Ndahoo'ah Stories: Betty Nelson - Rug Weaver


ART: Betty Nelson's Group Rug, 1994

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I am of the Tachii nii- Red Running into water and of the Bitahnii- with his/her cover clan. This is what I was told to be my clan. And by this, I was to identify myself as a woman. I am 53 years old and I still weave rugs today to make a living. Before I could learn how to weave rugs I had to learn how to card wool. When I was a young woman, my father cut a piece of wood out of a tree an fixed an old broken wool card for me to learn to card wool. Then I learned how to spin the wool and how to make a loom. These are the steps to learning how to weave.

I was told to learn all you can about weaving- it will not be for nothing. Someday, I was told, I would have a family and would have children. So, I would need to know these things for them as well as for myself.

My grandparents shi naali knew weaving songs and taught me by puting the words in order for me. They would say to me "It is a blessing to weave." This is called yooda bil ndadilye- the art of weaving. This is how I know these things today. I think and remember what I was told about the traditions of weaving, and I follow them.

I was told that the spider woman was the one who taught us how to weave. I was told that this is called tooh taa az tloh-the first weave. Although I was never told the whole story, I do know that it was not by accident that I learned how to weave because it is a blessing to know how to weave.

There are different songs and prayers for different designs. Today, I keep this in mind as I weave. I also was taught never to let a loom unfinished- I must complete it. I was also taught not to teach it to those who would not respect the traditions of weaving- for they are sacred. They are my thoughts, my guidance, and my teachings. Each part of the loom: the batting, the comb, the side posts are sacred. Each have prayers that go with them. That is why you must take special care of them. If the weaving tools are misused, or if harmony is lost it may cause you to lose your eyesight, hearing or it may cause you to have speaking problems. That is why you must always respect and keep harmony with all things. Even men, when they are learning or teaching how to braid or make moccasins, they are taught and teach to respect the instruments with which they work. They are sacred.

I was even told, when I stopped weaving for a period of time, that the whole loom begins to miss you. Today, If you are serious about weaving, you can make a good living. It is the same with your livestock. All of these things can make money for you. If you respect the teachings of your elders, you can make a good life and support yourself.

I have taught all of my daughters how to weave and have told them about the importance of weaving. I have told them that they may earn a living by weaving. I am happy that there are projects such as this to teach or to relearn the art of weaving- it shouldn't be lost. Not only weaving, but also basket making, beadwork, even the making of sash belts.

One last thing: it is no secret to learn how to weave- it is a blessing. You can receive the blessing way from the medicine man. He can pray for you. Then it is up to you- how much you want to learn. Like ceremonies, certain songs, must be done with great respect and harmony.

This is all I know, or can say about weaving and I thank you.

Copyright 1995.