Cultural Appropriation – From the Navajo Perspective

NOTA: puede ver la historia en español abajo del inglés.

Last month we promised two articles on cultural appropriation, one from a non-Navajo, the second from a Navajo, both looking at appropriation with regards to the Navajo world. Paul Zolbrod looked at the issue from the outside in, and now Lynda Teller Pete is going to offer her perspective from the inside out. This post is to introduce Lynda and her first-hand experience with appropriation. On Sunday morning (May 3, 2020) we will post her essay on the subject in more general terms. Read on, and learn.

By Lynda Teller Pete

Photographs by Belvin Pete

I wove a period piece tapestry in 2011 and entered it into the Santa Fe Indian Market as a Child’s Blanket.  Child’s Blankets were made from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.  My designs tell the story of our people, prisoners of war, and their journey home to our homeland in 1868.  The designs that are top and bottom of the black and white are prison fences at Bosque Redondo.  Our people crossed over rough terrain; the flat blue and gray represent the terrain.  The black and gray crosses are a simple variant of a Spider Woman cross that guided our people. I on purpose did not weave in the Spider Woman crosses that are traditional. I made them plain black with gray because the faith was still there but our people needed and wanted to get home first.  The middle part is when the weavers are home, there is a renaissance, a color explosion, and the little yellow sections that belong on traditional Spider Woman crosses appear.

A copy of my Child’s Blanket from the Santa Fe Indian Market is in the right column. Woven in acrylic, the price was as low as $8.50 each for bulk purchase. A magazine called the owner and asked about it, and he said it was a variant of a Navajo traditional design.  He then said they were going to take my design out of the catalog to avoid future problems.

It is my design and my design only and it tells a story.  It is contemporary, it’s abstract, and only I can tell the story.  I have since made many more of them and there is one that tells the story of our captured people being marched to Bosque Redondo.

The catalog now has this disclaimer:  

The Items on this website are not Indian produced, an Indian product or the product of a particular Indian, Indian Tribe or Indian Arts and Craft Organization as defined by 2.5 USC & 305 et seq. Designs and images are copyrighted and may not be used without permission.

These are two more of my Child’s Blanket series:

The first tapestry is telling the story of our captured people marching to Bosque Redondo, far from the sacred mountains. They are represented in the colors of black, yellow, and turquoise. The blue stair steps represent their attempt to try to survive by continuing to weave. I did the old fashioned Spider Woman cross but I wove a heavy outline around it because it was a traumatic time for them. The second one is toward the end of the time in Bosque Redondo when our people are continuing to weave, are attempting to grow things, and the faith in Spider Woman is getting stronger, as shown by the many little yellow crosses.

People can’t just rip these off, they have meaning.  I dyed all my colors and it took many months to come up with designs after many were discarded.  Representation is important.

Lynda Teller Pete and Barbara Teller Ornelas have written two books about Navajo weaving, both published by Thrums Books (.com). Spider Woman’s Children, which tells the stories of contemporary Navajo weavers, came out in 2018. How to Weave a Navajo Rug and Other Lessons from Spider Woman will appear in October of 2020 and you are the first to see the cover. The essay on Cultural Appropriation that will appear in the WARP blog on May 3 is an adaptation from the new book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Apropiación Cultural – Desde la Perspectiva Navajo

Hace un mes prometimos dos artículos sobre apropiación cultural, uno de alguien no-navajo, el otro de un navajo, los dos viendo apropiación y como afecta el mundo navajo. Paul Zolbrod vio el tema de afuera hacia adentro, y ahora Lynda Teller Pete va a dar su perspectiva de adentro hacia afuera. Hoy presentamos Lynda y su experiencia personal con apropiación. El domingo (3 de mayo de 2020) vamos a publicar su ensayo más general del tema. Lea, y aprenda.

Autor: Lynda Teller Pete

Fotografías de Belvin Pete

Tejí una pieza del período en 2011, y la presenté al Mercado Indio de Santa Fe como una Chamara de Niño. Chamaras de Niño fueron hechas desde tarde en los 1800s hasta temprano en los 1900s. Mis diseños cuentan la historia de nuestro pueblo, prisioneros de guerra, y su viaje a nuestra tierra natal en 1868. Los diseños arriba y abajo del negro y blanco son cercas de prisión en Bosque Redondo. Nuestro pueblo cruzó sobre territorio difícil; el azul plano y el gris representan el terreno. Las cruces azules y negras son una variedad sencilla de una cruz de Mujer Araña, quien guia nuestra gente. Intencionalmente no tejí las cruces tradicionales de Mujer Araña. Las hice negra con gris porque la fe todavía existía pero nuestra gente necesitaba y quería regresar a casa primero.  La parte de en medio es cuando las tejedoras están en casa, hay un renacimiento, una explosión de color, y aparecen los puntos pequeños amarillos que son parte de las cruces tradicionales de Mujer Araña.

Puede ver una copia de mi Chamara de Niño del Mercado Indio de Santa Fe en la columna derecha. Tejido de acrílico, el precio es tan bajó como $8.50 c/u para compras mayores. La revista 5280 llamó el dueño de la empresa sobre esto, y él dijo que era una variedad de un diseño navajo tradicional. Después dijo que ellos iban a quitarlo del catálogo para evitar problemas en el futuro.

Es mi diseño, solamente mi diseño, y cuenta una historia. Es contemporáneo, es abstracto, y sólo yo puedo contar la historia. He hecho muchos más de estos y hay uno que cuenta la historia de nuestra gente capturada en marcha a Bosque Redondo. 

Ahora el catálogo tiene este descargo de responsabilidad:

Los artículos en esta website no son producidos por indios, ni son productos de indios o de un indio particular, una tribu de indios, ni una Organización de Arte y Artesanía Indio como está definido en 2.5 USC & 305 et seq. Diseños e imágenes tienen Derechos de Autor y no pueden estar usados sin permiso.

Aquí son dos más de mi seria de Chamaras de Niño:

La primera chamara cuenta la historia de nuestra gente capturada marchando a Bosque Redondo, lejos de las montañas sagradas. Ellos son representados con los colores de negro, amarillo, y turquesa. Las gradas azules representan sus esfuerzos para sobrevivir a través de continuar tejiendo. Usé la cruz de Mujer Araña del estilo viejo pero tejí un contorno grueso alrededor porque fue un tiempo traumático para ellos. La segunda representa el tiempo más cerca del fin de tiempo en Bosque Redondo, cuando nuestra gente sigue tejiendo, intenta sembrar hortalizas, y la fe en Mujer Araña crece más fuerte, demostrado por muchas cruces amarillas.

La gente de afuera no puede arrancar éstas, significan algo. Yo teñí todos mis colores, y me tomó muchos meses para crear diseños después de que muchos fueron descartados. Representación es importante.

Lynda Teller Pete y Barbara Teller Ornelas han escrito dos libros sobre tejidos navajos, los dos publicados por Thrums Books (.com). Los Hijos de Mujer Araña, 2018, cuenta las historias de tejedoras (y tres hombres) navajos contemporáneas. Como Tejer una Alfombra Navajo y Otras Lecciones de Mujer Araña va a aparecer en octubre de 2020, y ustedes son los primeros que vean la portada. El artículo sobre Apropiación Cultural que aparecerá el 3 de mayo es una adaptación del libro nuevo.

3 comments on “Cultural Appropriation – From the Navajo Perspective

  1. Thank so much. This is such important and timely information. I’m definitely buying the book from Thrums!

  2. This really shows me extra dimensions of the rugs, they are not just “another pretty weaving”, how each one has such a profound story, such historical significance, even aside from them being home grown hand spun naturally dyed hand woven. These are far more than works of art, they are works of life, of culture, of generations.

  3. This is a very thoughtful article. I have visited New Mexico many times over the years and have a deep appreciation of the Navaho and other SW tribal cultures. I once bought and proudly display a small Navaho woven rug. I recently took up weaving and have been hoping to also learn the Navaho way, but worried about appropriating traditional symbols and patterns, while wanting to make my “own” Navaho rug. After reading this article, I have changed my mind, not about learning to weave using Navaho techniques, which I still hope to have an opportunity to learn, but about the style and design path I could and should follow.

    My cultural and biological heritage is Scandinavian, which has a long history of textiles and weavings that incorporate ancient elemental symbols, geometric repetitions, clear colors, all with a certain simplicity that I think could be interpreted with Navaho weaving techniques. I would feel comfortable using those designs from my ancestors, in my own rug.

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