Tiana Bighorse
Weaver and Author

Recently Bruce Belknap received an email from Noël Bennett with sad news. Tiana Bighorse died last year. Like many other members of Ashtl'o Guild, Bruce learned to love weaving the Traditional Navajo Way from that wonderful book, Working With the Wool by Noël Bennett and Tiana Bighorse. Bruce wrote back:

"Noel, I had not heard of Tiana's death, so sudden to me. Through your writing I feel her loss. I have spoken her name so many times in the context of WWW. Her photograph and text, in your/together Navajo Weaving Way--Path from Fleece to Rug continue to speak to me. Her words, through your testimony, continue to be my guide.

Noël Bennett was asked by the family to talk at Tiana's memorial service. To tell the grandchildren and great grandchildren what Tiana wanted them to remember. "It was a church full of Navajo folk, traditional and non-traditional", Noël wrote. "And were it not for the fact that Tiana could not speak for herself, I would not, could not, have done it. An Anglo talking Navajo tradition to Navajos. . ."

Below are short excerpts from Noël's Farewell, Tiana Bighorse:

Looking back now 35 years, I see that Tiana's extraordinary feat is that from an early age she respected and learned and embraced the stories and craft of her ancestors. She remembered and practiced them throughout a good and long life. She saw their relevance, saw their power and wisdom. And this experience gave her the unshakeable conviction that holding tight to Navajo tradition could make us strong in life. Could elevate our spirit. . . .

So Tiana dedicated herself to preserving the art and the stories--these precious resources--before they might be lost. She did this for people everywhere--out of, I believe, an extraordinary understanding that the needs of all humans are the same. But especially, because of her deep love for them, she preserved the Navajo heritage for her children, and for her grandchildren, and for her "three times great grandchildren. . . "

For me,Tiana was (and will remain) the personification of Navajo weaving with all the profundity this implies. That is:

Tiana understood balance in a profound and tangible way. And manifested it absolutely. Like the soaring posts of the loom, she was a visionary. But like the stabilizing cross beams, she grounded us and anchored us in this real world. . .

Tiana understood the importance of balanced male and female energies. After we wrote our weaving book for Navajo girls and women, she insisted on writing Bighorse the Warrior for Navajo boys and men. Further, for an entire lifetime, she held in memory, both weaving and warrior stories. So, she herself was a container, a storehouse, for female and male strengths.

To Tiana, spirit and matter were more than balanced. They were inseparable. That is, weaving a design, gathering plants for dyes, gathering sticks for tools-these were to her spiritual acts. Prayers in themselves.

And finally, Tiana manifested the creative spirit. She wove from the time she was seven well into old age--even when she was almost blind. . .

Post and crossbeam
Male and Female
Spirit and Matter
Source of Creativity

Like the loom itself, Tiana is:
Beauty. Order. Balance. Blessing.

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