Michael Rogers has been a silversmith for the past 38 years. His daughter, Pauline Kothman, has been doing beadwork since she was a small girl. A large crowd from the Phoenix Valley surrounded both.
Kothman (Yurok) learned to craft beads from her mother, who in turn learned from her mother. Her chokers and bracelets show a simple elegance, done in what she calls a spiderweb stitch.
“Many think that they’ve done this stitch,” Kothman said. “They think it is done by looping, but it is actually more like a weave.”
She received Best of Show for her beadwork piece, done with corral, dentalia shell and digger pine nuts. Formerly, Yurok women wore nuts in great, long ropes around their necks.
But her work also reflects her father’s influence—displayed in elegant pendants including turtle shapes set with natural amber.
George Bennett (Hualapai), a resident of Tucson, presented his silverwork. He was raised in Seligman, approximately 72 miles west of Flagstaff, and has been doing silverwork for over 30 years.
When asked the spelling of his name, Bennett laughed with good nature. He pointed out that in the past writers and historians were not always interested in the actual name of their Native American subjects.
“You always see a caption underneath the picture reading ‘Navajo silversmith at work,’” he said. “I have a friend who was in a well-known magazine. His name was not included.”
Bennett arrived too late for his work to be considered in the judging, but was enjoying demonstrating his work to the museum crowd.
Fostering the craft
Everett Don Pikyavit (Southern Paiute/Goshute) is an enrolled member of the Moapa Band of Paiutes. He has been making baskets, sifters, cradleboards, burden baskets, women’s hats and numerous other items for the past seven years. He learned the art from his grandmother, and holds the distinction of being the only Southern Paiute weaver north of the Grand Canyon actively producing and selling his wares.
Pikyavit plans on changing this fact, and has recently started passing on his knowledge to other Southern Paiute individuals, encouraging them in the traditional designs, materials and individual basketry. In this way, Pikyavit is doing his part to ensure that this intricate art form continues into the future.
This is Pikyavit’s second year in a row to receive the Best of Division award.
He is adept at two types of cradleboards. The Paiute style features a cloth cover and is decorated in blue for girls and green or sometimes red for boys—diamonds and touching lines for girls, diagonal designs for boys. The Moapa cradleboards, on the other hand, do not feature cloth coverings, due to the hotter temperatures.
“If one wrapped their baby in a Paiute-style cradleboard, he or she would bake,” Pikyavit said.
Traditionally, it was the Paiute women who created these intricately woven items.
“I’m doing it because I’m the only one doing it, because I know how,” he said.
There are some individuals in the Nevada basin who do similar work, Pikyavit said, such as sifters, used to remove the dirt and pine needles from pinion nuts. But, he added, these are done with two-rod rather than three-rod construction demonstrated in his work.
His materials include devil’s claw, desert willow, cat claw rods, buckskin, sumac threads, shell, red willow threads, cliff rose ropes.
A group of older people from Sun City queued around the pleasant setting of the museum courtyard.
“I came up from the valley to see the Navajo show,” one woman said. “I enjoyed it so much that I had to come back.”