Navajo weaves intertwines a piece of her spirit in each blanket
At only five years of age, Navajo artist and weaver Nanaba Aragon of Chino Valley made her first Navajo blanket, a skill her mother made sure she learned.
"My mother wanted me to carry on the weaving tradition because I was the oldest. Of all my siblings I'm the only one who weaves," Aragon says.
Today, Aragon weaves and sells Navajo blankets that carry price tags in the $25,000 range.
To complete one 4-foot-by-8-foot blanket takes Aragon as long as two years, working on it five hours a day.
Aragon was born and raised in Steamboat, located on the Navajo Indian reservation in Arizona. She lived in a traditional Navajo hogan until age 10 when she was sent to a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) boarding school in Riverside, Calif.
"When I arrived at the school, I knew no English at all," she said. "I was at the school for a full three years before going home again."
She then attended a public school in Cedar City, Utah, until her senior year of high school, when the BIA allowed her to transfer to a school in Window Rock on the reservation.
She has always been artistic and took several art classes while in school.
"Each time I would come home my mother would refresh my memory in the weaving," Aragon said.
Aragon travels all over the country demonstrating her weaving, and will be doing weaving demonstrations at Sharlot Hall on July 8 and 9.
Her blankets have won many awards, including ones from the National Museum of American Indians of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
Aragon attributes her artistic talent to her mother, because she not only weaves exquisite blankets, but also does impressive sand paintings and silver smithing. Her mother also taught her the value of keeping the tradition alive.
"I feel this art should be passed on," she says. To do so, Aragon made a video called, "Original Navajo Weaving," and also teaches weaving to 4th-, 5th-, and 6th-graders.
"Before I die, I want to visit a school on the Navajo Indian Reservation and teach some little Navajo girl to weave, to carry on the tradition of the Navajo," Aragon adds.
To a weaver, the craft is more than a learned skill – each blanket is a creation that permeates the soul.
"Everything to us is spiritual – the wind, land, trees and water," Aragon said.
"The art of Navajo weaving is holy to us, and the design we weave into our blankets has a spiritual meaning."