Each year, Adopt-A-Native Elder, a nonprofit organization that provides food, medicines, clothing, fabric and yarns to help Navajo elders live on the land in their traditional lifestyle, chooses a theme for its annual rug show and sale.

Last year's theme was "Weaving Wild Horses," and the rugs that were created featured scenes with horses. The theme for this year's event, which will be held at Deer Valley's Snow Park Lodge from Friday, Nov. 2, through Sunday, Nov. 4, is "Weaving the Night Sky."

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Adopt-A-Native Elder program.

Adopt-A-Native Elder executive director Linda Myers came up with the idea during last year's event.

"There was a grandmother who was speaking to her granddaughter during lunch," Myers told The Park Record. "The granddaughter was having trouble at home and at school, and the grandmother told her that she was looking at the wrong things and that she would find order when she quiets herself and looks at the sky. The grandmother told the granddaughter that she would see, up there, how things are placed in order."

The grandmother told her granddaughter that she needed to find the North Star and find those things that are firmly in place within her life.

"It was afterwards that I began to think about those teachings," Myers said. "Our culture doesn't have the magnitude of those teachings that are in the stars, so I came up with the idea and asked my friend Julius Chavez to ask the Native Elders about weaving the things they see in the sky, and the elders wanted to do this.


Advertisement

"

More than 30 rug makers have woven their visions of the night sky with rugs featuring the stars over their homelands, Navajo constellations, and the sky at dusk and dawn.

"We asked the weavers to do the interpretations from the ceremonial dances that are on the reservation to the moon as it rises," Myers said. "Some of the rugs depict stories and legends, and we have some rugs that depict the land with the night sky above it. We also have others that include ceremony scenes and others that are just stars.

"I learned that what we see the constellations as and what the Navajo people see are totally different," she said.

Chavez, who has been weaving for nearly 25 years, said the theme made him reflect on the teachings he learned from his grandparents.

"I started thinking about the different constellations and what they mean," he said. "Each of the families has different ways of interpreting these stories. Even the medicine men go by different stars in their ceremonies, but the teachings are basically the same thing."

The pattern on Chavez's rug is a copy of one of the ceremonial sand paintings regarding the sky.

"A sand painting is a sacred painting that is made from the colors of pulverized rocks," he said.

The elders would start work on the painting early in the morning and work all day, Chavez said.

"Then the medicine man would bring an ailing person to sit on a section of the painting and the healing ceremony would begin," he said.

Unfortunately, the ceremony that utilized the design on Chavez's rug has been lost, because the it wasn't passed down through the generations.

"We do know some parts of the ceremony, but nothing more than that," he said. "It was called 'Hail Way,' but was never preserved."

Still, the symbols on the rug are easy to explain, Chavez said.

"It tells about a war the eagles had in heaven and when the peace was made, a plan was designed for mankind," he said. "The stars were formed to teach this plan."

The rug shows the sun, the moon and the Milky Way.

"The most important star in the heavens is the North Star," Chavez said. "That represents our fire. It's the first light that guides our path and keeps us warm, and when the heavens were set for us, the North Star was created."

The rug also features the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia, which represent the man and the woman, respectively.

"They rotate around the North Star," Chavez said.

Other constellations such as the one many people know as Orion are also woven into the rug.

"We know Orion as the First Slender One," Chavez explained. "He is a hunter, and (the stars) coming down from his feet follow each other in the heavens.

"My rug, as a whole, shows the Medicine Man constellation, which runs all the way from the Pleiades, which is above Orion, all the way to the North Star," Chavez said. "That vastness represents the First Slender One's knowledge."

The rug also depicts the constellation Scorpio.

"There is a red star at the end of Scorpio's tail and that's the star we follow during the summertime," Chavez said. "The star represents an old man who has a basket of seeds, which, in turn, represents growth."

In addition, there is a multi-colored star on the pattern.

"That's the coyote star," Chavez said with a smile. "Most people have a misconception about the coyote. They think he's reckless and mischievous, but they don't realize that that's the way he was created and that he is a wise person.

"When the holy ones were setting up the stars for the humans, they would take single stars from the buckskin pouch and carefully place them in the sky," Chavez said. "The coyote got impatient and complained that the method took too long. After a while, he grabbed the buckskin and threw the stars into the sky and that's why they look scattered."

The most important constellation for the Navajo people depicts a man standing in a wide stance holding a staff.

"That constellation alone has more than 30 stars," Chavez said. "He teaches us stability and that we need to stand for our values, our families, livestock and land. If we forget to live with our neighbors, we are instructed to look into the heavens for the laws of respect and harmonies.

"These things are some of the most important things we can teach about our children."

Chavez also wove the Milky Way into his rug.

"The Milky Way rotates around the sky, and in January or February will align perfectly with the east," he said. "The east is important to us because that's where our blessings come from. It represents the forehead of one of the Holy Ones and teaches us harmony. We want to breathe that cold morning air because we want to breathe in the blessings."

During that time, there is a constellation that is known as The One Who Waits for the Dawn that can be seen under the Milky Way.

"The way it is seen represents the forehead of a holy man," Chavez said.

This year, there are many new rugs created by younger weavers.

"It's good to see these, because those rugs tell me the younger weavers are learning about the night sky and the teachings," he said. "As a weaver, it's important to balance the colors and life on the loom, and that's an important thing they need to learn."

The Adopt-A-Native Elder's 23rd Annual Rug Show and Sale will be held at Deer Valley's Snow Park Lodge from Friday, Nov. 2, through Sunday, Nov. 4. Friday's hours are from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m., and will include a live auction from 8 p.m. until 9 p.m. The Saturday and Sunday show will run from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Friday's admission is $30 for adults and $10 for children. Admission for Saturday and Sunday is $5 or a canned-food donation. For the full schedule, see story titled "Navajo Rug Show Schedule." For more information, visit www.anelder.org .