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"I put this livestock here for you; it is your father and your mother, your thoughts and your mind. You will have children and grandchildren and so forth as times goes on, your livestock is going to be your life." (--Relocation Booklet, Teesto, Arizona)" (from Time Among the Navajo: Traditional Lifeways on the Reservation, Kathy Eckles Hooker, photographs by Helen Lau Running, Salina Bookshelf, Flagstaff, Arizona, 2002, p. 65).


A churro ram on Black Mesa. Given the remoteness and traditional life style of the Black Mesa Dine', it is very likely that their sheep are directly descended from the original churro brought into the southwest by the Spanish 500 years ago.

Flock on Big Mountain, including a black and white sheep.

Sheep in corral on Big Mountain.


Sheep corraled under the protection of sacred Star Mountain.

Two "pet" sheep. These are "protectors of the flock" and will live out their natural lives to a good old age.


Corraled sheep eating the hay distributed at our September 14, 2000, hay run. So-called "excess" or "unpermitted" sheep are confiscated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, sold at public auction if their owners cannot afford the exorbitant cost of redeeming them (for example, $891.29 charged to hold 7 ewes for 5 days), and the money kept by the BIA).

The tax-deductible portion of the Black Mesa Weavers for Life and Land wool and weaving sales is used to buy hay for corraled livestock, pay for livestock permits, redeem confiscated livestock from impoundment, and for other life-saving humanitarian needs.

Some of the general fund will now be used to cover expenses for the volunteers who are undertaking the N-CSA registry process, which includes gas for travel to farflung and widespread areas, disposable cameras to take photos of the sheep, and eartags and eartagging or tattooing equipment.

The money that goes to the sheepraisers and weavers enables the Dine' to hold onto their flocks and survive.

Churro sheep eating alfalfa hay from the September 14, 2000, hay run.

Unsold wool, Coal Mine Mesa community, September 2000.

In September 2000, I traveled around Coal Mine Mesa with a Dine' resident, and she pointed out this once-working windmill and old Dine' well. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) had padlocked the windmill to prevent the Dine' from having a nearby source of water, and to hasten their "relocation" from their homes. As we approached the now dry and waterless well, a little sheepdog puppy, about 10 weeks old, dying of thirst, staggered out to meet us. We gave the puppy water, he revived, and we took him home and named him "Nilchii Ashkie" (Windy Boy)... a survivor...

Orphan lamb being cared for at home, until old enough to be returned to the flock.


Shearing sheep at Glenna Begay's home, Black Mesa, spring 1999.


Washing Wool, Black Mesa

I am surprised
by wool washed clean,
spun from sandstone walls
and coverts cut by ancient rain,
its bumpy strands
turned through hands to banners,
bands of rust and tan,
and brown as dark as soot.

These burr-filled, dusty fleece
whose hooves cut paths
for lizards, beetles, grass,
browse slowly through the seeds
that catch them,
patient in the light or shade,
gentle in their bells and bleating.

(©3/25/01 Carol Snyder Halberstadt)

Wool drying on Black Mesa.



Carding combs


Glenna Begay spinning wool in her home on Black Mesa.

Churro, Black Mesa

They took
the legacy of conquest
from the conqueror
and grew it well
on the harsh slopes
of an arid land,
singing it into
a gift from Holy People.

They found
the springs and wells
and watched
how striped rocks
form in the sun
around them.
Their bells rang gently.

They heard
spider weaving
her woolly web
in high places
and walk there still--
fleece thickening
to coats of many colors--
black, cream, raw ocher, umber, rust,
and all Earth's shades between.

(©10/4/00 Carol Snyder Halberstadt)

(Left) Elsie Shay weaving in her home on Big Mountain. (Right) Lena Nez , from the Coal Mine Mesa community, starting a new weaving.


Details of handspun reverse twill saddle blankets, a storm pattern, and an extended diamond design.

Four finished weavings

Pet sheep and me, September 2000.



I would take my words
to the mesas,
take them within the rocks
to the cool places
turned by water
from rainbows
into blankets of stone.

I would plant them
as melons and corn,
as peach trees
giving sweet fruit,
letting them graze
like sheep with bells, slowly,
on soft plants and their colors,
and run as horses
in the fattened grass.

Then I would wash them
with yucca, and bind them
with fresh spun wool,
and they would become stories
like abandoned seashells
or the dropped feathers
of birds.

(©7/29/00 Carol Snyder Halberstadt)


Sunset, Black Mesa, Dine Bikeyah, Arizona, September 2000.

Go to Black Mesa Weavers for Life and Land welcome page 

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Write to: Migrations, P.O. Box 543, Newton, MA 02456
or email to: carol@migrations.com to place an order, or for more information.

All poems, photographs, and text copyright © 1998 -2002, Carol Snyder Halberstadt, Migrations. All rights reserved. Migrations, Black Mesa Weavers for Life and Land, Fair Trading from the Source, and "the wool that is sung to..." are trademarks of Migrations.

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