Bonnie Benally Yazzie

Bonnie Benally Yazzie is a resident of Crownpoint and Becenti, Navajo Nation, New Mexico. A lifelong traditional weaver, educator, consultant and advocate for textile weavers, Bonnie is currently a Navajo Cultural Arts Instructor and HOOZHO Society advisor at Navajo Technical College.  She is also a board member of the Crownpoint Cultural Preservation and Development Council, Inc. Bonnie served as a field interpreter and liaison for Weaving a World: Textiles and the Navajo Way of Seeing, coauthored by Roseann Willink and Paul Zolbrod (1996), Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe.  She served as liaison and cultural specialist for the PBS documentary Weaving Worlds (2009), directed by Navajo Bennie Klain.

Talk Title: Spider Woman, our Grandmother’s Teachings Woven  Into Our Diné (Navajo) Life Ways

Abstract: Ya’at’eeh, my name is Bonnie Benally Yazzie. I’m from Crownpoint New Mexico, and I am a rug weaver, educator and an advocate.  As weavers, we are very respectful of our weavings.  We weave life into our rugs by including a lot of traditional sacred teachings of our grandmothers who were taught by their grandmothers who in turn were taught by our sacred grandmother Spider Woman.  We include prayers, songs and literally weave our whole selves into our rugs. All of our designs have sacred meanings and were created through love and respect for our great ancestors and come from our minds influenced by teachings and lifeways, the Diné Lifeways.  The sacredness of the Navajo rugs, however, is being taken away by the “knock-offs,” sold by dealers who are so freely taking our way of life, sacred designs and our economy.  Crownpoint is known for the internationally famous rug auction though attendance has dropped over the past two decades as low cost foreign-made textiles bearing our designs have become so easily accessible. Diné weavers have a difficult time sustaining our economy from the auction or from tourism in places like Chaco Canyon.  I will talk about how the theft of our rug designs has negatively affected the market for our weaving, and destroyed much of our local economy and how weavers continue to seek ways to maintain their traditions while engaging in the contemporary marketplace.  Imagine if residents of the Navajo Nation located in the vast deserts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah were able to become self-sufficient and save their culture, sacred rug designs and way of life alongside their economy.  That would secure our future.

Bonnie’s talk is part of the LACMA plenary session Ancient Knowledge/Indigenous Voices.