Ndahoo'ah Stories : Stella


ART: Rug by Francis Shodi, Elder Stella Cly and Eli Spanier.

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It is good that you asked me to speak to you about weaving. My grandfather was Hastiin litsooi yellowman. He was of the Hanaaghaa nii One-who-walks-around-you clan. Which makes me of the Taachii nii Red-running-into-water clan.

When we were very young, my mother died. I never got to see my mother. So that left only my father to take care of us. When I turned 14 years old, my father told me that I must learn how to card and spindle wool. We had many sheep, horses and cattle &emdash; so besides taking care of the animals we learned how to weave. It was my father who taught me the importance of weaving rugs. He would say, "it is food. It will be your livelihood." It is called naalyehe. You must even learn for the animals because someday you will make saddle blankets to make a horse look good.

At that age, I did not understand the full meaning of naalyehe. But today, I know what it means. It is work and it is progress. It is because of weaving that I have clothing, jewelry and my house.

Although my mother died when I was young, I learned all of these things from the encouragement of my father. My father gave me away at a young age. It was not long after I had learned how to weave. He gave me away to a man of the Bitahnii- with his/her cover clan. He told me that this was the man that I would share my life with. This man knew how to spin wool very well and he would help me. He was a good man and I must admit that I did learn how to spin wool even better from him. He helped me learn how to set looms and we worked well together. I even bought a car with the money I made from selling my rugs.

To me, weaving is not a hobby, it is my occupation. I am very happy that I was asked to be a part of this weaving project. Let me teach you the parts of the loom and what they are called:

Now with the comb, you are not only batting a design together, you are also chasing the evil spirits of poverty away. When you are talking, or asking about weaving you are also talking about the beauty way. For instance, you must never hit a child or a person with the spindle, wool card or batting comb because it is not wise It is not the beauty way. These things are taught to us by our elders. They were taught to me by my father and to him by his father. They taught us to respect all things. Your sheep, horses and cattle; you use them for work and to progress in life. This is what I say is called "iinah."

They tell me I am 62 years old, but by my count I am 63. I am old now and have had many children. I have taught them and have told them the tradtions of the Navajo. I used to keep these things to myself. I no longer do that because weaving is shi naalye -to be shared. I do this today so that the young people can see and learn. I have shared all of these things with you because it makes me happy. I am thankful for this and I hope that I am remembered in this way.

Copyright 1995.