Navajo Fun & Folk Basket - Peggy Black (#108)

Navajo Basket
22 1/2" x 3 3/4" deep
Rounds: 35

Navajo folk art has contributed a great deal to Southwest Native American art. Wanting to celebrate that tradition, several years ago Peggy Black created a basket depicting many of the symbols associated with the movement. Her basket has a turkey, two lamas, two chickens and two people riding a horse. With an aged patina on the front and original color on the back you could say its aged well, something we can all hope for.


Peggy Black

Born for the Many Goats Clan and to her maternal Arrow People Clan, Peggy Rock Black learned to weave from her mother, grandmother, and sister. As well as the weaving technique, Peggy knows the natural plant dyes and occasionally uses them when coloring the sumac strips she uses in her baskets. Now she is passing the difficult but rewarding lessons of the art along to her three daughters.

With great support from her family, Peggy is a prolific weaver. Her husband, Eddie, assists in gathering the sumac and preparing it for weaving. Eddie helps her in other ways, too. He is a herbalist and is studying with his uncle and grandfather, both medicine men, so that he may too be a medicine man. This is important to Peggy, who believes in the healing power of the sumac.

The sumac bush, which grows about 3 feet tall, is sometimes called the lemonade tree because of the tart drink that can be made from its unripe summer berries. The bark, leaves, and berries of the sumac have all been used by Native American people for medicinal purposes.

Peggy respects the traditions of her Navajo heritage. She weaves contemporary baskets but leans toward traditional Navajo designs of balance.

l'm really careful with what I weave," she says. She keeps to the positive stories of her people and uses the power of healing ceremonies to protect her from life's evils. Though she lives in a house, she often weaves her baskets in a traditional hogan close by.

Peggy has won many awards at shows at The Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, and at the Gallup Ceremonials in New Mexico, but she does not think of herself as a competitive person. "I only want to try different designs," she explains. And then, in a sentence that sums up Peggy's personality as well as the reason her baskets are so dynamic, she adds, "I want to experience the designs."

Looking at her baskets it is clear that each have her positive, healing influence. They are baskets that the observer can experience also.


On this trip his own or his niece's pet turkey accompanies him, following the log along the river bank, Unknown to the hero, the Supernaturals provide the turkey with all kinds of seeds. During the preparations the turkey is troubled, restless, and refuses to eat because he knows the thoughts in his master's mind. The hero instructs the turkey to follow the log. Pg. 167, Plume Way.

The hero is lonely in this new place but is comforted by the presence of his turkey pet. The turkey appears unexpectedly and is welcomed with joy or his presence is accepted without comment. He covers the hero with his wing or feathers to keep him warm. The turkey and / or Supernaturals help the hero plant and raise a garden. The turkey shakes seeds out from his wings - beans, pumpkin, corn, squash, melon, tobacco. Pgs. 169. 170: Plume Way.

Navajo Chantway Myths, 1957; Katherine Spencer.

" and a stranger appeared there who carried a small broom and was very inquisitive. He was the Turkey Youth; he seemed proud and would not speak to the people, and when they offered him food he wandered about all night as if in search of something. When Dawn came, he said to the people, "Why bother me? There is light in me." And he walked about very proudly and kept bowing to everyone. No one knew whence he came and he kept saying over and over again the same phrase, "Why bother me? There is light in me." The people rose up in the morning and ate, but he paid no attention to them and took four long steps toward the east and shook himself. As he did so four white grains of corn dropped from his body, and he picked them up again. He did the same to the south with yellow corn, to the west with blue corn, and to the north with grayish corn, and he ate all these kinds of corn for his breakfast, for his body was made of corn and on his head there was a Red Mirage Stone. All the hunters came home again, the Turkey with them, and the Roadrunner made friends with the Turkey. Dontso, the Messenger, told the Roadrunner that the Turkey was called "Body of the Various Kinds of Corn or Vegetation," and that he lived on an open space at Black Mountain. So Roadrunner called him by his corn names, and the Quail and Magpie also made friends with him. These are the very Holy Birds; their Eye Water is put in the present Hanelthnayhe Jish or Pouch and is used for stargazing.

References: Emergence Myth, according to Hanelthnayhe or Upward-Reaching Rite; Recorded by Father Berard Haile, O.F.M Rewritten by Mary C. Wheelwright

Still the water continued to rise. As the Turkey was the last to enter the reed, he was at the bottom. When the waters rose high enough to wet the Turkey he began to gobble and the people knew that danger was near. Often did the waves wash the end of the Turkey's tail and it is for this reason that the tips of the turkey's tail feathers are, to this day, lighter in color than the rest of his plumage. Pg. 73

The Book of the Navajo; 1976, Raymond Friday Locke.

The next day all the crops were harvested with the help of the Yei'ii, who guessed that Turkey was responsible for the bountiful harvest. They asked Younger Brother if this were so. "It is true," he said. "He carries the white corn in his tail feathers and the blue corn about his neck. The yellow corn he hides in the small feathers above the tail and the mixed corn is on his wings. The squash he keeps under his right wing and the melons under his left wing. The tobacco is under his tail. The bean is kept in this little piece of flesh that stands on the top of his beak." Pg. 54

Dine' Ji Nakee' Naahane', A Utah Navajo History; 1982, Clyde Benally with Andrew O. Wiget, John R. Alley, and Garry Blake.

B says a turkey can kill an eagle. Once his father was up hunting in the mountains. He came into a clearing and saw a lot of turkeys running around in a circle and looking up sideways and hollering. He looked up but couldn't see anything. Finally he saw something falling down. It fell right in the circle of turkeys. He went over to see what it was and found a big eagle dead. He scared the turkeys away when he came up. Then he cut the eagle open to find out what was wrong, and right through the eagle's heart he found a turkey's beard. He thought maybe the turkeys shot the eagle. Pg. 215

Navajo Witchcraft; 1944, Clyde Kluckhohn.

The workers who herded the turkeys were warned not to kill a turkey or eat its flesh, as it would bring throat trouble and they would not be able to talk. To this day the Navajos refuse to eat the flesh of a turkey. Pg. XXII

Hosteen Klah, Navajo Medicine Man and Sand Painter; 1964, Franc Johnson Newcomb

Turkey (taji') (H) is featured in the emergence of the people from the fourth to this world. He was the last to take refuge in the reed, and when he gobbled it was a sign to the people that he was in imminent danger of drowning. The waves washed the end of his tail; consequently, today his tail feathers are marked with white.
To Turkey is accredited the gift of seed for domesticated plants, including corn, although corn existed in the earliest conceivable world. In the Night and Feather chants, Turkey is associated with the hero and theme of the whirling log.

The boy of the story, repudiated by his family, tried to make a conveyance out of a log so he could journey by water. He did not succeed, but the gods came to his aid. His niece had a pet turkey which the gods told him to take along. Later, when he was all alone and nearly dying of homesickness, the turkey was his great comfort. It dropped seeds of corn, pumpkin, watermelon, muskmelon, and, beans from its wings, and taught him agriculture.
Through Turkey the association of game (hunting) and agriculture is emphasized, for actually Turkey's owner exchanged his knowledge of agriculture with that of the sorcerer, Deer Owner, and obtained the game animals for the Navaho.
Turkey is treated in the literature as whites treat a remarkable dog. He is a pet who understands, remains faithful, comforts his master in hours of loneliness, and eventually leaves him with precious knowledge. The hero of the Feather Chant apotheosizes his pet in a beautiful lament.
Turkey made his master's long dangerous journey comfortable, covering him with a wing at night to protect him from cold (Matthews 1897, pp. 164ff., 172, 181, 218, 38n; 1902, pp. 171ff., 186; Sapir-Hoijer, p.29).

Navajo Religion, Vol II; Gladys A. Reichard, 1950