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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 8, 2003 - Issue 80


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Woven in Tradition

by Valerie Gritton/Staff writer Farmington Daily Times
credits: Ben Chrisman/The Daily Times - S.P. Martinez delivers his view on Native American creation before explaining the history of Navajo sandpaintings Wednesday night at Farmington Museum.

S.P. Martinez delivers his view on Native American creation before explaining the history of Navajo sandpaintings Wednesday night at Farmington Museum.FARMINGTON For decades the white man's civilization has tried to break the spell of silence many Native Americans have regarding their culture and customs.

For some, this has meant trying to understand sand paintings and the woven chants depicted in those paintings.

"Everything kind of ties in with our history," said S.P. Martinez, a Din medicine man who this week revealed some of the mystery behind the Woven Chants exhibit now on display at the Farmington Museum.

Martinez spoke to a group of nearly 50 people at the museum Wednesday in an effort to open a part of Native American history that he said has been closed.

"They are here for information, to tell the story, the history of our land that was forgotten. This is a culture. This is information that is gathered and restored. And as long as this information is here, it won't be forgotten," Martinez said.

He said he was given the gift to see and feel the supernatural from the spirits, but tried to run away from his calling as a medical practitioner.

"Practitioners are special people that are not limited healers they address everything," Martinez said. "Being a medicine man you encounter a lot of different ailments. Everything is pretty much done with closed surgery. They use the spiritual powers."

Twenty woven chants are depicted along the walls of the museum, which means twenty spiritual ceremonies are going on at the same time, Martinez said.

Not only are the chants depicting a ceremony, they tell a story of the weaver.

"It gives off a lot of information. It's detailed work. The weaver themselves, they have exposed what has been prohibited," Martinez said.

For audience members, given the opportunity to learn about the chants meant learning more about their culture.

"With me, I wasn't really raised traditionally," Sarah Largo said.

She attended the museum program "mainly out of curiosity and to try and understand what the signs are of the sand paintings and chants."

Largo said she is trying to understand all she can about her culture.

Martinez opened his discussion with a prayer to the moon spirit and an offering of corn pollen. He said corn pollen, among other ritual offerings, "opens up the doors to communicate with the holy beings."

Because the program was at night, the moon spirit was offered the prayer.

Martinez told audience members everything begins with Native American creation, which ties in with the sand paintings.

Each sand painting depicts the four directions, East, West, South and North, and each direction has a color code.

Although Martinez did not go into too much detail about the chants, he said some depicted a solstice of the sun, an eclipse or a spiritual ceremony.

"Everything has two a male and a female," Martinez said, adding that each woven chant also had to be cleansed after completion.

"If these drawings were put on the rugs without being cleansed, then the weaver would have been affected. This is very spiritual," he said.

The museum will host the Woven Chants display through April 12.

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