Weaving: A way of life

Nov 152006
Authors: Stephanie Gerlach

Diligent hands work endlessly to weave the stories of their lives and their culture with nothing more than a ball of hand-spun yarn.

Native Americans are known for their skills in weaving, yet each tribe has its own technique and history with the art. The Navajo specifically have mastered the art of weaving for many generations and the tradition continues.

“It’s our way of life and our way of achieving harmony and balance in life,” said Lynda Teller Pete, a fifth generation Navajo weaver. “Weaving is still here; it is alive and it is not a dying art – it’s all over.”

Pete grew up viewing weaving as a way of life. Lessons were mandatory as a child so she was exposed to this process for as long as she can remember. However, it wasn’t until the loss of her sister, Rosann Teller Lee, in 1996 that Pete was able to focus on weaving as a priority.

Pete said when her family divided Lee’s tools among them, she worked with those tools in order to get over her grief. Now, weaving is a part-time job for her and she values it as a way to get back to harmony, not as a way to make money.

“Our family is committed to promoting weaving, not just ours but everyone’s,” said Pete, whose family weaves Traditional Two Grey Hills Tapestries. “It’s nice to have people recognize textile work as an art, not just a craft.”

Weaving is considered a legacy in the Teller family. Even though materials and techniques have evolved, the tradition of weaving is still the same. They weave to keep connected to their family and who they are as a people.

Native American Student Services, in collaboration with the Office of Women’s Programs and Studies ‘Women at Noon Series’ sponsored Pete’s lecture on Wednesday in the Lory Student Center as part of Native American Awareness Month.

Ty Smith, the director of NASS, said it was important to bring Pete to speak at CSU because weaving is a way that Navajo families bond together and keep their stories and traditions alive.

“It’s important that we show we (Native Americans) are still here. We are still a vibrant culture and continue to contribute to society,” Smith said. “It’s a way for us to share and celebrate our culture with the rest of the town and community.”

Pete spoke about all seven generations of her family who have kept up this custom. The youngest prospective weaver, Roxanne Rose Lee, 6, already understands the weaving process.

About 50 students and members of the community were in attendance.

“I feel it was a very successful event. The turnout was great and it was clear that the audience was engaged,” said Christina Linder, the director of Women’s Programs and Studies.

Stephanie Strickland, a sophomore English education major, said she was impressed with how far reaching weaving was in Native American culture.

“It was a good experience because it’s always good to learn about different people’s cultures and their way of life,” she said.

Staff writer Stephanie Gerlach can be reached at news@collegian.com.


Navajo Weaving Song

I weave in harmony.

With the Earth I weave.

The strings are like rain,

The rain touches my fingers.

There is beauty in my blanket.

There is beauty all around me.

There is beauty above me.

There is beauty below me.

The plants speak to me,

Mother Earth colors my rug.

I weave in harmony.

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