Weaving/Frybread Demonstration for Visiting Ukrainian Delegation

By Sam Stevens (MCC Advisor)

Weaving photos by Seanna Mitchell

Mesa, AZ - On Monday, March 24, 2014 a delegation of visiting Ukrainian nationals touring Maricopa's community colleges were treated to Navajo weaving and frybread demonstrations as part of MCC's tour.  Students from ISO (Intertribal Student Organization) provided the frybread demonstration and shared the tasty treat with the visitors who were very eager and excited to try it.  ISO representatives Brooke Dedman, Kinalda Quintero, and Chrissy Begaye made the dough and fried the bread on the patio of LB-300 in the Library.  Those in attendance were able to sample this popular delicacy while the Ukrainian visitors were very enthralled, snapping pictures and watching the demonstration closely.

The weaving demonstration was given by Lucille Silver, a Navajo weaver from Forest Lake, AZ and mother of MCC adjunct faculty Arlene Old Elk who brought her to share her skills with the Navajo Conversation class (NAV115) she teaches.  With Arlene acting as translator, she also shared the history of how Navajos came to be weavers, learning from Spider Woman and then sharing it with The People (Dine').  Arlene's comments then were translated again for the representatives from Ukraine as she further discussed the transformation of sheep's wool into finely spun yarn used to create her beautiful rugs.  After shearing off the wool she then puts it through a process called carding, a very fine brushing technique that untangles, unknots, and removes any type of debris trapped in the thin fibers.  Then taking a spindle, she spins the wool and stretches it very thinly and lengthens it out.  For various colors there is a lot of washing and dyeing of the wool using various plants found throughout her home region.  In Arlene's class she even allowed students hands-on participation with the small demonstration loom she brought.

All who viewed the demonstrations were very intrigued and MCC representatives were very grateful for the opportunity to support this cultural sharing opportunity with our European visitors.  We would also like to acknowledge the contributions of our ISO students (Brooke, Kinalda, and Chrissy) as well as the willingness of Lucille Silver to showcase her talent and skills with everyone as well.