Recently Bruce Belknap received an
email from Noël Bennett with sad news. Tiana Bighorse
died last year. Like many other members of Ashtl'o Guild,
Bruce learned to love weaving the Traditional Navajo Way
from that wonderful book, Working With the Wool by
Noël Bennett and Tiana Bighorse. Bruce wrote
"Noel, I had not heard of
Tiana's death, so sudden to me. Through your writing I
feel her loss. I have spoken her name so many times in
the context of WWW. Her photograph and text, in
your/together Navajo Weaving Way--Path from Fleece to Rug
continue to speak to me. Her words, through your
testimony, continue to be my guide.
Noël Bennett was asked by the
family to talk at Tiana's memorial service. To tell the
grandchildren and great grandchildren what Tiana wanted them
to remember. "It was a church full of Navajo
folk, traditional and non-traditional", Noël
wrote. "And were it not for the fact that Tiana could not
speak for herself, I would not, could not, have done it. An
Anglo talking Navajo tradition to Navajos. . ."
Below are short excerpts from
Noël's Farewell, Tiana Bighorse:
Looking back now 35 years,
I see that Tiana's extraordinary feat is that from an
early age she respected and learned and embraced the
stories and craft of her ancestors. She remembered and
practiced them throughout a good and long life. She saw
their relevance, saw their power and wisdom. And this
experience gave her the unshakeable conviction that
holding tight to Navajo tradition could make us strong in
life. Could elevate our spirit. . . .
So Tiana dedicated herself to
preserving the art and the stories--these precious
resources--before they might be lost. She did this for
people everywhere--out of, I believe, an extraordinary
understanding that the needs of all humans are the same.
But especially, because of her deep love for them, she
preserved the Navajo heritage for her children, and for
her grandchildren, and for her "three times great
grandchildren. . . "
For me,Tiana was (and will
remain) the personification of Navajo weaving with all
the profundity this implies. That is:
Tiana understood balance in a
profound and tangible way. And manifested it absolutely.
Like the soaring posts of the loom, she was a visionary.
But like the stabilizing cross beams, she grounded us and
anchored us in this real world. . .
Tiana understood the importance
of balanced male and female energies. After we wrote our
weaving book for Navajo girls and women, she insisted on
writing Bighorse the Warrior for Navajo boys and men.
Further, for an entire lifetime, she held in memory, both
weaving and warrior stories. So, she herself was a
container, a storehouse, for female and male
To Tiana, spirit and matter were
more than balanced. They were inseparable. That is,
weaving a design, gathering plants for dyes, gathering
sticks for tools-these were to her spiritual acts.
Prayers in themselves.
And finally, Tiana manifested
the creative spirit. She wove from the time she was seven
well into old age--even when she was almost blind. .
Post and crossbeam
Male and Female
Spirit and Matter
Source of Creativity
Like the loom itself, Tiana
Beauty. Order. Balance. Blessing.