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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 1, 2001 - Issue 50


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Navajo Performer Weaves Tales of Tradition

photo of Anasazi Cliff Dwellings

FORT WORTH - Storyteller Sharon Hatch French refuses to abandon her Navajo ancestors' traditions and beliefs.

On Thursday, Hatch French, of Fruitland, N.M., performed her award-winning one-woman play for high school students from West Academy.

Hatch French has performed various versions of her play throughout the Southwest since the 1980s.

Hatch French performs a more elaborate version of her play, called Anasazi, The Ancient Ones, every summer in a $1 million amphitheater built for her production in Farmington, N.M.

"The Navajo side of my family was my favorite," Hatch French recalled during an interview.

"They loved you for who you are. They weren't critical," said French, who grew up on a Navajo reservation.

John Templin, who owns the Sage and Silo Theater, said this is Hatch French's third year to perform in Fort Worth. She will perform at Sage and Silo through Nov. 26.

"I bring her here every November because it is such a wonderful event to have during Thanksgiving," he said.

Wearing a heavy red, black and turquoise "rug dress" fastened at the waist with an intricate silver and turquoise concho belt, Hatch French tells the story of her paternal great-grandmother, Sarah Hatch. Hatch French plays the part of several characters, including a little girl and a Navajo grandmother.

The story begins with Sarah's Navajo parents, who were killed by other raiding tribes, and Sarah's adoption by a pioneer family in the 1840s. But Sarah's grandmother, Black Shawl, never forgot about the young girl, and at age 8, Sarah returned to her Navajo people after her adopted mother died.

Later, Sarah married Ira Hatch, a Mormon missionary who lived among the Navajo.

Sarah died giving birth to her third child, but her memories and stories were passed down from one generation to the next, Hatch French said.

Hatch French described a special bond with her Navajo grandfather.

"My grandfather gave me the rhythm, smells and colors of the Navajo tribe. My grandfather taught me the importance of interacting with the Earth and with the elements.

"He taught me about the importance of silence. Today, people are afraid of silence," she said.

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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