In Navajo myth and legend, First Woman and First Man decided there must be more light in the heavens at night. First Man gathered fragments of rock-star mica and began to carefully place the constellations upon the skyscape. As he labored, along came Coyote. Coyote found three red fragments, took them for himself, and placed them where he pleased. Meanwhile, First Man continued his work as carefully as before, making slow and steady progress. Coyote grew impatient and gathered the remaining rock-star mica and threw them up into the air, blowing a strong breath at them as they flew. Instantly they stuck to the sky helter-skelter in random bunches. To this very day, those who look upon the night sky can observe the everlasting order and disorder created by First Man and Coyote. This is the story told by Peggy Black through her outstanding basket.
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.