Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rug Show 2011 - School Programs

by John Aldrich

Special programs to educate school children about Navajo culture have been a part of the rug show since early in its history. Linda offered an explanation about how this tradition got started: "Several children once asked me, 'Aren't you afraid of them?', referring the Navajo people. This experience made me think that adding an opportunity for them to learn about Navajos would be a valuable experience."

Currently we have three sessions of programs, Thursday morning and afternoon, and Friday morning. Each session is divided into two parts occurring simultaneously in different parts of the Snow Park Lodge. At the midway point students switch to the other venue. Thus we can handle a larger number of  students, and they can experience a greater range of topics. As many as 110 students were present at a time.

During the course of the three sessions, we have over 600 students from 15 schools come to the rug show. Most are of elementary age, but two high schools and one junior high participated as well.

This year, the coordination of all this was in the capable hands of Masuda Medcalf, shown here with Mary Owen, as they prepare the children for the first round of programs:

Navajo Elders and weavers participate by explaining or demonstrating a variety of aspects of their culture. Additionally, children can directly experience some of this by either spending a few minutes weaving at a loom or having their hair put up in a traditional hair bun.

During the program children are able to watch as weavers work at their looms:

The youngest weaver from the reservation this year was eight-year-old Israel Whitehair. The school children were impressed that at such a young age Israel was able to make his first rug:

Some of the other aspects of Navajo culture that are demonstrated include basket making, explained here by Leonard Holiday:

Corn grinding, demonstrated by Marklyn Whitehair:

And the winter activity of making play animals from Play-Doh, explained by Vina Horseherder:

For the past several years we have been fortunate to have two talented flute players at the show, Nancy Haga and Gary Hansen. School children are typically fascinated by their demonstrations of flute playing:

One of the program leaders this year was Julius Chavez:

Julius is a traditional Navajo who lives locally. He was able to give the children first-hand descriptions of what it's like to be Navajo.

The other program leader was Robin Field-Williams. Here she shows children a model Hogan, the traditional Navajo dwelling. With the removable roof it was possible to imagine what life might be like inside such a home:

Many of the classes bring gifts for the Elders. Often this is in the form of food:

A number of the classes participate in ANE's Classromm Amasani Program, where they adopt one of the Elders. These classes usually make special presentations to their Elder during the school programs. Here is Helen Rose Lewis with her class from the Trailside School:

Soaring Wings Montessori School sponsors Frances Bahe who is seen in this photo receiving gift baskets from them. In return she is holding a rug to present to them:

And the final photograph shows Katie Furcap with her class from the Soldier Hollow School.

In the past all of the classes attending have been from elementary grades. This year we also had some students from junior and senior high schools. Regardless of age, the students seem genuinely fascinated and entertained by the programs and hopefully leave with a much richer understanding of Navajo culture.

1 comment:

  1. This is a brilliant idea that Linda thought of. Children are the knowledge of the future and planting the seed in their mind now may help create lots of Linda's for the future! Great to see Masuda and Cheryl in photographs. It is fantastic that the children can see Israel's rug making, as it is more relatable to them, someone their own age.