ECHOES benefit at MNA in Flag

Though not as financially profitable as its organizers might have liked, the ECHOES benefit art auction brought people from different communities together at the Museum of Northern Arizona for an evening of entertainment, great food and the chance to view a wide variety of art pieces.

Entering Branigar Hall on the evening of May 6, one could not help but be impressed with the visible support for efforts of ECHOES in defense of the San Francisco Peaks.

Kelvin Long, director of ECHOES (Educating Communities While Healing and Offering Environmental Support) welcomed everyone to the event and thanked them for their time and contributions.

Long read a letter of support by writer Tony Hillerman, the creator of the now-legendary fictional Navajo Police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn in a series of mystery novels steeped in Navajo culture. Hillerman expressed in his letter his disappointment that he could not join the event in person.

Jeneda Benally, a member of the band, Blackfire and a spokesperson for the Save the Peaks Coalition, also expressed her appreciation for such an impressive show of support and partnership.

Benally described the peaks as holding an important role in her life as a Navajo woman.

“The Peaks are the foundation of my existence. I view them as a unique medicine island,” Benally said.

“I’m very happy to have this event here at the museum,” said director Robert Breunig, who mingled with visitors to the museum, but did not speak publicly. “It’s great to see native and non-native people together, thinking about our community and holding a common responsibility for where we live.”

Jones Benally, who fills several roles within the community as a healer, musician and dancer, performed a hoop dance.

“I learned hoop dancing from my grandfather,” Benally said. “I have learned that using wastewater for skiing is wrong. People all over the world support our efforts, more and more every day. That’s why we’re here—because of everything we believe. We need help.”

Benally added his thanks to everyone who went out for the evening.

Artist Jerimiah Kerley donated three paintings featuring his view of the San Francisco Peaks from his home in Grey Mountain. Each depicted stylized feathers in the shadows, which he sees as representing the many blessings the Creator gives to all, Kerley said.

“I am glad to see that this is a global issue. I wanted to do something for my community, and I thought this would be worthwhile,” Kerley said.

Kim Lohnes of Grand Falls donated a pair of beaded moccasins to the auction.

“I wanted to make this contribution to protect the peaks,” she said.

The biggest competition between bidders centered on a bracelet by Flagstaff silversmith Jay McCormick—which fetched $525 for the effort.

Other artists included Bahe Whitethorne, Shonto Begay, Raechel Running and John Running.

Ann Widmann, the editor of the Navajo Hopi Observer, as well as Jeff Greyeyes, who also works at the paper as Graphics Manager, were also on hand to celebrate the evening.

Bill Bloom served as the evening’s auctioneer. He won laughter and applause as he greeted noted Navajo artist Shonto Begay.

“Do you remember me? I made you famous,” Bloom said.

Several years ago, as a teacher, Bloom decided to take his students to the Museum of Northern Arizona to view the artwork of Begay. One of Begay’s pieces, a painting of Changing Woman and her twins, offended one parent, who took her child from the exhibition, Bloom recounted. The subsequent press brought Begay’s artwork to the front pages of local newspapers, including the Arizona Daily Sun.

Begay obviously enjoyed the story along with everyone else.

As the auction came to a close, thrilled buyers lined up to pay for their purchases.

“I can’t believe it! I actually got my painting,” a thrilled Jamescita Peshlakai gushed. Peshlakai walked away with three pieces, eager to get home to hang them. One was a photograph of Radmilla Cody, her mother, grandmother and other family members at a loom. She also took home one of Kerley’s paintings.

Though some of the higher-priced pieces went without bids, the event was certainly not a failure.

“I am very happy that this was such a success,” Long said. “We raised a couple thousand dollars, which will assist us in our efforts to designate the San Francisco Peaks as a World Heritage Site. This designation can only happen with the support of all the people of the Southwest.”

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