Adopt-a-Native Elder rug show highlights ceremonial blankets
November 4, 2015
Since 1989, the nonprofit known as the Adopt-a-Native Elder program has presented a Navajo rug show and sale in Park City.
The event raises money to help provide food, medical supplies and firewood for more than 80 Native American elders who live on the Navajo reservation.
This year’s annual show and sale will be held Friday through Sunday, Nov. 6 – 8 at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge.
In keeping with tradition, the rugs this year will feature a theme, said Linda Myers, executive director of Adopt-a-Native Elder.
"This year’s theme is Weaving Ceremonial Blankets," Myers said during an interview with The Park Record. "It was inspired by the Pendleton, which is a ceremonial blanket with a Native design. It’s also the name of a clothing company."
The Pendleton Company, which was started in 1909, has used Native tribe designs for many years in their clothing, Myers said.
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"I looked at these designs and realized that Pendleton has used them to make their fortune," Myers said. "So, I felt we should have the elders weave their own designs of ceremonial blankets in these rugs."
When Myers presented the theme after last year’s show, she was surprised by the response.
"Everyone wanted to do it," she said. "All, even the older ones, wanted to weave something, which was different for us because sometimes when we present a theme, there are some weavers that don’t want to do it."
The ceremonial blankets are usually given at birthdays, school graduations, new births and other life events, according to Rodger Williams, the son of a weaver.
"A Pendleton blanket, which is also called a women’s shawl, will not burn and is waterproof. So, these elders also wear them in the winter during their ceremonies," Williams said. "In the Navajo culture, if you receive a Pendleton blanket, it is a gift of honor."
Myers asked a weaver to create a rug that depicts women and shamans wearing these blankets. The rug will be auctioned during the show on Friday.
"This rug shows several people standing by the fire during a ceremony and they have their blankets wrapped around them," Williams said. "You can see the images in the sky that show it is taking place at night. You can see two Holy Ones in the sky with the stars."
The rug also shows mountains capped with snow, which depicts a winter ceremony.
"These are long ceremonies that usually last for nine days," Williams said. "It includes a fire dance and a Ye’i bichei dance, which is a winter gods healing ceremony."
Myers and the rug’s weaver, Rena Roberts, discussed this design for quite a while before Roberts started on it.
"We wanted to show someone what it looks like during the ceremony on the land," Myers said. "You can see the different ages as depicted by the hair color of the images."
Since this rug is the main auction item, it will remain one-of-a-kind, Myers said.
"That means it will never be copied and no one will ever commission the design," she said.
While people may not be able to bid on the ceremonial rug, there will be other rugs with Pendleton designs available for purchase throughout the sale.
In fact, the Adopt-a-Native Elder program has it’s own custom-made Pendleton blanket that is available for purchase during the show.
"Doug Hollinger at Park City Clothing works closely with the Pendleton Company and came to me a few years back and said we could design our own blanket," she said. "Pendleton created it as a signature blanket, which means they did only a limited number, and it shows all of the areas where the elders live."
In addition to the blanket, there will be other hand-woven rugs the public will be able to purchase this weekend.
"One has a design called ‘Navajo Water,’" Myers said. "It features a dragonfly and is one of his most best-selling ceremonial blankets."
Another rug features the Circle of Life design, said Williams.
"Some of us know it as the Medicine Wheel," he said. "It includes four sacred colors of people in the world — black, red, white and yellow — and those colors also represents the four directions, north, south, east and west, the four seasons, the four sacred herbs in ceremonies and the four stages of life."
For Williams, the Navajo rugs have special meaning to him, in addition to the designs.
"My mother was a weaver," he said. "She wove most of her life and she learned how to weave in her teenage years from her aunts."
When his father died, his mother supported Williams and his eight siblings by weaving.
"She stayed home and wove rugs into her early 90s," he said.
Williams said the theme of Weaving Ceremonial Blankets is special for the elders because of the nature of the blankets that the rugs depict.
"These blankets come out during the ceremonies where we celebrate stages, rites of passages and events to honor someone," he said. "To honor someone is to make them beautiful and let them know that they appreciate them.
"All tribes that we know of across the country use the Pendleton blanket to honor each other," he said. "So, it is our honor this year to honor our elders with the blankets and to let them show us their talents."
Here is Adopt-a-Native Elder’s 26th annual rug show schedule. All events will be held at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge
Friday, Nov. 6
Admission: $30 for adults, $10 for children younger than 12.
Saturday, Nov. 7
Admission: $5 or a canned-food donation
Sunday, Nov. 8
Admission: $5 or a canned-food donation
The Adopt-A-Native Elder 26th annual Navajo Rug Show and Sale will be held Nov. 6 – 8 at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge. Admission on Friday is $30 for adults and $10 for children under the age of 12. Saturday and Sunday admission is $5 or a canned-food donation. Proceeds will benefit Navajo elders in Arizona and Utah. For more information, visit http://www.anelder.org or http://www.facebook.com/adoptanativeelder .
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