Navajo Ceremonial Jingle Dance Basket - Lorraine Black (#255)

Navajo Basket
21" x 2 1/4" deep
Rounds: 32

A pow-wow is a gathering of North America's Native people. The word derives from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning ‘spiritual leader’. By presenting this woven treasure, Lorraine Black has proven to be a bit of a ‘spiritual leader’ in her own right. At the very least she can be considered a ‘leader of the band’. A modern pow-wow is an event where both Native and non-Native Americans meet to dance, sing, socialize and honor Indian culture. In her basket, Lorraine portrays a ceremonial center representing the Navajo universe and bead-bedecked dancers of various styles circling the world of her people. These guys are giving their all to the occasion—there was fun and merriment had by all!


Lorraine Black

Lorraine Black - Navajo Basketweaver: Inspired by dreams, Lorraine Black's skills have literally elevated basket weaving to new dimensions. Famous for her Horned Toad story basket, a three dimensional piece that won first place in the Navajo Show at The Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, as well as an award at the Gallup Ceremonials, Lorraine's work is distinctively original.

Lorraine Black's infectious laugh belies the serious magic her hands conjure up when weaving a basket. Unprecedented in her ideas, Lorraine's baskets are innovative and beautiful. Many of them make good use of texture through over-stitching and the addition of objects such as flint arrowheads.

The third daughter of Mary Holiday Black, Lorraine grew up in the family tradition of basket weaving. She began by harvesting young stalks of sumac in the springtime, from where it grows along water ways. She learned how to prepare it for weaving by splitting the willow shoots into three thin strips using teeth and fingers, removing the core, and then rubbing away the bark with buckskin. Her hands soon knew the cuts and sores created by handling the sumac, her cuts stained by the colors of the dyes.

After the intensive work of harvesting and processing is complete, then comes the challenge of beginning a basket. This requires holding together two layers of either three or five rods of unsplit willow, coiling them, and binding them together by interweaving the sumac strips. It is a challenge for the most skillful hands.

Learning to weave ceremonial baskets at about age thirteen, Lorraine continued in the art, quickly transcending traditional designs with new concepts in both design and color.

Now the mother of two young sons, Sebastian and Deon, Lorraine presently makes her home in a small town in Southeastern Utah. Still, her roots extend to Monument Valley, the place of her upbringing. Her art is influenced by her birthplace and her heritage from the Bitterwater and Folded Arm Clans.

Holding one of Lorraine's baskets, with its bright colors and intricate designs, you can almost hear her childlike laughter transcend the coils and spill into the room.


Shoe Game

This game is said to have originated in a contest between the Day and Night Animals. The following excerpt explains how..

"As you know there are certain animals that prowl around at night and sleep in the daytime, while there are others that usually go about in the daytime and sleep at night.

Now it happened in the early days that the night animals wished it were night all the time, and the day animals wished it were day all the time. So they decided to have a game, and the winner of the game would determine whether it would be always day or always night.

They played a game that the Navajos are very fond of to this day. They all got together in a big hogan, and then drew a line across the floor in the center of the room, dividing the players into two groups. Thereupon, each side buried four moccasins in the sand, only the tops of the moccasins remaining visible. The players stand back of their own moccasins. One individual is assigned to keep score.

The trick of the game is to hide a pinion gum ball in one of the moccasins in such a way that the other side cannot guess which moccasin it is in. Each side chooses a leader, and while a blanket is held in front of this leader to prevent the opponents from seeing what is done, he goes through various motions with his hands and in the course of these motions drops the ball into one of the moccasins. Then the moccasins are filled with sand, and the blanket is taken away.

The leader of the opponents must now say in which moccasins the ball is not, indicating last of all the moccasin in which the ball is. He does this by striking what he regards as empty moccasins, saying, 'It is not in this one. It is not in this one. It is not in this one.' And then finally, striking the moccasin in which he thinks the ball is, he says, 'It is in this one.'

If the ball is in either one of the end moccasins and he does not guess it right, it counts for ten points in favor of his opponents. If it is in the right center one and he misses it, it counts for six points in favor of his opponents, and if the left center, four points. Furthermore, if he misses his guess, the opponents have another opportunity to hide the ball; if he guesses right, the ball goes to hisside. The side which first passes the hundred mark wins. The game was started at sundown and lasted all night. First one side would gain the advantage, and then the other side; but neither side could pass the hundred mark and win.

Finally the owl said to the night animals, 'Let me try. I am sure I can beat them.' They agreed, and sure enough, when the owl hid the ball the other side could never guess the right moccasin. The owl just sat there and looked wise, while the day animals were in despair, thinking they would surely lose out.

The coyote had been changing sides right along. When the day animals were ahead he would jump to their side, and when the night animals were winning he would jump to that side. He wanted to be with the winners. Now he was sticking to the night animals, thinking they could not lose.

The day animals realized how serious the situation was, and asked for a little time off to take a rest. During this interval the giant, who was on the side of the day animals, said he believed the owl was playing a trick on them and wasn't putting the ball into any moccasin at all. He therefore told the gopher to dig a hole quickly under the hogan and bite through the tip of each of the four moccasins of the opponents, to see if the ball was really in one of them. The gopher did this without being observed by the other side, and came back with the report that the ball was not in any one of them.

The day animals then said they were ready to guess once more as to the location of the ball. All the night animals were just as happy as they could be. They were singing and dancing and having a great time. They were sure they would win, and that thereafter it would always be night. But to their surprise, the leader of the day animals said four times, 'It is not in this one.' Then he gave the owl a whack over his wing and said, 'There it is.' And sure enough, the pinion gum ball dropped from under the wing of the owl.

That broke up the game, and as it was nearing dawn, the night animals scurried off as fast as they could so as to get home before daylight. One pair of moccasins belonged to the bear. In his great hurry he put them on the wrong feet, and that is the reason that to this day when you see bear tracks you note that his moccasins are pointing the wrong way. Besides, the bear was so slow in getting home that the dawn overtook him. In those days the bear was black, but owing to his dallying too long at the game, the early sunlight overtook him and partly bleached his hide, so that to this day his descendants in the Navajo country are brown.

And because neither side won the game, day and night continued as before."

From "He-Who-Always-Wins", Dr. Richard H. Pousma, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1934.