Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate, Dual Credit Student, Silversmith
My name is Tavian and I am a student at Navajo Pine High School. I am also a silversmithing student at Diné College as part of the Dual Credit Program. That means that I take college credit courses while completing my high school degree. This is my 4th silversmithing class here at the Diné College and my 3rd class with my instructor, Teddy Draper, Jr. This semester was very challenging, informative, and fun! I learned so much and am excited for this coming summer because I’m thinking of all the projects I’ll make.
But enough of my general thoughts - let's take a look at my CA408: Intermediate Silversmithing projects - all done online - all done while I was trying to stay a top of my high school work - all done during a pandemic :)
The fourth project I had issues - actually major issues - it was a tufa cast project. After heating up the silver, pouring it continuously. The silver would either fill up and overflow or it would pour but still not fill the design to the bottom. After carving the design again, creating more vents - the tufa cracked. I researched and reached out to Teddy, we figured it out, so I carved the design again. But I guess this project was just not meant to be for now....I accidentally bumped it off the table and it broke in half. This was so infuriating; I couldn’t finish the project as the situation worsened. Like I said before - sometimes the silver makes the final decisions and sometimes, you don't like silver's decisions.
But silver not pouring the way I wanted was not a waste- it was pouring the way I needed. I needed to self reflect. Being a high school student and a college student is exciting but it is a challenge and you have to be willing to put in the extra work. Typically, I’m really good at managing my responsibilities: sports (football, basketball, and baseball), high school assignments, and silversmithing. But this semester was particularly rough and I started falling behind what when I lost three relatives in one week - it was almost impossible for me to forget that we were in a pandemic, even sitting behind my silversmithing desk. I decided to make my family a priority. I knew I was going to fall behind but family comes first. I am not the type of person to make excuses, I like to be held accountable, and I held myself accountable for my late work.
The NCAP team did hold me accountable - but in a family way. They found me! They pulled me back into activities like the Spring Navajo Cultural Arts Virtual Exhibit hosted by the Native American Arts Magazine Online. Can you believe it? My work featured online! They pushed me to get back into contact with my instructor and they got me to catch up the best I could.
I remember when I first started silversmithing, Teddy told me, “Move at your own pace, put in a lot of effort, and don’t be LAME. Make something nice you’ll be proud of”. I’ve always kept that in mind and did my best this semester to not be lame and to be proud of myself. I’m glad I participated in silversmithing classes, it helped me in many ways. I appreciate the art and can’t wait for summer to make more awesome jewelry!
Navajo Cultural Art Certificate, 2020-21, Silversmith
Since I was young, my parents instilled in me the importance of getting an education. They explained that my education would provide for me in ways that I never imagined. This is most telling in my recent educational endeavor at Diné College.
Amid our global pandemic, I was challenging myself to adapt to the unprecedented circumstances that many students were facing. I am not claiming that it was easy - the first time my hammer struck silver was intimidating. However, finding it within myself to be confident in each hit of the hammer allowed me to live in the moment. I like to think of myself as a planner and my meticulous attention to detail has allowed me to create events within my job title to be successful. But that type of personality always has me thinking 3-4 steps ahead, never really just sitting in the moment. So, this past year, as I sat at my bench looking at the silver, taking deep breathes, and connecting with my hammer. With each stamp impression, I found myself living in the moment. My mind was not consumed by the future. It was a new phenomenon. I was hooked.
Over the course of the certificate program, the renewed and revitalized attitude about my culture has been the biggest benefit. My instructors embraced Navajo culture and taught, unapologetically, what it will take to be a successful student at Diné College. This has provided balance and harmony back into my life and all it took was some silver and my own creative imagination.
Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Student, Moccasin Maker
although with new practices: Each graduate was only allowed two guests due to CDC restrictions, temperatures were taken and vaccination cards checked before we were allowed onto campus grounds.
As the 2021 Diné College Commencement Exercise was being carried out, my mind started reflecting on how I got here - ready to accept a certificate in Navajo Cultural Arts and sharing this experience with two of the most important people in my life who were seated next to me.
Despite all of the new measures, for me, this year was even more different that the rest - this year I was a student. You see, I have already completed course requirements at the graduate level. With my Master's Degree I teach mathematics here at Diné College. But this certificate really meant something to me personally because every aspect about NCAP was one hundred percent Navajo. The courses (content and materials), the educators, the personnel, and the location, all Navajo
Thinking about today's epic graduation, during the taming of a pandemic, I realized that I walked across the same stage as many of my students. I also thought about all my Navajo cultural arts educators in moccasin making and silverwork. Here at Diné College, our cultural arts teachers are often grandparent or even great-grandparents, all with decades of knowledge and wisdom from years before them. And now they continue to share their artistry through me. I was fortunate to have such patient people teach me the importance of understanding the connection between the pieces I’m making to Navajo origin stories, ceremonies, songs, and prayers.
Returning to my seat, where my family waited for me after I received my Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate, I thought about the lesson in Dzil Biyiin (Mountain Song) where it talked about a personal decision you make to embark on a journey that may require perseverance, strength, endurance, and purpose. The journey is like the thought of going to a mountain, traveling to the mountain, reaching the mountain, climbing the mountain, reaching the top of the mountain, and descending down the mountain. And just about every stage of your journey may have obstacles, and to resolve them may require critical thinking and decision making. Even when you reach the top of the mountain (Bikaa’ Ha’seya’), you have to decide what your plans are for the future, what are your hopes, dreams, and expected accomplishments. My journey was to complete the NCAP Program.
Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate, Emphasis Area: Silversmithing
Béésh Łigaii Yitsidí makes you use the process of Nitsáhákéés, Nahat’á, Iiná, dóó Siih Hasin.
It is all part of the learning process, so throughout your experience you discipline yourself to improve yourself as an artisan and the pieces you create. In return, silversmithing disciplines you and your pieces create you.
Don’t be afraid of the metal or hammer when stamping, get the feel for it and your hammer will recognize you as a person. Talk to the metal about your intentions, then the metal knows your purpose and will work with you. That is what I have come to learn as an emerging artisan. Once you get the hang of it, then your Diné mind will create unique and special constructions.
You have the potential of using your Diné mind, you just got to open it and you can run with it.