Tuesday, November 3, 2015

EarART Earrings by Venaya

EarART earrings by Venaya Yazzie

Navajo art: Squash Blossom

Navajo Squash Blossom necklace, turquoise and silver antique
Photo credit of Victorbille, Instagram

Hands of a Navajo Matriarch

Navajo matriarch hands
Photo credit Venaya Yazzie

I acknowledge the blessing I received on a daily basis as I am able to be present with my maternal grandmother. My 'masani' is my life. The things of she does in a day are so precious and sacred. Above all I am inspired by her act of constant 'adornment.' She unconsciously perpetuates the ritual of southwestern tribal 'Indigenous Adornment.' My grandmother is my muse, and therefore inspires all forms of my creative process'. Her story is my story, her "heart is my heart."


Navajo women weavers

Navajo elders, matriarch weavers, Navajo Nation, USA
Photo credit Altea John via Cie CieEstsitty, Navajo Nation FB

I absolutely adore this photograph.

As a frequent visitor of the social networks, I found this amazing photograph which depicts Navajo women elder amidst the preparation of sheep wool. This tribal work is priceless and the process and ritual of spinning wool into yarn concerns many years of oral history and matriarchal knowledge.

What I love too about this image is the women who are dressed in their Navajo adornment, or 'Indigenous Adornment.' The woman on the left wears her fine velvet shirt, and is 'adorned' in her finest Navajo silverwork and turquoise. She and the other beautiful Navajo matriarchs wear their tribal head gear via their scarves. Most elder Navajo women perpetuate the use of scarves to cover their hair buns; the woman in the blue velvet wears her 'traditional' cultural item, a floral scarf.

I am not sure when the Navajo women first adopted the Indigenous Russian-inspired floral scarf, but it has become a treasured item for the southwestern desert women.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Animas River 'adorned' in fall

Animas River located in northwestern New Mexico in the San Juan Valley in fall color change
Photo by Venaya Yazzie 2015

I have returned back to the Animas River.

In August the U.S. Environment Protection Agency "accidently" released old gold mine waste pollutants into to the river upstream in Colorado. Many people were adversely affected by this disaster, especially the farmers who use the waters from the Animas for their crops and farm, including their livestock. This river contamination hit the Navajo Nation particularly hard, as many of the Navajo are sustenance farmers and use the water for basic living.

I am not a farmer or a person with livestock, yet this river contamination affected me. As a visual artist I was saddened that the river was forever changed for I visited the river daily as it is near my home. After the pollution of the Animas I kept my distance for fear of inhalation of the river fumes which contained and still contain poisonous heavy metal toxins.

But, as an Indigenous person whose family lineage is tied to the San Juan Valley and to this river, I was in mourning for the 'death' of this living entity. The two rivers of the area are the Animas River and the San Juan River and both have played an integral part of the cultural lives of the Navajo, Ute and Apache people for hundreds of years. For the Navajo, the river is 'life.' For generations the Navajo have lived in the San Juan Valley and have perpetuated their physical and spiritual lives with the presence of the river waters.

As I mentioned I have returned the river again, but I am still reverent as I trek along the river banks. I offer my prayers for protection and for healing, only our Creator God can remedy this situation. I have faith.

Bless the People.
To' ei' Iina'.
Water is Life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Blue Bird Mocs by Venaya Yazzie

Blue Bird Moccasins made by Venaya Yazzie
Photo credit: Venaya Yazzie 2015

If you are fortunate to live in the Four Corners area of America, you should be familiar with the local product Blue Bird Flour. This product is produced locally at a flour mill located in Cortez, Colorado located in southwestern Colorado. This flour is a local favorite by many, but especially by the Dine' (Navajo ) people who use the 'fine' flour to make cultural food specifically Navajo tortillas and fry bread.

Navajos have been using flour to make bread since the 1860s, when government rations were given to them at their forced imprisonment at Fort Sumner, NM during the infamous Navajo Long Walk era. Though this was a terrible experience in the history of the Navajo people, the experience began a new era of Navajo ways of life.

One of these was a change in the foods that Navajos produced. One such product was the way Navajos produced bread products. In contemporary times, the Navajo frybread is a favored cultural food for many people. Some Navajo frybread makers express that the frybread is best when it is made with Blue Bird Flour.

As this product is favored, so is the cotton fabric is is sold in.  Each bag of Blue Bird Flour is sold with a cotton bag with the 'blue bird' icon printed on it. Historically the Navajo used the whole bag to make clothing such as shirts and pants for men, and they would use the stitching thread in many ways, but in particular as holding turquoise in place for the pierced ear. Today, many Navajo use the bag for making cultural clothing such as women's shirt and skirt, and in other decorative homemade products like aprons and bags.

I make many things using the Blue Bird Flour bag including: clothing, aprons, quilts, towels, pillow cases. But, my favorite items to make with the Blue Bird Flour bags is unique handbags and moccasins. Pictured here is a pair of one of the moccasins i have made.

Be sure that the Blue Bird Flour bag holds many stories of the Four Corners region of America, especially in the stories of the Navajo, Ute and Apache people who have used the product for may years. Many cultural stories and oral histories are held within the Blue Bird Flour bag.

Blue Bird Blessings!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Rock your mocs

Navajo style moccasins in the autumn leaves.
Photo by Venaya J. Yazzie 2015
Across Indin' Country the expression 'Rock your mocs' can be heard by modern Indigenous people on both reservations and urban settings. The act of wearing your tradition, tribal moccasins has become a way of celebrating the identity of many generations of Indigenous people. This image I share with you as a way of making the statement tangible.

People, 'Rock your mocs!' Happy Autumn!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Navajo elder men singing

Navajo elder men singing.
Photo credit: Venaya J. Yazzie 2015

This time of year is amazing because of the land's physical change and the People's transition to the coming winter via songs, stories and ceremony.

While spending time at among the People in Shiprock, NM I found the experience  somewhat melancholy,  as I missed the presence of my maternal grandfather among the many Navajo elders at the Navajo Song and Dance arena. My 'papa' passed on from this life two years ago, his name was Alfred Padilla Yazzie, he was of the Waters Flow Together clan and was raised in the area of Chaco Canyon, NM on the eastern region of the Navajo Nation. He was a good Navajo singer and as a young man sang with his brothers and father during in the Navajo Yeibichei ceremonial life.

In the months before he left, my papa told many stories of his life.
Though this photo is not him, the man in the blue shirt reminded my of him, handsome and beautyful.


Navajo children 'adorned'

                     Navajo Song and Dance child participants.
                       Photo credit: Venaya J. Yazzie 2015
                           ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I took this photo during the annual Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock, NM this past weekend. These two Navajo children were a blessing to watch during my time spent at the Navajo Social Song and Dance event on the Navajo reservation.

They are dressed in full Navajo Indigenous Adornment form their head to their small feet! The little boy was so cute wearing his Navajo style men's headband,and his velvet shirt. He danced most all of the dances that happened that day and dance every time with this Navajo girl pictured here.

Seeing these two dance gives me hope for the cultural future of the Navajo people. When 'adorning' themselves with Navajo attire they most likely are taught the reasons and traditions of what they are wearing and why they are wearing such objects.  They bless the People.

Navajo 'Adornment' during Shiprock Fair 2015

Elder Navajo woman's hands adorned in turquoise.
Photo credit: Venaya J. Yazzie 2015

Navajo man's hands adorned in silver andturquoise.
Photo credit: Venaya J. Yazzie 2015