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Glenna Begay & Family

During the week of October 19-24, 1999, Glenna Begay and her interpreter, Esther Yazzie-Lewis, were in Boston as guests of Migrations and Cultural Survival. You can read the transcript of an interview with Glenna at the Cultural Survival Active Voices website. Glenna Begay demonstrated weaving at the Boston International Festival, in which Cultural Survival took part. Glenna and Esther also spoke to interns and staff at Cultural Survival and at Tufts and Brandeis universities.

In March 2001, Cultural Survival adopted Black Mesa Weavers for Life and Land as a Special Project.

Glenna Begay demonstrating weaving in Boston, MA, October 1999.

Glenna Begay, born in 1931, is a Dine' of the Red Running Into Water Clan, born for the Manygoats Clan. She is a homemaker and the mother of 9 children, six daughters and three sons. She has 32 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She was born and raised on the top of Black Mesa and has lived there all her life. She started weaving at a very young age and learned how to weave from her maternal grandmother. She spins warp yarn and other wool from her own sheep and weaves a variety of patterns and designs, including the storm pattern, "dazzler" blankets, saddle blankets, and more. She has also done fine pottery and beadwork. Three of her daughters are excellent weavers as well, and continue the tradition they learned from their mother. Glenna Begay has been weaving all her life, while taking care of her homestead, her flock of sheep and goats, cattle and horses, cornfield and other vegetable fields, and helping to raise her grandchildren.

Since 1974, she resisted forced relocation from her original homeland, a policy that was brought about by the division of the Black Mesa region between the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe, via a congressional law that mandated this tragic chapter in the history of the Dine'. Since 1996, and the passage by Congress of an Accommodation Agreement, she and her family continue to work for the preservation of the water, land, livestock, and weaving heritage sustained by the Churro sheep.

Through her strength, courage, and persistence and the strength of her extended family, her family homesite is being protected for present and future generations.

Double loom set up at Glenna Begay's home--on left is her weaving in progress, and on the right is her ten-year-old grandson's first weaving.

MBM-358. This room-size weaving took master weaver and elder Glenna Begay almost a year to weave, of astonishing beauty, incorporatng elements of Two Grey Hills, Klagetoh, and Ganado themes in a unique traditional design of her own artistry and skill. This weaving is almost 6 ft. x 8 ft. (5 ft. 10 in. x 7 ft. 9 in. (70 in. x 93 in.). It is not likely that Glenna Begay will weave another rug of this size again, and we hope that the people who bought it in August 2005 enjoy it for many years to come. SOLD.

MBM-447. Glenna Begay. Prayer feather eyedazzler weaving, 28 in. x 23.5 in., in red, black, green, and white on a grey field. $300 ($200 to weaver). (Returned to weaver at her request 7/16/05).

MBM-448. Glenna Begay. Unusual "Two Grey Hills" motif Four Directions square weaving, 24.5 in. x 24.5 in., with weaver's pathway, the four sacred mountains in the corners, and a central design of stacked clouds. Red, white, black, tan, on a grey field. $325 ($225 to the weaver). (Returned to weaver at her request 7/16/05).

MBM-438. Glenna Begay. This is a rare weaving from Glenna Begay: A four sacred mountains "dazzler" blanket in all handspun natural churro wool (red is commercial dye), (except for commercial dark blue wool in very center and two dark blue elements at either end), 55.5 in. x 30 in., light "antique grey," medium grey, white, dark brown, deep red, black, and dark blue, with weaver's pathway. See detail, below. This weaving is on sale at the Arizona State Museum, Tucson, in the "Native Goods" Museum Shop, in conjunction with the special exhibition that opened Oct. 23, 2004, "Navajo Weaving at the Arizona State Museum: 19th Century Blankets / 20th Century Rugs / 21st Century Views." (SOLD, February 2005).

MBM-438. Detail of center.

MBM-398. Glenna Begay. We are honored to offer this classic traditional double saddle blanket, sturdy, dense, and thick, woven of handspun and commercial wool, 60 in. x 29 in. The subtle colors and zigzag border motifs (details below) would be equally at home on a floor or a horse. (SOLD).


Detail of MBM-398, with corner zigzags in dark blue and turquoise.

MBM-397. Glenna Begay, Flag. Hung horizontally or vertically, this cheerful American flag, 26 in. x 26 in., would brighten any space. This weaving is currently on sale at the Arizona State Museum, Tucson, in the "Native Goods" Museum Shop, in conjunction with the special exhibition, opening Oct. 23, "Navajo Weaving at the Arizona State Museum: 19th Century Blankets / 20th Century Rugs / 21st Century Views." SOLD at exhibit opening, 10/23/04


Esther Yazzie-Lewis spinning, and me learning to card wool at the International Festival, Boston, MA, October 1999.

Left to right: Esther Yazzie-Lewis, Prof. Rick Parmentier, and Glenna Begay at Prof. Parmentier's Freshman Seminar on social justice, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, October 1999.

Timothy Williams, 10-year-old grandson of Glenna Begay, working on his first weaving, September 2000. Next to his loom is a partly finished weaving by his grandmother, and above their weavings is the warp prepared for a third weaving. Timmy's finished weaving is below, MBM-135.

MBM-32. Glenna Begay in her home, June 1999, holding a vibrant, tightly woven storm pattern with feather motifs and Teec Nos Pos outlined elements, 42 in. x 32 in., all handspun and commercial wool, in black, natural white, grey, tan, and red. SOLD.

Glenna Begay spinning wool in her home on Black Mesa.

#MBM-15. Master weaver Glenna Begay wove this classic soft and brilliant "eye-dazzler" blanket of commercial wool, in red, black, two shades of grey, and white, 36 in. x 29 in., 20-22 wefts/inch. This one is sold, but another could be commissioned.

On right: Glenna Begay in the Museum of the American Indian, New York, NY, November 8, 1998, on a visit with the Dine' delegation to meet with UN officials, legal counsel, and nongovernmental organizations.

MBM-530. Adrian Begay, age 8 (nephew of Louise Singer).
"Patrick, SpongeBob's best friend." SOLD

Louise Singer

Louise Singer, a daughter of Glenna Begay, told me what the weaver's pathway means to her: "That opening, when you get up to the end, up at the top, you're supposed to let your thoughts go out, so your thinking is not closed up, so you put an opening in there. That's what my mom told me, to put in that opening so you're not closed in.."


MBM-517. Louise Singer. Double classic "Two Grey Hills" design, 31.5 in. x 25 in., with four sacred mountains in the four corners, central mesa motifs surrounded by vegetation themes and a reverse cloud/mesa border, in black, light grey, "Ganado" red, and white. $380 ($300 to weaver; $80 to general fund].


MBM-518. Louise Singer. Superb "Two Grey Hills" design with central stacked clouds surrounded by white mesas on a light grey field, and the four sacred mountains in the four corners, with reverse "pinyon" border. 37 in. x 26 in., woven in black, "Ganado" red, medium dark grey, warm brown/grey. SOLD (April 2010)


MBM-470. Louise Singer. Impeccably woven Two Grey Hills design, with finely woven water/waves motif at each end, 34 in. x 23 in., in light tan, light grey, dark grey, medium grey, medium tan, red, white, and black, with dark maroon edge cords; the four sacred mountains in the four directions anchor this superb weaving, with an intricate "mesa" border. SOLD at the Cultural Survival wnter bazaar, Dec. 3-4, 2005.

MBM-441. Louise Singer, "Navajo County." The Black Mesa region is comprised of three Arizona counties: Navajo, Apache, and Coconino. Weaving the letters so evenly and gracefully was long and complicated work. This Two Grey Hills design is impeccably woven in warm tan/taupe, dark brown, brown/grey, light grey, white, black, with weaver's pathway and reverse squashblossom border, 32 in. x 23.5 in. SOLD.

MBM-449. Louise Singer. Impeccable Two Grey Hills design with weaver's pathway, 36 in. x 25.5 in., Ganado red, black, white, tan, grey. (Returned to weaver, June 2005, at her request.)

MBM-25. Louise Singer holding her weaving of a Ganado/Klagetoh central motif in glowing earth colors: deep rust, burnt sienna, natural white, black, and tan-grey, tightly woven of all native processed wool, 28 in. x 23 in. SOLD.

MBM-400. Louise Singer impeccably woven Two Grey Hills, 35.75 in. x 25.25 in., with a weaver's pathway, in black, deep red, white, tan, brown/grey, medium grey, dark grey. The background field is a medium grey, which the photogrph doesn't show precisely. SOLD at Cultural Survival Summer Bazaar, Tiverton Four Corners, RI, June 4-5, 2004.

Helena Begay

MBM-399. Helena Begay, a daughter of Glenna Begay, has woven this dramatic, unusual, and intricate "dazzler" blanket, with the four sacred mountains, 35.5 in. x 26. in. SOLD.

Louise Singer and family shearing their sheep, at her mom's home, May 1999.

Salina Begay


MBM-19. Salina Begay. A classic pattern, called "Black Mesa Diamond," by the weaver, a daughter of Glenna Begay. In deep red, dark brown, two shades of carded brown-greys (one in the background), and white, with two weaver's pathways. 28 in. x 23 in., 18-20 wefts per inch. SOLD.

MBM-20. Salina Begay. This large and magnificent weaving is of handspun natural Churro wool and red commercial wool, dense and tight, in several shades of tans, browns, and greys, natural white, black, and red. The weaver called this "Black Mesa design," and in the variety of its natural wool colors, it evokes the complexity and subtlety of the land. 51.5 in. x 33.25 in. SOLD. A similar one, 48 in. x 32 in.) was recently commissioned (and impeccably woven by Louise Singer, a sister of Salina Begay, of high-quality commercial yarn) for $1,100 [$1,000 to weaver; $100 to general fund].


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

Copyright © 1998 -2010 Carol Snyder Halberstadt, Migrations/Black Mesa Weavers for Life and Land. All rights reserved.

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