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!