Preserving the Churro sheep

Mini-conference teaches weaving, tells history of sheep and why it is important in Diné culture

By Terry Bowman
Navajo Times

GANADO, Ariz., July 17, 2014

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(Times photos – Ravonelle Yazzie)

TOP: Rug weavers Jennie Slick, left, and Mary Walker work during the mini Sheep is Life Celebration in Ganado, Ariz.

MIDDLE: Nizhoni Thomas, 9, teaches Markayla Begay, 12, how to card sheep wool on Sunday in Ganado, Ariz.

BOTTOM: Ilene Naegle checks her wool while she dyes it in a bucket during the mini Sheep is Life Celebration on Sunday. (Times photo – Ravonelle Yazzie) RY- sheep conf8 Linda Holigay cards wool at the mini Sheep is Life Celebration.

In the 1930s, the livestock reduction program was established by the U.S. government to exterminate 80 percent of the livestock on the Navajo Nation, including cattle and Navajo Churro sheep.

Today, the Churro sheep is being restored and re-established for the wool and meat that has had a major impact on Diné culture, according to Hubbell Trading Post park Ranger Chris Lana.

“It’s a win-win thing,” he said at the mini Sheep is Life celebration held Sunday. “We’ve got the meat, we’ve got the wool, we’re learning the whole process of taking care of the wool all the way to making the rug."

Sponsored by the Diné Be’ Iina Inc. in partnership with the U.S. National Park Service and Hubble Trading Post, Anetta Begay, one of the organizers, said the celebration showcased the importance of the sheep in Diné culture.

“They’re showcasing everything from sheep to loom, which is basically the concept, the sheep-to-loom concept,” said Begay.

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