Adopt-A-Native-Elder’s Navajo rug show and sale celebrates three decades benefiting Native elders
What: Adopt-A-Native-Elder’s 30th annual Navajo Rug Show and Sale
When: 6 p.m. gala on Friday, Nov. 8; 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 9 and 10
Where: Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge
Cost: $30 for adults and $10 for children on Friday; $5 on Saturday and Sunday
Adopt-A-Native-Elder’s upcoming Navajo rug show and sale is a 30-year culmination of showcasing authentic culture and art.
The event, which raises money for Navajo elders so they can purchase food and supplies for the winter, will run Friday through Sunday, Nov. 8-10, at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge and will feature close to 80 weavers who travel with their families to town from their reservation that spans throughout northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico, said Executive Director Linda Myers.
“We celebrate the art, culture and spirit of the last generation of traditional Navajo rug weavers, and 100% of the proceeds from rug purchases goes directly to the weavers,” Myers said.
Friday, which is the gala opening, will include a sale preview of the hand-woven rugs, hors d’oeuvres, entertainment and a live auction.
During that time, Myers will honor organizations and foundations that have supported her nonprofit over the years. The George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation and Robert I. Wishnick Foundation are among the organizations that have been invited, Myers said.
“We have asked them to speak for a few minutes about why they have supported us all these years,” she said.
The organizations will be honored with two books that were published this year and spotlight the rug show and sale and the weavers.
One of the books, “‘Celebration of Weaving,’ is about the journey of the rug shows and it features the people, all the rugs and different events, including our breast cancer awareness year and the year we invited the Navajo Code Talkers,” Myers said.
The second book, “The Elders’ Stories,” is about the weavers, their traditions and trials.
“We originally had 134 stories, but we couldn’t do a book that big, so we selected 54 stories for the book,” she said.
In addition to the short speeches by foundation members and leaders on Friday, Jock Soto, a former principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, will give a presentation, Myers said.
Soto, who was born to a Navajo mother and Puerto Rican father, was 16 when the dance company’s late founder George Balancine hand-picked him to join the roster in 1981. Soto is being brought in as a special guest by the Robert I. Wishnick Foundation, Myers said.
Saturday’s schedule will include traditional children’s dances, weaving demonstrations, Navajo cultural teachings and a pageant, while Sunday’s events will include a veterans ceremony, weaving demonstration and a powwow.
This year is the last time Adopt-A-Native-Elder will host its rug show at Deer Valley, its home for the past 25 years, because the resort declined to renew its contract with the nonprofit, Myers said.
Deer Valley provided a statement to The Park Record explaining why the contract wasn’t renewed.
“We have supported the Adopt-A-Native-Elder program and their event for many years and did give them notice that we will not be able to host their event next fall,” the statement reads. “Snow Park Lodge is planned to be under a significant renovation next year and therefore the space will not be available.”
The statement also said Deer Valley will soon be implementing a new approach to hosting nonprofit events that will include a formal application process.
“We feel the right thing to do moving forward is to rotate our support among the many worthy non-profits in our community,” the resort said in the statement. “We also felt it was best to give Adopt-A-Native time to find a suitable, alternative location.”
Myer said she understands change, and is ready to tell the elders the rug show will relocate next year.
“They loved Deer Valley, and it was like stepping into a different world when they came from the reservation straight to the lodge,” Myers said. “They would tell me they didn’t have to wake up at 3 in the morning to put wood in the stove to warm up the house.”
One year, an elder learned how to turn her room’s fireplace on with a switch, and she sat there turning the fire on and off all night, Myers said.
The rug show and sale started as an informal request in 1989, Myers said.
“One of the elders asked me to sell a rug,” she said. “There were no signed contracts. It was all based on trust.”
Myers looked for a place to hold the sale, and ended up at the old antique mall on Main Street, which has since been renovated into the Parkite building.
“We had 20 rugs, and the owners of the mall said they would give us a table so we could show the rugs for two nights,” Myers said. “We brought in four people to represent the weavers during that time, and they all slept in my living room.”
The next year, Myers, who had connections with the Kimball Art Center, began hosting the rug show at the center, which was then located at the intersection of Heber Avenue and Main Street.
“The first year with Kimball, we brought in 10 weavers, and the number of weavers we brought in has grown over the years,” Myers said.
Myers moved the rug show to Deer Valley thanks to her neighbor, Bob Wheaton, the resort’s former president and COO.
“He lived down the street from me, and when he gets involved with something, he really gets involved,” she said.
Myers has seen the quality of the rugs rise throughout the past three decades.
“Before we started the show, the weavers would make rugs just to trade for their livelihood,” she said. “If they needed hay or other essential items, they would weave rugs and sell them to traders.”
The traders would still try to talk down the weavers’ asking prices.
“They would tell the elders that the colors in the rug are a little off here, or the weave isn’t as tight there,” she said. “By doing this, the traders would knock off a percentage of the price with each criticism. And then when they were finished doing that, the traders will say something like, ‘Gosh, I’d like to give you more, but I really can’t.’”
The perspective and attitudes of the weavers changed when they began weaving rugs for the annual sale.
“They began seeing their rugs as works of art,” Myers said. “They take care when they are weaving, because they want to sell the rugs during the event or online. They have taken greater pride in what they are making.”
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