Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Winter Stories - 2016

by John Aldrich

The first big event on the ANE calendar every year is our Winter Stories night at the warehouse. Among traditional Navajo families, winter is the time to gather and tell stories and play games. Such times serve as one of the principal mechanisms by which the culture gets passed along to younger generations. In our urban environment it's harder for families to maintain this tradition. The many Navajo families who live along the Wasatch Front are mostly from younger generations, and their Elders, the source of wisdom and cultural knowledge, remain on the reservation.

Winter Stories night is an attempt to provide something of a substitute for our local Navajos as well as interested Bilagaanas (Anglo people). Rodger Williams has been organizing this event for a number of years, and the crowd keeps growing with each iteration. Last Sunday evening 180 people gathered for the potluck event with the majority being Navajo. In addition to story tellers, we had a drum group with singers and a variety of assorted royalty.

The evening began with the drum group, Cliff Eagle, performing an Honor Song.

Being a potluck meal, there was a wide variety of food and an ample amount of everything. No one could possibly have left hungry.

In addition to organizing the event, Rodger Williams also told stories and sang.

Our new Shi Yazhi Ambassador, Athen Canyon, was attending and presented a story about her grandfather. Other royalty included 1st attendant Ash Ne'a Anderson as well as Miss Native American Events.

Before each performance by the Cliff Eagle group, their leader, Emerson Bill, provided some background about what they would sing.

Although Cliff Eagle usually performs around their big drum, they also presented a song using hand drums.

Lacee Harris has been a popular story teller at many previous Winter Stories nights. This time he told several including one about Ma'ii. Ma'ii, or Coyote, is a popular subject of Native American stories. Representing the Trickster, Ma'ii gets himself into all sorts of predicaments which serve as lessons for all of us and the youngsters in particular.

We were particularly pleased to have Harry James and his wife Prestine join us again. Harry has been a fixture at ANE events for years and leads the Pow Wow that is the final event at our annual rug show.

Prestine took some time to describe one of the sacred Navajo winter ceremonies, the Yei Bei Chei, a nine-day event for healing and well-being. During the ceremony dancers appear wearing costumes and regalia representing the Yeis or Holy People of the Navajo. She also brought some art work so that we all could see what these costumes look like.

The Medicine Man who leads the Yei Bei Chei ceremony must sing hundreds of songs during the course of the nine days, and they must all be sung correctly and in the proper sequence for the ceremony to be effective.

Harry sang one of the songs from this special winter event.

A stirring conclusion to the evening then came with a final song from Cliff Eagle.

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