The Red Valley of Arizona is bathed in sunlight as we make our way on paved and dirt roads to visit a family of Navajo weavers. Nestled between the Carrizo Mountains and the volcanic neck of Shiprock, the landscape is sprinkled with hogans, corrals, sheep, and an occasional llama amid the spectacular red sandstone cliffs and the black volcanic plugs.
Like other weaving families in scattered communities across the Diné Nation, the Jacksons learned the art of weaving from female relatives and they supplement their subsistence life-style with the sale of their rugs. What makes the Jackson family uncommon, though, is that the father and son are weavers.
Most handwoven textiles produced by Navajo weavers are the work of women, and the image of the Navajo woman at her loom has become synonymous with this art form. For many generations, though, perhaps ever since Spider Man and Spider Woman first taught the Navajo people weaving skills, Navajo men have been practicing this tradition along with the women of their families. Even so, in the past their work has been rarely acknowledged outside or inside their communities. Indeed, the contribution of men to this rich tradition has been largely undocumented.
Today, weaving is a vital pursuit for a growing number of male weavers. For some, it fulfills a need to create or to carry on cultural traditions. For others, it brings in much needed income or economic assistance. Presented here are nine weavers who tell their own stories about why weaving is an important calling for them.
Louise I. Stiver