Ganado and Burntwater Navajo Rugs
You are a Navajo married to a Hopi, but your last name is Navajo?
I use Brenda Nez-Joshevama.
When did you start weaving?
I was seven years old. My mother Genevieve Nez taught me how to weave. I would sit beside her and watch her make her weavings.
Do you remember your first rug?
Yes, I used my mother’s scraps and strung the warp on a box and that is what I used to weave my first rug.
Did you always know you would weave rugs?
My mother grew up during the Great Depression so she never wasted anything. I would take her materials to make my rugs and she had a very hard time with that. This little girl taking all of the yarn and warp, stuff she was going to use and think maybe I was going to waste. That really discouraged me.
It didn’t stop you from weaving?
No, but it made me do all of the steps by myself. I would shear the sheep, clean the wool, card the wool (smooth it), spin the wool (make it fine), and dye the wool. It really made me learn the whole process.
Do you still do all of those steps?
No, today you can go and buy the wool that is really fine and makes a very nice rug. It would take so long to do those steps that you would never be able to sell the rug.
Do you weave fulltime?
No, it is just a hobby, I really don’t weave many rugs.
What do you do?
I work for Rocky Ridge Boarding School and teach weaving there. When I came back from school and saw how many Navajo children didn’t know their language and not learning how to weave it really made me what to teach.
You have your degree in teaching?
At first I wanted to do Social Work, but finished with a BS in Eduaction and a MS in Multi-Cultural Education from Northern Arizona University.
Have you had success getting the young children to weave?
I approach it as art therapy. These kids are under so much pressure with all of the test required from No Child Left Behind that I really try to use weaving as a way to relieve tension.
Do you have some star pupils?
Yes, both males and 14, Aysaiah Begay & Shomari Bitsui.
How about your own children?
My two younger children show an interest, Brent & Amada.
I saw a picture of a Burnt Water rug you wove that won the 1991 Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial. Is that your favorite style?
I like to weave the classic diamond pattern and do those in the Ganado & Burntwater styles.
When was the last time you came here to sell a rug?
The early 1980s, I sold one here to Tobe Turpen before Perry purchased the Trading Post.
Thank you for what you do, weaving is always such a beautiful expression of the Navajo.