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Native American Cultures and Traditions

Location: The Internet

oe_witness

 

The Museum's mission is to advance and share the experience and knowledge of what has happened in the past and what this has meant for Native peoples today; to preserve the memory of those who died or suffered; to offer comfort, support, encouragement and understanding; and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the need for dignity of and respect among all peoples.

You are invited to explore this Virtual Museum at your leisure and visit us frequently.


THE WITNESS

Page Contents:

The Witness   Earth   Air   Fire   Water    The Hogan   The Descent   The Silhouette   The Ascent

   

THE WITNESS

The Witness

 

I am burnt red.

I have buried deep within me the energy of the sun.

I light up the fading day with the last bit of light, before the dusk of twilight.

I hang on the fringes of the spectrum of color.

I am the Witness of the Holocaust.

To heal, I created a new World.

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Earth

Earth

The Earth mandala was a brown hoop filled with a web made from dried wildflowers - the stems of Texas vervain, open-and-closed petal wine cups and Indian paintbrush. Tied to the sides were dried wheat stalks, on the left a wooden Irian Jaya arrowhead and on the left a Hopi katsina of a Cricket with a blue and violet feathered headdress. Across the top lay a slender, serrated mahogany arrowhead. From the bottom hung three nine-inch wooden arrowheads. A multi-hued textile medicine bundle hung from the center arrowhead and ermine skins laced with white leather and lavender pony beads hung from the others. The Irian Jaya arrowheads, the medicine bundle and the ermine skins had been gifts to me.

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Air

Air

The Air mandala was a brown hoop with a web made from iridescent black and brown sienna feathers from Egyptian geese stopped over on our office lake. On the left a feather bustle dangled from another intricately carved arrowhead; on the right, a single bolt representing female lightning made from tin was held in place with leather ties with multi-hued pony beads. On the top, four small feathers served as a headdress. On the bottom hung a blue tin horned sphere representing the Navajo Sun and a silver metallic tin horned sphere representing the Moon. The mandala reminded me of a war shield, the tin dove in the center contrasting with the arrowheads.

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The Sustained Climb

Fire

The Fire mandala was made from a brown-colored hoop - the web a photograph of climbers trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro, with a caption that said "The Climb of a Lifetime." On the top was a brilliant red/orange/lime green bird of paradise flower. On the sides were fern fronds with red and blue macaw feathers. Draped across the snow-capped volcano were iridescent pony beads of red, orange, green, yellow and blue. From the bottom hung four feathers from a Moluccan cockatoo.

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Water

Water

The Water mandala was made from a straw-colored hoop - the web a piece of green, gold and burgundy batik fabric with a piece of Heritage shell-patterned lace in front. On the sides were cottontails with pussy willows and shells from Charita Beach in Indonesia, along with an alligator and a Mudhead katsina. A lace fan with five fronds formed the headdress. Along the bottom hung three iridescent angel wing shells.

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The Hogan

The Hogan

"It was said at first the Gods of the Navajos had no dwellings, that they met out in the open. It was decided though that they needed somewhere to hold their holy rites and to sing their blessed chants, so a hogan was made in the East for the God of the sunrise and a hogan in the West for the God of the sunset. The hogan in the East was made of the first light of dawn, fair white corn, embroidered robes and hides, water and holy pollen. The hogan of the West was made of the setting sunlight, yellow corn, gems and shining shells, water and holy pollen. They were consecrated in song." Excerpt from the Navajo Hogan Song.

The hogan was made from juniper, mud and rock. Just as my family built our home from the soil in our yard, her hogan was made from the resources at hand. Six strong juniper poles formed the outer circle, filled in with juniper logs, topped with a juniper log roof, the logs crisscrossed, interwoven, covered with juniper bark, wood chips and mud. The dry caked mud on the roof and the mud filling the cracks between the posts matched the dry Earth. The wooden door faced east so she could come out to greet Dawn Boy and Dawn Girl each day.

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Descent

The Descent

I knew it would be a descent into a world of horror.

Within the confines of the Four Sacred Mountains, I would be safe.  These Mountains are Holy Places. One's spirit can travel beyond each Mountain and it is there that one can be healed. Mount Blanca, decorated with white shell, covered with a sheet of daylight, is the eastern boundary of Navajo land, 'Dinetah.' Mount Taylor, decorated with turquoise, covered with blue sky, is the southern boundary. The San Francisco Peaks, decorated with haliotis shell, covered with a yellow cloud, are the western boundary. Mount Hesperus, decorated with cannel coal, covered in darkness, is the northern boundary.

As we drove deep into Dinetah, I fell asleep. I dreamed that Daddy held my hand, and took me to the foot of Mount Taylor. He walked with me a short distance and then said, "This is as far as I can go with you Yagniza." I walked further up the mountain alone. I knew I could make it to the summit because of all the running I did. Suddenly, I was at the top, transported, without feeling any passage of time, space or effort. I was just there.

A turquoise hogan stood before me. Inside were two wrinkled, aged women, dressed Navajo style, a loom stood off to the side. They welcomed me in, and I stood next to the fire simmering in the center, Navajo tea brewing. I imagined them to be Spider Woman and Changing Woman.

I said, "I'm looking for an altar, a Holy Book buried underneath there, to guide me." Without speaking, they told me, "We have no book, we do not write. We have no altar." A fire simmered in the center of the hogan, Navajo tea brewing in a kettle.

Spider Woman said, "I will give you a gift, instead, the gift of silence." I saw in front of me a pond. A fish swam effortlessly before me in the clear, greenish water. I heard its fins. I saw a small red ant crawling along on a green leaf. I heard it walking. The forest I was sitting in was alive with sound. "You don't have to speak to fill the silence Yagniza.  It's already full. You can learn from it."

I felt myself waking up, but Changing Woman said as I was drifting away, "Here is a ring for you Yagniza." It was silver with coral, stamped with an ant, a spider and a cockroach.

I heard from the other World, "Each Mountain has a lesson for you Yagniza. You will visit each one when it is time. You were born Navajo, no one can take it away. It is not something you learn or acquire; it is something you just are."

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Silhouette

The Silhouette

I knew I would see darkness - as deep as an eclipse of the sun.

When I visited White Shell Mountain, Dawn Boy and Dawn girl stood outside of Their hogan of white shell, in a brilliant white light. They gave me the gift of innocence, a gift They said I had never lost.

When I visited Abalone Shell Mountain, Twilight Boy and Abalone Shell Girl stood outside of Their hogan of corn. They gave the gift of acceptance for longing.

When I visited Obsidian Mountain, I stood in the deepest darkness.  I could see nothing. A voice told me, "You will be able to see in the darkness; here is a map, a flashlight and a guide."

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The Ascent

The Ascent

I saw the brilliant light within each of us.

 

 

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