Rug festival covers Navajo elders’ expenses
November 6, 2017
Throughout the Navajo reservation in Utah and Arizona, many elderly people struggle in the winter.
They need food for themselves and hay for their horses. They also need firewood to keep warm.
This is basic reason Linda Myers founded the Adopt-a-Native Elder nonprofit 34 years ago.
"Many live in the traditional hogan and raise sheep to maintain themselves," Myers said. "Our program helps provides food, simple medicines, clothing, fabric, and yarns to help these Elders live on the Land in their traditional lifestyle."
There are many ways to help, including adopting an elder — which entails providing food boxes to an elder twice a year — participating on food runs and donating yarn and firewood.
For the past 28 years, Myers has presented the annual Navajo Rug Show and Sale.
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This year, the event will be held this year Nov. 10-12 at Deer Valley's Snow Park Lodge.
The event will start at 6 p.m. with a gala celebration on Friday. The evening will feature a preview of traditional hand-woven rugs, jewelry and crafts, hors d'oeuvres, entertainment and live and silent auctions.
Admission to the Friday gala is $30 for adults and $10 for children under the age of 12.
Saturday and Sunday hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission on those days is $5 or a canned food donation.
Saturday's schedule will include basket and rug sales, a children's princess pageant, traditional dances, weaving demonstrations and the Native American Grandma and Grandpa Idol contests.
Sunday's events will feature basket and rug sales, a veterans ceremony, weaving demonstrations and closing pow-wow.
"All of the culture presentations are a way for the elders and weavers to exchange with Park City for allowing them to come sell their rugs," said Adopt-a-Native Elder assistant director C.J. Robb. "But it's really a festival that celebrates Navajo culture."
The rugs this year come from an area called Teec Nos Pos, an area on the Navajo Reservation on the Arizona side of the Four Corners.
"Teec Nos Pos, which means a circle of trees, has a little trading post, which has become a megacenter for just those types of rugs," Myers said. "What's unique about the Teec Nos Pos style is they are the probably the hardest rugs anyone can weave."
The style was inspired by Oriental rugs that traders showed Navajo rug weavers in the early 1900s.
"Although the Navajo weavers didn't weave Oriental rug patterns, they were inspired by the detail and wove rugs that featured symbols of Navajo ceremonies — the eagle feather, arrows, lightning and other designs," Myers said.
Some of the rugs at the show will have designs that weavers saw on everyday items.
"What most people don't know is that the weavers get their diamond patterns from playing cards," Myers said. "Some weavers put checkerboard designs in their rugs that were inspired by the game of checkers." All of the rugs will have borders, inspired by traditional Navajo designs, and many color changes.
"One of our weavers, Delorcita Francis, actually, makes two different rugs into one," Myers said. "She weaves a border and then weaves a different pattern inside the border."
Some weavers, like Irene Littleben chooses to keep her rugs simple.
"She focuses on the border and weaves cleaner designs," Myers said.
When Myers announced the Teec Nos Pos theme to the weavers this year, many said they had "no Teec in me," expressing their intimidation at the thought of weaving in a Teec Nos Pos style."However, some of them tried to make these rugs," Myers said.
"This is a big part of the rug show," Robb said. "Every year we try to challenge the older weavers who are coming to the show."
Many of weavers who will attend this year's show range in ages between 90 and 95.
"They have been coming for all of these years, and I want to still bring them, because they have no means of support other than selling their rugs," she said. "Selling the rugs give them the opportunity to sustain themselves."
Myers understands that many people in Park City have already given money to other fundraisers, including national ones that are supporting areas ravaged by natural disasters.
"We still want to let people know that we do this show because it's the only support these weavers have to help them get through the winter," Myers said.
The Adopt-a-Native Elder rug show is a labor of love for Myers, who started the show at the Kimball Art Center in 1989.
"I would bring all of these elderly women up to Park City and they would sleep at my home," she said. "The Kimball Art Center gave us one day form 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to sell the rugs. Then the next year the Kimball Art Center donated two days." This year has been good to Adopt-a-Native Elder. Earlier this year, CNN spotlighted the nonprofit on its "Heroes" series, a program that features everyday people who want to help change the world.
"We had people from all over the world, including radio shows, contact us," Myers said.
Thanks to the story, Adopt-a-Native Elder began serving a new area in Kayenta, Arizona.
"For me it was more about people knowing that these elders exist," Myers said.
Currently the nonprofit serves 556 elders, 80 of whom are weavers.
"So we have many elders who need help through the winter, and all the donations that come through the show help them," Myers said.
Adopt-a-Native Elder's 28th annual Navajo Rug Show and Sale will be held Nov. 10-12, at Deer Valley's Snow Park Lodge. Friday's events, including a gala, live and silent auctions, will run from 6-10 p.m., Saturday, which will include a Navajo children's princess pageant, Native American Grandma and Grandpa Idol competitions, will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday's schedule, including a veterans ceremony and closing power, will also run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for children under the age of 12. Saturday and Sunday admission is $5, or a canned food donation. For information visit http://www.anelder.org.
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