look at the ANE logo I give thanks for her vision and how far the program has come in mending the broken circle.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Food Run Report - Navajo Mountain 8/25/11

by John Aldrich

The early morning hours were refreshingly cool after the previous day's heat in Oljato. As a bonus there was a beautiful sky to greet us as we headed to breakfast at the Wetherill Inn in Kayenta.

The drive from Kayenta to Navajo Mountain takes roughly 1 1/2 hours. Our destination is one of the most remote places on the reservation, but it's also at a higher elevation which promises a cooler day.

It's an easy drive, now that the road is paved all the way to Navajo Mountain, making it almost a meditation as we pass through the rising terrain of juniper-pinon forest with views of red-rock canyons on either side and the ever-present mountain in front of us. The roadside wild flowers weren't quite as plentiful this year but were still splendid.

The food run takes place at the Navajo Mountain chapter house. Here it is with the mountain in the background and Carla Sydenham at the door ready to greet Elders as they arrive:

The outside crew gets right to work unloading the boxes and produce:

At Navajo Mountain a special gift provided by American Express is water. As the Rainbow Circle takes shape, cases of drinking water are added to each set of boxes:

Inside, as the Elders arrive, they are greeted by volunteers. This is a time we can spend visiting with Elders. Though the language barrier makes conversation difficult, the touch of hands is universal:

Once the food run program is underway, Mary Robertson Begay of Hardrock again serves as translator. Mary's help and support of ANE is invaluable:

The generosity of the Elders at Navajo Mountain was documented in a previous post. The tradition continued this time as well as Mary Ann Morgan receives a necklace from Bertha Shaw:

And C.J. Robb received this bolo tie from Jack Eltsosie:

Many other gifts were shared as well including this weaving from Fay Sombero:

Fay later stood and gave a spontaneous tribute to the volunteers who came on this food run. When later translated by Mary, we learned that Fay had expressed her great gratitude to the Program and to the support people whose kindness sometimes seemed to surpass that of the Elders' own families.

All the women Elders received a gift box from American Express containing fabric and other personal items:

The meal for this food run was prepared by these gracious ladies and featured hard-shelled tacos rather than the typical Navajo taco:

Gina and Mark Zimmerer were able to see their Elder, Emma Seaton. This photo also shows Emma's granddaughter with her infant who is in a traditional cradle board:

As the Elders depart after the meal these two veterans of World War II pause to chat:

One can only imagine the stories they could share. Bahe Ketchum, on the right, was also a Code Talker.

Ruby Burns serves as our coordinator at Navajo Mountain. She is the director of the Senior Center which puts her in a unique position to know which Elders should be in the Program.

This final shot looking back at Navajo Mountain shows the beautiful landscape as well as the drama in the sky that is created by scattered afternoon summer thundershowers.

If you would like to read about other recent food runs to Oljato and Navajo Mountain, here are links to blogs about the spring 2011 run and the fall 2010 run.