Recaping Indigenous Visionaries: The Burden and Blessing of Cultural Preservation as a Navajo Weaver
Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Student, American Indian College Fund Indigenous Visionaries Fellow
The feeling I have towards weaving is so intricate that takes me back to the precious times I had with my grandmother, Bessie Hatathlie. She was a master weaver who wove beautiful tapestries that she sold, traded, and donated to various people and institutions.
Growing up I sat by my grandmother’s loom as she wove. I watched her card and spin wool for hours or until someone told me to do my chores. I was partially raised by my grandparents and I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with them. Their friends became my friends and sometimes they would all come to my grandma's house to dye wool in metal barrels over open fires that were spread all over the yard. I remember seeing the herbs in glass jars and the fires being built. Everyone brought their spun-undyed wool and they worked together to combine the herbs, water, and alum and began the process of dying wool. I was about 4 years old, too young to do much but watch.
In my adulthood, I had a job that consumed much of my time. Many people my age lived in a constant cycle of work, go home, sleep, and go to work again. In my mid-thirties I wanted out because I wanted to explore life beyond the status quo. I wanted a challenge.
Ironically, I found it by returning to my cultural roots and attending Diné College Navajo Cultural Arts Program while living in the city. As a student, I was introduced to many teachers like Tahnibaa Naataanii, Christine Ami, Sara Naataanii and Brenda Joshevama. All these women have taught me more about weaving, Diné culture and leadership then I could on my own. They have nurtured my leadership knowledge with their insight and reconnected me with my culture.
I also had the opportunity to run my own workshop on wool processing during the 2021 Navajo Cultural Arts Week! And I did it virtually so that anyone who could and wanted to check out the process could stop in and learn. I did that!