Art For Indigenous Survival

Shiprock, New Mexico, June 2005

We spent each morning during June at the temporary Shiprock Home for Women and Children where I taught them to make Juniper Titmice (a small local bird), Pale Primroses, Kingfishers, Black-tailed Jackrabbits and Pronghorn Antelopes. Irma cut out patterns and pieces, packaging them for each of the participants. We had three foster grandmothers, Edna, Klara and Gina as well as several young clients. During the third week, we had a show and tell period in which Edna brought in a book published in 1939 about the life activities of her grandmother and mother�s families. Edna was two years old at the time. Klara brought in her drum and sang several songs for us including the one sung by the Navajos when they were allowed by the US government in 1868 to return to their beloved homeland after many years imprisonment at Basque Redondo.

Shelter participants

During the first weekend, Irma and I visited Window Rock, the capital of the Navajo Nation. There we paid tribute to the famed Navajo Code Talker and later found that several of the gentlemen at the Senior Center had been code talkers.

Window Rock

Every afternoon, we journeyed across town to have lunch at the Senior Center and then to spend the afternoon sewing Titmice, Primroses, Kingfishers and Antelopes. We had several ladies that had been with us in 1998 — Helen, Rose, Sarah, Elsie and Grace. We gained another 23 new members for an energetic class of 28. We showed our video from 1998 and laughed at how young we had all been seven years ago. During show and tell, Ruth taught us about her herbal medicines, Eunice showed us her beadwork, Elsie brought her weavings and Virginia sang �Amazing Grace� in Navajo. On our videos, we have this song in Navajo, Cherokee, Lakota and Anishinaabe. When the inevitable last day arrived, we were hurriedly trying to finish everything but feeling very sad since we don�t know when we might see each other again. Everyone gathered in front of the entrance to the Senior Center for the group picture. It had been a delightful month, well spent.

Senior group