Guest column: Don’t miss Marie Nez’s unique handspun rugs

Marie Nez is a weaver from Nazlini. (Photo/John Aldrich)

Marie Nez is a weaver from Nazlini. (Photo/John Aldrich)

When Linda Myers started the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program 35 years ago, one of her main objectives was to support Navajo Elders in a way that would allow them to continue to live their traditional lifestyle and to continue to support themselves through their weaving. By both supplying weavers with yarn and then providing a marketplace for their finished weavings, the program has accomplished this objective while maintaining the dignity of these very special people.

When we think of these traditional weavers, we sadly realize that this is a vanishing lifestyle. Younger Navajos are accustomed to the conveniences of modern life and no longer wish to face the hardships of their Elders. Among the ANE weavers there are still a few who create rugs the traditional way. One of these is Marie Nez of Nazlini.

Last week we looked at Wanda Tracy, a fine weaver from Nazlini. Marie is her mother, and we will feature her this week. The two live in a family compound in Nazlini. Two of Marie’s sisters are also from this area and all three have been part of the ANE Program and have attended the Many Farms food run.

Marie’s life has been lived in support of her family. This has been accomplished in large part through her weaving. Her life has not been easy. Raising sheep, preparing wool, and weaving rugs has been the traditional way to support family with food and goods. Although younger generations have continued to weave, most do so using commercial yarn. Marie continues to do things the old way, and even at her advanced age of 89, she still spends much of her day working the wool and weaving. Every few months ANE will receive a package with five or six new rugs from Marie’s loom.

The accompanying photos will provide a glimpse into Marie’s life and illustrate the wide variety of rugs, many of which are quite large, that she has produced. The photos come both from Marie’s homeland as well as from the Many Farms food runs where Marie was usually successful in selling at least one rug to one of the volunteers.

The rugs pictured are taken from Marie’s output over the years and are not in our catalog now. ANE is receiving fewer and fewer handspun rugs, and most of these are being saved for the virtual rug show in November. That’s when you will have your chance to acquire one of Marie’s rugs.

Adopt-A-Native-Elder serves to help reduce extreme poverty and hardship facing traditional Elders living on the Navajo Reservation. We are a trusted humanitarian organization focused on delivering food, medical supplies, firewood and other forms of Elder support. Respecting the tradition and dignity of Navajo Elders, we create relationships to honor and serve the Elders.

In addition to providing life-sustaining humanitarian aid in the form of food, medical supplies, and firewood to Navajo Elders, the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program creates a marketplace for Navajo Elders and younger native artists to sell their incredible masterpieces where they set their own prices and receive 100% of the proceeds from their sales. Access to this marketplace helps Elders and younger artists in their families sustain themselves in their traditional way.

To shop all of the amazing works of art available on the Adopt-A-Native-Elder visit

John Aldrich

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