Cultural Demonstrator Video Series

a large circle within a paved area with a stylized symbol of canyon walls. Text reads, "Tribes Call The Canyon Home."

The History Behind Southwestern Arts

Grand Canyon has been a quiet home and sacred space to 11 different tribes within the Southwest. Native peoples and their ancestors have been in this area for countless generations. Even though Grand Canyon has been a National Park for over a hundred years, it is not just a National Park, it is a sacred place and home to many.

The purpose of the Cultural Demonstration Program is to give members of the 11 traditionally associated tribes (Diné (Navajo), Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi, Yavapai-Apache, Kaibab band of Southern Paiute, Las Vegas band of Southern Paiute, Moapa band of Southern Paiute, Paiute Indian Tribes of Utah, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, Zuni) a voice here at Grand Canyon by encouraging interactions with the public through demonstrations of traditional native crafts.

 

The program began in 2014, and continues today with the support of Grand Canyon Conservancy. This program has transformed Desert View into a place to celebrate, share, and learn about inner-tribal cultural heritage. Since the program began, the park has hosted more than 175 artists from the 11 traditionally associated tribes of Grand Canyon. This Cultural Demonstration Program provides the opportunity for visitors to learn more about each tribe's culture, their history, and the skills, knowledge, and efforts involved in creating each craft. Through symbols, patterns, and designs, native art of the Southwest displays the everyday life, beliefs, dreams, visions, and long-lasting traditions of the tribes.

 

With the spread of COVID-19 we wish to keep you and our Cultural Demonstrators safe, while continuing to share their rich cultural heritage and crafts. To that end we've created an experience for you with the help of our Cultural Demonstrators. Please enjoy short videos highlighting each of the traditional native crafts that are normally demonstrated at the Desert View Watchtower. Several artists have also participated in interviews sharing their cultural background, why they have chosen to continue the art, and walk the audience through the processes it requires to create their craft.

Videos will be premiering on Grand Canyon National Park Facebook Page and will be available after the release date on YouTube, and from the links below.

Learn more about Grand Canyon’s Cultural Demonstrators at Cultural Demonstration Series | Grand Canyon Conservancy

 
a partially woven rug on a loom with the weaver seen through the warp threads above the completed portion.

History of Textile Weaving
Audio DescribedYouTubeFacebook
Textile weaving is nearly a 2,000-year-old skill that has been passed down each generation to the people inhabiting the Southwest. Weaving takes a great deal of skill, patience, and time.

Traditional weaving patterns eventually diverged and contemporary images and words were featured in modern rugs. Depending on the size of the rug, it can take weeks to months to produce a finished piece.

 
Two Navajo weavers, daughter and mother sitting together and posing for a photo.
Laverine Greyeyes (L) and Louise Nez (R)

Louise Nez & Laverine Greyeyes Interview (Diné Textile Weavers)
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Louise Nez and Laverine Greyeyes, a mother and daughter, discuss the tradition and art of weaving in the Diné (Navajo) culture. Louise speaks mostly Navajo and her daughter Laverine translates her answers.

Louise grew up in a rural area herding sheep instead of attending school and was taught to weave by her mother at the age of twelve. Since she began weaving in 1943, Louise has hand-made hundreds of rugs. Her work is seen nationwide through many museums and collections. Louise in turn taught her daughters to weave and Laverine learned when she was 14 years old. Louise also taught her the new style weaving pictorial rugs. Laverine has also branched out to learn the art of painting.

 
portrait of a middle aged Hopi Man with black hair and wearing a black jacket. Desert landscape in the background.
Lyle Balenquah

Lyle Balenquah Interview (Hopi Natural Stone and Shell Jeweler)
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Lyle discusses how his jewelry work reflects his cultural background using traditional and abstract designs. He draws inspiration from his experience working as a professional archaeologist in the American Southwest for over 20 years. Through this work, he is able to see first-hand how his ancestors used natural materials to express themselves through their artwork. Lyle works with various stones, seashells and other natural materials to handcraft wearable artwork such as pendants and earrings.

 
A portion of a rock art panel showing human figures painted in red and several sheep that have been chiseled over the painted designs.
Rock Art of the Southwest. NPS/M. Quinn

History of Art and Painting
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Some of the oldest and longest lasting images that humans made in the Southwest are mysterious markings and images pecked or painted on cliffs, alcoves, and boulders.

Today, paintings and art are a way that many artists express culturally significant ideas, like ancient Rock Writings did thousands of years ago. Many Native artists incorporate traditional aspects and ancestral knowledge from their culture into their work. Artists use different materials and surfaces today like canvas, paper, and even music records and skateboards.

 
a man standing behind and holding a large painting of stylized thunder clouds above a desert landscape.
Jerrel Singer

Jerrel Singer Interview (Diné Painter)
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Jerrel Singer discusses how he is a representative of a larger family unit that exudes contemporary Native American artistic talent. Jerrel grew up near Grand Canyon and talks about his connections to the landscape and how his art reflects his experiences in the Grand Canyon area.

His work captures the daylight and nightscapes colors and shadows of the Navajo Nation and of the Southwest. Jerrel paints scenes that are recognizable as desert, sky, and clouds but are represented in an abstract fashion.

 
A woman beginning to weave a Navajo Rug as seen through the vertical warps of white yarn
Rose Bighorse

Rose Bighorse Interview (Diné Textile Weaver)
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Rose Bighorse discusses what it was like to grow up on the Navajo Reservation in a weaving family and the challenges and struggles she went through going to school through a Mormon placement program in Utah.

Her experiences in the Anglo world helped prepare her for independent city living as she left the reservation and went to college in Phoenix. To support herself and her daughter through school, she continued the art of weaving that her mother taught her as a young child.

 
Two hands weaving a colorful basket of orange and purple yucca leaves with diamond shaped designs.
Iva Honyestewa weaving a basket.

History of Basket Weaving
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Baskets vary from the materials and techniques used as well as the purpose for which it was created. The knowledge of weaving was passed down generation to generation and tribe to tribe for thousands of years allowing them to gather, store and prepare food to eat. Basketmaking has evolved over the years, but many traditional techniques remain a time-honored tradition in many Southwestern tribes.

 
Portrait of a woman in profile with long black hair. Her hands are weaving a basket of yucca leaves dyed orange and purple
Iva Honyestewa

Iva Honyestewa Interview (Hopi-Diné Basket Weaver)
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Iva Honyestewa discusses her background weaving the baskets she makes with yucca plant, willow, and three-leaf sumac branches, as well as metal rings. She uses both traditional and commercial dyes for coloring her yucca leaves. Traditionally, Hopi are known for their coil, sifter, and piki trays. Iva created a new basket for Hopi which she named Poostaya. The Poostaya is only a few years old and combines coiled and sifter elements to form a new shape.

 
two human-like kachina doll figures carved from wood and painted in bright primary colors.

History of Katsina Doll Carving
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Katsina dolls are a carved representation of the Katsinam, the messengers between the Pueblo people and their deities. Katsina dolls were originally made solely for religious purposes and are distributed to children during ceremonies. Parents use them to teach their children about their Hopi culture and religious beliefs.

The traditional abstract representation of the Katsinam in the early Katsina dolls were slowly replaced by more realistic renderings and the wooden figures began to transform into recognizable human bodies portrayed in the act of dancing.

Many Katsina doll carvers believe that carving is not just an art form, it is a tradition, it is spiritual practice.

 
a middle aged Hopi Indian man sitting at a work bench and holding a stone sculpture of a human figure in front of him with both hands

Ed Honyestewa Interview (Hopi Kachina and Sculpture Carving)
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Ed Honyestewa discusses carving Katsina dolls which he has done for more than 30 years. His father, Glen, was his first teacher. He introduced him to the art of carving Kachinas from the root of the cottonwood tree. He later attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM, where he learned to carve using stone as well.

Ed draws inspiration for his art from nature, his culture, and his spiritual experiences.

 
a middle aged Navajo woman sitting at a loom and beginning to weave a large rug.

Florence Riggs Interview (Diné Textile Weaving)
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Florence Riggs discusses how she incorporates traditional Diné concepts and practices in her work. At the age of 18, a year after graduating from Tuba City High School, Florence decided she wanted to learn weaving and asked her mother to teach her. She began to weave pictorials when she was 20, and later became a full-time weaver. She weaves about 10 hours a day and her pieces are on the loom for one to three months, depending on their size.

 
two fetish carvings in the shape of an eagle. one the left, very simple, traditional rendering. On the right, a more realistic version by a contemporary artist

History of Fetish Carving
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Zuni Fetishes, are palm sized stone carvings, physical representations of animals that hold spiritual importance. The Fetish creation is part of the Zuni faith and is intended to help mankind reconnect with higher powers. Fetishes’ purpose remains the same today as it did in the beginning, to assist humans, the most vulnerable of all the living creatures, in meeting the problems that face them during their lives. Fetishes remain an important part of daily ritual life for the Zuni.

 

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Last updated: May 11, 2021

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