UW-Superior student Renee Lorence, what was supposed to be a two-month
stay with a Navajo family in the southwest turned into a six-month
stay and lesson in a very important tradition.
studying at a college in Vermont, Lorence participated in the Sterling
Western Program. She found herself wanting a "more traditional adventure"
and ended up living with a traditional Navajo family. A member of
the family taught her how to weave.
50 Navajo words and four rugs later, I left," Lorence said. She
has been back to visit the family many times.
told an audience in the Rothwell Student Center skylounge on Wednesday
about how cultural and political history tied in with the tradition
of weaving. Lorence said weaving played an important role in helping
the Navajos rebuild their life after events such as "The Long Walk."
Sheep were used for wool and meat, and trading posts were places
to trade rugs made from the wool.
also said that as decades have gone by, the style of weaving has
changed. She said in the 1920s there was a "revival of natural dyes"
and a return to traditional styles of weaving.
explained that in the 1930s the government wanted a stock reduction
of sheep. She said the government wanted to purchase the sheep from
the Navajos to feed hungry Americans, and in return the Navajos
would get land compensation. Lorence then said that in 1937 the
government took many of the animals, causing a breakdown in living
felt the independence was gone," Lorence said as she read to the
crowd from her paper. "Sheep provided psychological and material
said the link between the laws made and the people affected is crucial.
often the negative connotation that they don't do any work," Lorence
said. She said when you look at the manifestation between the laws
and what happened to the people, you can discover the link.
had samples on hand of work she had done, including the first piece
of weaving she worked on. Before starting a demonstration on her
loom, Lorence told the audience about the popularity of dying the
wool used in weaving.
are getting back into dying wools," Lorence said. "(Historically),
two main dyes were used blue, which came from indigo, and
red. The red dye is from an insect which grows on the prickly pear."
began her explanation of using the loom with a lesson in using each
part of the loom, including using the warp and the combs. After
watching Lorence weave a row, she invited audience members to participate.
For UWS junior Andrea Boulley, watching and trying were two different
was harder," Boulley said. "I'm Ojibwe, and I can do beading, but
I've never done weaving before. It's similar in that it takes patience
you can't make a rug in a day and you can't make a piece
of beadwork in a day. I never thought about what it takes to make