A couple of weeks ago, a group of us from the gallery, our partners, friends, and supporters gathered near Bayfield, Colorado to harvest and split firewood for some of the weavers we work with on the Navajo Reservation.
This Sunday was Wood Delivery Day and my sister, Antonia, our mom, Mary Jane, Howard Rowe and I headed to Burnham where we delivered the firewood to several homes.
It is always a fun day, and it is important to get the firewood there before winter sets in. This year, thankfully, it has been a little late. Now would be a good time for winter to start!
Many Navajo people on the Northern reservation heat their homes with coal or wood. This year, several coal plants have been shut down and the open pit mines have been covered by earth.
Laverne Barber explained to us that in years past, they were able to get four pickup loads of coal a month and now, it is limited to two and, sometimes, one.
I think everyone is in favor of clean air, but sometimes people making the decisions don’t look at the unintended consequences that affect people down the line. Unfortunately, this decision drastically affects the ability of many people, a lot of whom don’t have electricity, to heat their homes.
As always, the Navajo are a resilient people and I am sure it will work out, but it takes a lot of firewood to make up the same number of BTUs that are produced by coal in a stove.
While we were visiting Laverne, we commented on her t-shirt. It is a drawing of Sasquatch (Bigfoot), with Eagle Feathers by his feet and a Navajo Ceremonial Basket in the background.
“Where did you get that shirt?” I asked.
“I got it after I did a walk to raise awareness for Veterans,” she replied.
“Where did you walk?” I asked.
“From Crownpoint to Farmington to Shiprock,” she replied matter of factly.
That’s 117 miles!
“When did you do that?” I asked.
“I did it three times, before the pandemic,” she replied. “They haven’t started it up again.”
“How long did it take?” I asked.
“Two days. I had some real blisters!” she answered.
That is the kind of woman Laverne is. She’s raised successful kids, she is raising one of her grandsons, she volunteers and works at the chapter house, she raises sheep to have her own wool to weave with and she never complains. She is tough. She was one of the first people I knew that had COVID before there was a vaccine, and she powered through it. She chops wood, carries water, and loves basketball and Thanksgiving! She puts an American flag up in her yard every day and like all her family, she is proud of her heritage and her country. She is the daughter of Anna Mae Barber, the oldest of the Burnham sisters, and that strength is found throughout the entire family.
So, today, we are featuring Lavern’s weavings. They are all made with hand-spun wool and use a combination of vegetal and aniline dyes.
It is always uplifting to spend a day with people like the Burnham weavers.