The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Navajo weaver practices ancient art on SE Campus

By Karen Gavis/se news editor

SE Campus students connected with Native American culture through weaving and food Nov. 18 as part of Native American Heritage Month.

Artist Rosalita Teller and her family came to SE Campus from a Navajo reservation in Canyon de Chelly, Ariz. Teller presented a weaving demonstration while she and her husband answered students’ questions about Navajo culture.

“They asked a lot of questions,” she said. “They were very curious.”

SE student David Ysasi, who attended the event, said his ancestors came from Spain and integrated with the Navajo people. But his family lost contact with their Navajo relatives over time.

“It was more the Spanish side that they kept the culture,” he said. “But my grandmother’s side is from the Navajo Nation.”

Teller and Ysasi discussed the possibility that the spelling of Ysasi’s name changed over time. She told Ysasi that he probably has a lot of family and could contact the tribe’s newspaper, The Navajo Times, to try to re-establish a connection.

Teller’s husband, Roger, said this happens sometimes when Navajos go to war or leave the reservation. Sometimes, they do not return.

The SE Campus culinary arts department made Indian fry bread, which was served during the event. Fry bread, a staple of the Navajo people, is one of the skills Navajo girls learn at a young age.

Roger Teller said Navajo families used to sit around the kitchen table and dip with their fry bread out of one pot, promoting unity.

“Now, everyone has their own plates,” he said. “And they leave the reservation.”

Rosalita Teller said her grandmother, Laura Begay, died when her mother, Louise B. Tsosie, was 2. Her grandfather, Selargo Begay, kept the Navajo traditions alive in her family.

“He was the one who taught her the woman things,” she said, “like weaving, carding and spinning wool.”

During the event, Teller displayed a tightly woven, woolen dress that her mother had made her oldest daughter when she was young. The Navajo child’s dress was decorated with dimes.

“Awww,” one student said as she held it up.

Teller said her mother has woven many rugs and speaks only a few words of English. Teller learned the art of jewelry-making from her older sister.

Some of their jewelry was displayed during the event along with the wooden cradleboard that Teller’s husband made just before the birth of their first child. The cradleboard has been used for each of their four children.

Teller said her father, Kee B. Tsosie, taught her the traditional ceremonies like the nine-day healing ceremony that involves sand paintings. Tell said she grew up participating in the ceremonies. Tsosie learned the traditions from his father, who was a Navajo medicine man.

Teller and her husband have been married 17 years. Teller attends Diné College, where she studies health care. Diné is a Navajo word meaning “the people.”

Teller said SE students appreciated watching natural artwork being made in person.

One student, Mary Cluff, used to live in Arizona and said she likes and misses the Navajo arts.

SE student development associate Amy Staley said she thought the event was a great educational opportunity for students, faculty and staff.

“It really is a way for people to connect with the Native American culture whether they are Native American or not,” she said. “It provides a way for that to happen.”

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