Adopt-A-Native Elder will celebrate 25th annual Navajo Rug Show
For 25 years, Linda Myers, executive director of Adopt-A-Native Elder, a nonprofit organization that helps provide food, basic medicines and other necessities for elders living traditionally on the Navajo reservation in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, has hosted the Navajo Rug Show and Sale in Park City.
Every year, the show has a theme that the elder rug weavers incorporate into their rugs. Last year it was "Weaving Winter Stories," and another past theme was "Weaving Wild Horses."
This year, the theme for the event, which will be held Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov. 9, at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge, will be "Honoring Our Weavers."
"The reason why is because the elders are getting pretty old," Myers said during an interview with The Park Record. "Our 100-year-old grandma, Carol Blackhorse, who had come to every show since the beginning, just passed. We then realized we really needed to celebrate the old ones, because we are losing them."
However, this year’s theme surprised the weavers.
"I had made it very difficult for them because I asked them to do self-portraits of themselves weaving at the loom," Myers said with a laugh. "A lot, even the good weavers, told us they couldn’t do it. But on the other hand, we received rugs from our older ones who showed us they could."
All the rugs in the show will depict scenes of the weavers, many of whom are grandmothers, working their craft.
"We also received some rugs from younger weavers who have been coming to the show since they were 10 years old," Myers said.
A few special rugs will be auctioned off on Friday. One of those is titled "Weavers’ Way of Life," by Florence Riggs.
"It shows a scene in the weaver’s hogan," Myers said. "Her husband is there and her daughter is taking care of a baby. This is a typical scene when you go into an elder’s home."
Two more rugs that will be auctioned off together were done by Sarah Robertson and her daughter Rena.
"[Sarah] started her rug and got almost ¾ of the way done and passed away," Myers said. "William Whitehair, one of her relatives, was asked to finish the rug.
"So, to honor her mother, Rena decided to weave an image of her mother into a different rug," Myers explained. "I had taken a photo of her mother and sent it to her and Rena’s rug shows her mother in the same dress that’s in the photo."
Other rugs that will be included in the show and sale depict longtime weaver Arlene Whitehair in her wheelchair and one by her daughter Miriam, who was 10 when she started weaving.
"Miriam was known for her horse rugs and night-star rugs," Myers said. "So she wanted to incorporate all of her themes into one rug to show who she is as an adult."
As it has in the past 25 years, the money made through the sale will help the Navajo elders live through the winter.
"They will be able to buy supplies and food during the harsh temperatures," Myers said.
The first Adopt-A-Native Elder rug show and sale was held at the Kimball Art Center.
"It was held only one day," Myers remembered. "I would go in at 9 a.m. with all the elders and set up their rugs and we would open at noon."
The idea came after Myers had helped deliver food to Big Mountain Reservation.
"They gave me some rugs to sell and I noticed that these were actually works of art," Myers said. "I told the weavers that I would help find a place to sell their rugs in Park City."
The first show featured six weavers.
"It grew slowly from there," Myers said. "We would do the same kinds of demonstrations that we do now. We would bring in school children and play flute music. The elders would sing."
Shortly afterwards the show was extended to two days, because it drew a lot of people into the Art Center.
"One day I went to schedule a show and the Kimball was booked for that day," Myers said.
So one of her volunteers went to Bob Wheaton, the general manager and president of Deer Valley Resort, and asked him about moving the rug show to the Snow Park Lodge.
"The first show was in one room, and when we saw how big it was, we decided to bring in more weavers," Myers said. "We have 70 weavers who make the rugs and 40 of them with their families come to the show."
Getting the elders to the show is one of the biggest challenges, but also the most rewarding aspect of the annual event.
"It’s a 10-hour drive from the reservation," Myers said. "Family members take off of work to drive them up. Sometimes others will come from the reservation during the show and take the elders home after it’s done. So it’s really anyone who has a vehicle will come help.
"Sometimes it’s hard because these elders don’t understand a word of English and they have to sit there for four hours at a time, trying to get people to buy their rugs," she said. "But they have met people who appreciate their work and they have earned the respect of the people who buy the rugs."
Celebrating 25 years is big deal for Myers and she couldn’t have done it without her volunteers.
"A lot of the elders are in their 80s and 90s and many of their families have taken over the weaving or are now weavers," she said. "I appreciate everyone who has worked to help us year-round to make this special event."
The schedule for Adopt-A-Native Elder’s 25th annual Navajo Rug Show and Sale
Friday, Nov. 7
Saturday, Nov. 8
Sunday, Nov. 9
The Adopt-A-Native Elder 25th annual Navajo Rug Show and Sale will be held Nov. 7 through Nov. 9, 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. For more information, visit http://www.anelder.org or http://www.facebook.com/adoptanativeelder.
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