NCAC Emerging Artisan 2018/19 (Moccasin Maker)
When I first enrolled, I took whatever class that interested me. This included the fine arts and a sampling of the Navajo cultural arts classes that they had then. Every experience was really good until I took the moccasin class….that was it for me. 💙💙💙 I LOVED it 💙💙💙. I always remember Mr. Harry Walters telling us that our art picks us. Mr. Walters was my first moccasin making instructor and he intrigued me with his knowledge of Navajo culture. He told stories, sang songs, a trip to Dinétah and as a result made me proud to be Diné. Just this past fall, I enrolled in the Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program for the year 2018-2019 with the emphasis of moccasin making. It wasn't a spur of the moment decision - I have wanted to be in the Navajo Cultural Arts Program for the last three years but for various reasons, I was unable to be in the program until this past year.
Ni’hoosdzíinbiyiin, Shash biyiin. He explains in Navajo and English. Everything that I was being taught here at the college through culture, history, language, and art classes was now coming together. Inclusion is all important and now EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE. All the pieces are put together and I have an understanding of the Navajo universe.
Weaving and the loom. Aheehee, Mr. Lyle Harvey. Baskets and the materials, Aheehee Mr. Thomas Yellowhair. Moccasins and the appropriate use of materials. Aheehee, Mr. Harry Walters. I have a true understanding of the stories that each instructor brought to the classroom.
Now come the cliché “Full Circle” makes sense and now that is what I believe.
To me, Full Circle means as a Navajo woman that I can integrate my western education and my Navajo cultural education with my identity. I plan to bring this knowledge with me to the elementary classroom and to everyday life. They all have a place in and outside of the classroom. My year with Navajo Cultural Arts Program brought this realization to my attention.
Full Circle. Our Diné moccasins are sacred footwear…the top is Father Sky, the sole is Mother Earth and the sinew is lightening. The lightening is what holds the sky and the earth together.
Full Circle. My obligation as a moccasin maker is to pass on the knowledge that was gifted to me through our program and Mr. Harry Walters.
Full Circle. I feel complete. Life is good.
NCAC Emerging Artisan 2018/19 (Moccasin Maker, Basket Maker)
Shi’ Cherilyn Yazzie yinshi’. Hona’gha’ahnii nishli, To’tsohnii ba’ shishchiin, To’di’ch’iinii dashicheii, ‘A’shiihi’ dashina’li. Dilkon, AZ dee’ naasha’. I am part of the 2018/19 Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate cohort. My traditional emphasis areas are moccasin making and basketry. One of my favorite activities during the Fall 2018 semester was the opportunity to travel with our moccasin class to visit our instructor, Harry Walter's hogan studio in Cove.
Cove is so beautiful.
I’ve never been to Cove before. Driving up to this community in the fall is visually striking - red sand stone rocks sprinkled with seasonal golden leaves. And just like the rest of our reservation it has such a rich history.
On this November day, my fellow moccasin makers joined Mr. Walters for a workshop session in his hogan studio. I wanted to work on my moccasin patterns. I took three-foot tracings from my sister and two of my nephews. I admit... I had not really paid attention to the tracings until it was time to start making the soles. Only then, after working for two hours, did I realized that all three tracings were the same size! 🤦🏽♀️
At that point, we stopped to have lunch. I guess I needed the break! ☺️ That's when I learned something new about Mr. Walters... #Mrwaltersfunfact1: He knows how to make one mean stew. It was delicious and we all had two bowls. I know what you’re thinking.. "She’s so bidi" 😂!! When we were done with lunch Mr. Walters has a special treat. #Mrwaltersfunfact2: He is an A+ entertainer! He played his guitar and sang two songs for us.
After our private concert, we took a trip to the family camp site where Mr. Walter’s told us a story about how a group of Navajos had evaded capture from the Spanish invaders. As we toured throughout his backyard, I came to find out that Harry Walters is like a walking google search. #Mrwaltersfunfact3: He knows so much about Navajo culture and history and is so willing to share those with his students. Every time Mr. Walters tells a story, my mind always wonders and I imagine his words are written in a book. It doesn't matter if it is in the classroom or at his home.
This past Fall semester, I felt so lucky each week to go to class and I am excited to pick up this Spring semester with Moccasin Making II. I’m surrounded by awesome cohort members and the instructors have been so knowledgeable, sharing a lot with us. I’m always just thankful to be apart of this experience. I learn something new each time I come to class.
This Spring semester, I am looking forward to practicing moccasin patterns. As of today, I have down the patterns for the size 8.5 and 6.5 shoe size. I am also counting on learning more #Mrwaltersfunfacts If you know some, be sure to add them below in the comments :)
Miss Navajo 2017-2018, Office of Miss Navajo Nation
workshop as well! My moccasins were an inch too long due to wear and tear (probably from the rainy and muddy days) and the wrappings were hanging by a tread! With help from former NCAPer and awesome workshop leader, Sam, the repair (surgery) was successful! I cut half an inch off the sole and restitched the back half. The stitching naturally came back to me and it was like I never stopped making moccasins. This experience helped to jump start my critical thinking about the holistic components of moccasin making - so that's what I have for you today!
crucial so that your moccasins seems don't have scalloped, wavy edges. This spacing is created through your diligent perception. So take time to rest your eyes. It pays of in the end. Your posture is also something that you have to pay attention to. Much like weaving, if your posture is poor, that laziness reflects in your work and back pain. Now mind you, this is just with the assemblage process. If you hunt, butcher and tan for your own buckskin - that's going to add a whole list of other physical demands as well.
Sam Slater also explained this connection between identity and moccasin making rather pointedly after the UNM workshop: "My identity as an individual is so tied to this art, it was such a humbling experience to teach it once again. Over four days of sharing and living moccasin stories, I know each of these participants all have their own moccasin story to tell, a story they stitched themselves". In short, as my yáázh Wilson Aronilth says, if you do not know who you are, you can never truly be happy. Knowing you are a moccasin maker for cultural artisans like Sam brings happiness and grounding in our Diné cultural identity.
of critical consciousness for your students, but often feel you’re missing the tools. These sacred shoes of survival are those tools. That’s all I have to say now, that these kélchí and their beautiful makers are such powerful tools for our people. I’m grateful for all they continue to teach me." In my opinion - becoming a moccasin maker is like getting your Ph.D. is Critical Theory and Application.
those who are no longer with us. It is in this way that moccasin making comfortably connects Sam and I. My aunt was known for making moccasins with a unique double stitch. Sam found out about this stitch from his NCAC Moccasin Instructor, Harry Walters, and started to experiment on his own. The double stitch calms the scallops of the sole and as Sam worked on mastering this stitch, in a way he smoothed my soul, pushing memories of my bizhi to the forefront. It must be a Round Rock thing!
Thank you to NAS UNM and Sam for inviting me! Keep up the great work! And to our blog readers - if you want to give moccasin making a try - NCAP is hosting a mini moc workshop hosted by Aaron Begay, along with other cultural arts emphasis workshops during the 2018 Navajo Cultural Arts Week. Contact Christine or Sheryl to reserve your spot - They fill up quickly.
Next week's blog is by Johnnie on the holistic components of weaving --- so stay tuned!!
A Posting by Michelle Salabiye
Emerging Artisan, Moccasin Maker, NCAC Cohort 2016/17
Ya’at’eeh shik’ei doo shidine’e! Shi ei Michelle J. Salabiye yinishe. Maiideeshgizhnii nishli, Naakai Dine’e bashishchiin, Tsi’ naajinii dashicheii, Todich’ii’nii dashinali. I was raised in a small modest Rez town known as Nazlini, Arizona. I have a baby Maii named Noah Johnson, whom I lovingly call my son. I am an Emerging Artisan in the Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program and majoring in General Science here at Dine College. I also work with Aramark here on Tsaile campus. My emphasis of choice is moccasin making. Or perhaps better explained by our NCAC instructor - Moccasin Making chose me!
I am honored to be instructed by the famous and humble Mr. Harry Walters, who instilled the Navajo principles and stories behind the moccasin. Mr. Walters also provided historical insights as he was an Archaeologist and who also developed the Museum and the Archive building here in Dine College. It’s safe to say we learn a handsome amount of Navajo stories, philosophies and historical background. We couldn’t have had a better instructor!
A Posting by Ty Draper
Emerging Artisan, Moccasin Maker, NCAC Cohort 2016/17
I had the privilege to meet so many diverse, talented, and hardworking people. One of those influential individuals was Harry Walters, my mentor in this journey of cultural refinement and the instructor for our moccasin cohort. From the creation stories to the creation of the moccasins, he detailed his teachings from tradition. So much so, that in addition to meeting at the College, we also had classes taught right at his home in Red Valley, Az. I remember the first time being there. There was a calm essence when we arrived, welcomed by the warmth of the sun, in the midday of the winter season. The scent of cedar and juniper trees filled the air. As the day went on we visited different parts of his summer and winter camps. The stories of his grandparents and generations before them ignited the scenery. The crowded memories of the past engulfed our curious minds. The knowledge of different invasions of the Spanish and Europeans allowed us to gain a new perspective of the land. This taught us about respecting our craft and to be thankful for our gifts.
The opportunities that this program supplies, including the carefully chosen instructors such as Mr. Walters, have had profound effects on me as an artist. I have gained so much from the traditional concepts and as well as the contemporary ones. Initially, being a part of the Fine Arts Studies, I developed a yearning for the cultural arts. I found that within our Navajo history, much of our art is undocumented history, meaning that much of it remains within the realm of oral histories. Now that I have a better understanding of both the contemporary and the cultural arts, I would like to innovate the teachings of the past and bring those concepts and practices to the future of our creations. In other words, NCAP has enabled the contemporary artist, such as myself, to reconnect with the techniques of the past. My creations frequently include the color “blue.” It represents turquoise and in the Navajo stories “turquoise” represents the blue world and different stages in life. There is always a meaning behind the development of my artwork.
“Mother Earth and Father Sky guided me through my craftsmanship. The essence of duality exist in all of us, we all come from a female and male embodiment. We should not overshadow one over the other. Having the traits that are passed down through each generation is something we as “Diné” hold sacred, our gifts ignite our spirit.” –Ty Powers Draper