Ndahoo'ah Stories : Sandra Black - Beadwork Designer


ART: Beadwork collection from Sandra Black's group in 1994.

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I am Todichii nii- Bitter water and of the Kinyaa aanii- Towering house clan. This is how I was made a woman. I have five daughters and eleven grandchildren. I was born and raised here in Monument Valley, Utah. When I was 11 years old my mother died. My father took the place of my mother to raise us. In those days we were raised on the food that we could grow: corn, squash and melons. Our transportation was mostly by wagon. Everything we did was hard work.

I remember we often had to carry water several miles in tin cans to water our crops. The land was harsh. There were many sand dunes, which made it hard to grow crops. Everything was done by hand. There were no hoses or good tools. We had to pull weeds by hand. As a child I grew up doing hard work.

Sheep was another means of supporting our means. We had to learn the importance of them. Even while herding sheep I used to gather wood for cooking. I learned that there were many ways of providing and making food from what we could grow. All these things I learned so as I grew older I would know how to help myself.

I used to be told to get up early before sunrise so that I may be in good health and have a sound mind. I was told to listen to my elders when they were angry with me. It was all for my own good. All of these things were taught to me by my father and my older sister.

My father became my mother. He taught me everything about how to make a living with what we had. He was a man who knew how to card and spindle wool and set a loom. He even knew how to weave. He was good at weaving saddle blankets. I learned how to weave from my father.

When I was about 12 years old I first learned how to do beadwork. This was at Dennehotso boarding school. Like rug weaving beading must be done with respect because it is your thoughts that you put in your design. If you are disrespectful or sluggish it shows in your design.

I was told that white shelled beads were made for the women and that turquoise were for the men. The red and the black and other beads are sacred. Some represent the earth and some the heavens. These things are only taught between the medicine men.

I have made many bracelets, pins and beading for clothing. It wasn't until after I had children that I started to bead for a living. I have taught all of my children how to do beadwork, rug weaving and basket weaving. These things are learned to help develop the mind.

I am glad that some of our young people are relearning the arts and crafts. I am thankful and happy for them that they want to learn from me. When both want to learn, we all learn and that is the way it should be. Thank you again and learn all that you can: 'Ndahoo'aah'- relearn.

Copyright 1995.