FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - In August of 1949, through the cooperation of traders on the western portion of the Navajo Reservation, 15 trading posts submitted 10 of their best rugs to the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) to compete for prizes. The museum intended to interest both weavers and traders in keeping alive the old styles of weaving and improving the quality of yarns, dyes, and designs. This was the beginning of the Navajo Festival.
On Friday and Saturday, the 62nd Annual Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture will gather 75 artists from all corners of the Navajo Nation at the Museum, continuing the tradition of bringing artwork to market and sharing what makes their artwork distinctive. These two days of cultural immersion promise prominent musical performers, a traditional dance troupe, and Heritage Insight talks from the region's experts, all giving visitors a Navajo experience.
"The festival's theme of 'A Walk in Beauty' describes the weekend's experience well," says Museum Director Robert Breunig. "It's a lovely way to spend a high country summer day among the Flagstaff pines, here at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, or in Navajo, Doo'Ko'osliid. This year's entertainment under the big tent is some of the region's best, and there will surely be a monsoon shower or two."
Heritage Program Manager Anne Doyle says she is excited about the Navajo Festival's Heritage Insight presentations this year.
"These talks are meant to give visitors an intimate, in-depth understanding of our neighbors, the Diné people. Sponsored by Arizona Humanities Council, the talks are on subjects with cultural, historical, scientific, or artistic significance," Doyle said.
Zonnie Gorman is an expert in the field of Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. She talks about their history and the experiences of her father, Dr. Carl Gorman, who was one of the original Code Talkers. Zonnie Gorman has lectured on this subject throughout the U.S. at universities, colleges, and museums, including MNA and the Museum of the American Indian.
In a community with few jobs, no public utilities, and high drop-out rates, the STAR School has set out to be a model small community school delivering a superior education. It promotes sustainable living, self-reliance, alternative building methods, and energy sources such as solar power, and it is the first solar-powered charter school in the U.S. Award-winning educator and media arts instructor Rachel Tso will introduce five student films at the festival including "RedBird Saves the Corn," a traditional Spider Woman story told through Lightbox Animation; "Ta'che'e'," a short documentary on the sweatlodge ceremony; "STAR Energy," which took Best of Fest at the Arizona Student Film Festival about using solar and wind power; "Nitsidigo'i," about making kneel down bread; and "Do'koo'osliid," about the role of the San Francisco Peaks in the lives of the student filmmakers.
Theresa Boone Schuler, a Diné educator from Flagstaff, will again lead the very popular ethnobotany walks along the Museum's Rio de Flag Nature Trail. She will discuss the traditional Navajo uses of regional native plants. Schuler gained her knowledge from her father, a noted Diné herbalist who urged her to pass on the knowledge of traditional healing plants by teaching about plant identification and usage.
Navajo Linguist Larry King is a cultural bright light who walks visitors along a path of history and legend, highlighting the resilience of the Navajo Language and the way Navajos use humor to cope with hardship in their lives. He will also share humorous examples and fun stories about how new words and ideas are introduced into the Diné culture.
More information about MNA is at musnaz.org. Information is also available by phone at (928) 774-5213.