Johnnie Bia, Jr.
As I look into the Diné holistic components of Navajo silversmithing, I reached out to Master Silversmith, Leonard Gene and Emerging Silversmith, Waycee Harvey for some guidance. Leonard is Tó'aheedli'inii, born for Bit’ahnii, his maternal grandfathers are Ashii'hi, and his paternal grandfathers are Hashk'a'a i Hadzohí. He is originally from Rock Point, AZ. Waycee is Tachinii, born for Kinyaa'áanii, his maternal grandfathers are Todichinii, and paternal grandfathers are Tlaashchii. He is originally from Many Farms, AZ. He is apart of the 2017-2018 NCAP cohort and learning silversmithing from Don Denetdeal and Wilson Aronilth, Jr. I also took advantage of revisiting previous blogs written by former NCAPers, Delia Wauneka and Carlon Ami, to understand how the process of silversmithing makes us holistically unique.
frame, scribe, saw blades, files, acetylene tank, pliers, and creativity. This was the shopping list that was given to Waycee when he first started learning how to silversmith. From that basic tool kit, a silversmith can build up their supplies depending on the specialization they select (or I could also say the specialization that selects them). Specializations can include everything from stamping, overlay, in-lay, lapidary work, sand casting, tufa casting, and so forth.
feeling to the silversmith too - particularly when you finish a project to your liking. Delia also explored this elation in her blog "Wauneka's Meldown." On a NCAP trip to Meltdown Studios, Delia challenged herself to learn different techniques like chemical and electric etching. She also desperately wanted to learn how to make her own beads. It was somewhat of an emotional roller coaster: "I watched as Lauren did her demonstration, yet I struggled with this project and I decided to put it aside. Later on the day, I confronted my own self-doubts and challenged myself to finish one bead. You know what… I did it! I am so proud that now I can say, 'I made my own bead'". Delia explained that her self doubts were over come by her persistence. This is what Leonard must have meant when he reminded me that when you complete a project, it uplifts your spirit and makes you respect yourself for what you have done.
toughness you have to have. Carlon also wrote of this toughness in his blog "Just Take It Apart and Put It Back Together": "Don't let convention limit you. If you can reasonably imagine it, you might be able to build it. If it doesn't work out, you can always melt it down later for casting material." At the end of the process, there is a sense of satisfaction for completing the puzzle and having your ideas all come together. But the mental challenges don't stop there. When your done buffing and publishing, Leonard explained, there is a motivation released that inspires you to make improvements on the next project.
gives you another level of respect about what our culture means. With this understanding, you can have prayers done every now and then to help your work along and to keep you strong so you can continue your work with positive motivations. You can also sing songs while you’re working. It helps to stay connected with our traditional culture and values.
After speaking with Leonard and Waycee, reconnecting with Carlon and Delia's blogs, and sitting in on some of the NCAP silversmithing classes, I can begin to understand how silver work helps an individual’s holistic well-being. There are physical demands when working with silver, sacred stones and minerals but you get energy, stamina, and motivation from them as well. Silversmithing is an emotional journey, bringing joy to you and others when your work is completed, even amidst the self-doubt and frustration during the process. This cultural art helps your mind to focus on the positive, which in turn, helps maintain creativity within your work. Ultimately, silversmithing as a Diné individual evokes a spiritual feeling through the stories and history of how Navajo people have always had silver and the sacred stones. Silversmithing has many benefits for a person who wants to learn. It will give you as much as you want to give to it.
And with that said...
Grant Manager, Navajo Cultural Arts Program
Currently, I am working along side Crystal from Office of Miss Navajo Nation and Johnnie from the Diné College Psychology Program on this unique Navajo Cultural Arts Holistic Well-Being Blog Series. While Crystal and Johnnie are focusing on specific emphasis areas and their relationship to the cultural arts, I'll be posting on NCAP's perspectives of holistic well-being as well as ways for artisans to self reflect on how they can utilize a holistic approach in their own work. This week I'll be looking at our NCAP Logo and how it dialogues with Crystal's platform and Johnnie's research.
The NCAP logo was collaboratively created by graphic artist, Corey Begay, and the NCAP staff. We contacted Corey because of his work with Salina Bookshelf, Inc. and the reputation he created through his mural projects in Flagstaff. We were in search of a logo that embodied our mission - to enhance and revitalize traditional Navajo cultural arts practices while promoting intergenerational teachings. We wanted something recognizable that also emphasized the cultural arts specializations offered in our Certificate Program: weaving, silversmithing, moccasin making, and basketry. Corey was up for the challenge and sent us a few sketches. We selected one of his ideas that interwove elements of beauty and protection. His ideas meshed so well with our own that we could see the potential of the Program through his sketches. From that draft, Corey consulted Diné individuals and the NCAP staff brought in suggestions from the Center of Diné Studies' faculty members. This is what was created!
Within the elements of the logo exists a ring of colors. These colors are not meant as a kitschy approach to culture nor is it a Panindian understanding of wellness. They are Diné philosophies encapsulated within our sacred stones - yoolgai, dootl'izhii, diichilí, dóó bááshzhinii. The NCAP understands them as the ontological (yoolgai - white shell), epistemological (dootl'izhii - turquoise), methodological (diichilí - abolone shell), and ethical (bááshzhinii - black jet) approaches to surviving this world in a balanced manner. These stones are at the base of the Diné holistic well-being framework presented by Crystal. When we work with these stones, we pull to us the physical health, emotional health, mental health, and spiritual health from which they stem. And when we work on our holistic well-being, we call upon these stones for guidance. This is how the relationship between the stones and well-being are reciprocal.
If you enjoyed this quick read today or for more information about the cultural arts and Diné holistic well-being, don't forget to.....
-Visit Miss Navajo Nation's website and her next 5K run in Tuba City
-Check-in with the NCAP blog - Next week's blog is on silversmithing!
-Apply for the 2018/2019 Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program :)
Johnnie Bia, Jr.
Ya’at’eeh. My name is Johnnie E. Bia Jr. My clans are Totshonii (Big Water) clan, born for Ma’iideeshgizhnii (Coyote Pass) clan, my maternal grandfathers are Hoonaghanii (One Who Walks Around) clan, my paternal grandfathers are Todichinii (Bitter Water) clan. I am originally from Dilkon, AZ, but I grew up at Canyon De Chelly. At Diné College, I am a Psychology BA student as well as as a Peer Mentor to Freshmen and Transfer students. As a part of my Internship for my Field Work Experience Course, I am working with Miss Navajo Nation 2017/18, Crystal Littleben to research the connections between Diné Holistic Well-being teachings and the Navajo cultural arts. This means that I am exploring how cultural arts help Diné people to improve themselves on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. This week I am focused on how Native American Church Peyote Ceremonial Fans help and heal an individual from a holistic perspective. To do so, I reached out to some friends and fan makers, Troy Uentillie and Jess Williams, in addition to my own experience making fans to help me better understand and explain this connection.
But in addition to the monetary costs, the fan makers see this caution and awareness as it applies to our everyday - we have to be aware of our surroundings and the people we have around us. We can’t just trust anybody with the fan that we make because we put a part of ourselves into it. In this manner, and perhaps more importantly than the monetary costs, fan making teaches the maker to take care of themselves when we are working with feathers and beads. We have to eat the right kind of foods, and we have to take a break and move around from time to time. Otherwise it can get to our back and shoulders if we tend to sit there for long periods of time. That tension comes out in our work.
Working on feathers and beads also helps to occupy and train the mind to the control your creative powers as you learn how to work with different colors and supplies to make these fans beautiful. But aesthetics aren't the only thing because you are putting your time and effort into something more powerful than looks. Instead of being somewhere else and getting into other things that are not good for you, the fan makers find themselves creating a tool for prayer. Fan making also helps you to be organized and maintain cleanliness with our supplies and feathers. Most of the time working with feathers and beads can get messy but with diligence, you learn to keep your work area and things in order. Otherwise, you will be misplacing things all the time, creating a chaos of the mind.
Another significant thing about working on fans is having the motivation to do the bead work and feather work. A person has to be feeling up to it and wanting to work on these things. They cannot be forcing themselves to do work on these things. If you force it, it will not turn out they right way. On the other hand, fan making allows for the maker to find happiness when they are complete with their projects, especially when the rightful owner sees it. The owner's happiness only builds to the makers own sense of happiness from how the fan turned out.
In a spiritual sense, these NAC ceremonial fans are not just something to mess around with - they all have a spirit within them. A person has to know protocols and stories when working with feathers from certain birds. Some of these birds have their own way and their feathers are living. No one truly knows what kind of power they have. For this reason, it is always helpful to ask someone such as a Roadmen, Medicine Men, Elders, and other people who know specifics about these ceremonial items. These NAC fans will be used around ceremonial settings and the fan maker must keep that in mind while making them. While there is a sense of pride when you are able to pray and utilize
If you are interested - NCAP and the OMNN will be co-sponsoring a Feather Tying Workshop this summer as part of our Summer Weekend Workshop Series led by Troy Uentillie - so stay tuned! For more information about Diné Holistic Well-being, please visit Miss Navajo Nation Crystal Littleben’s website, her blog "Leading with Fire: Navajo Cultural Arts and Holistic Well-Being," and the NCAP blog!
Miss Navajo 2017-2018, Office of Miss Navajo Nation
I graduated with at B.A. in Psychology from of Northern Arizona University with a minor in Native American Studies. After my reign, I do plan to return to NCAP as the Project Coordinator to continue my work, educating our Navajo people about our cultural arts and language. But in the meantime - during my reign - I have been afforded the opportunity to bring my personal, professional, and educational experiences to the forefront through my pageant platform - improving the holistic well-being of Navajo communities through Navajo cultural arts, stories, and language. Before addressing some of my current and future reign projects, I wanted to take a moment to explain my understanding of Diné holistic well-being.
Preparing for the Miss Navajo Nation Pageant tested my abilities to follow this model and now I am implementing it as a pathway to holistic well-being for my reign. Starting in the east with our physical well-being, the Office of Miss Navajo Nation is building momentum as we continue working with and improving our emotional well-being in the south, mental well-being in the west, and spiritual well-being in the north.
The Miss Navajo 5K series shares their mission - that running can strengthen our Indigenous communities - and emphasizes that running can better themselves from physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual perspectives. The Diné women’s puberty ceremony, for example, challenges our young women to run towards the east every morning as an act of physical endurance, emotional balance, mental strength, and spiritual connection. The participants of the Miss Navajo 5K series are asked to face these same challenges during their runs. Even in the manner that the runs have been planned out took into account the holistic geography. Beginning in an Eastern location (Sanders), the runs will follow circular path around the Navajo Nation (Dilkon, Tuba City, Shiprock, Tsaile, and Fort Defiance). Following this model, younger generations can experience how our well-being is interconnected within this framework and helps us remain in balance with ourselves and the physical and spiritual worlds.
I first became aware of these components as I picked up the art of silversmithing when I joined NCAP. Taking workshops and classes, I had to connect to my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual self in order to learn and practice with traditional stones, wool, tools, and designs. I found that when one was out of balance, I had difficulties concentrating, my designs wouldn't come quickly, and my work was rough and required extra filing. Some of my stressors included school pressures, family struggles, personal challenges, and even worrying about my puppies. Once I stopped avoiding my stressors and addressed those issues head on with the purpose of finding a solution, my work was directly impacted in a positive fashion. I gained confidence not only as silversmith but also as a Diné woman. While I understand that these pieces can be created without the cultural connections, I am seeking to better understand and support a holistic approach to the cultural arts.
In collaboration with the NCAP, the OMNN has created this Navajo Cultural Arts Holistic Well-Being Blog Series to showcase the importance of my platform. Over the next 6 weeks, we plan to release a blog that addresses one cultural arts emphasis and its holistic components each week. With help from the Diné College Psychology Bachelor of Arts Program, I have gained a PSY B.A. intern, Mr. Johnnie Bia, who has expressed an interest in learning more about Navajo Holistic Healing and the application of holistic healing in efforts that promote well-being. Mr. Bia will also be able to showcase the knowledge he learns through his hands on research by attending events hosted by Miss Navajo Nation and the NCAP. As a deliverable, Mr. Bia will share his experiences and newfound research through this Navajo Cultural Arts Holistic Well-Being Blog Series.
This summer, as our crops are growing, I will be conducting a Summer Weekend Workshop Series across the Navajo Nation with the NCAP to lead my community through holistic well-being model with cultural arts. More information will become available for these community-based workshops - Stay tuned!