Message #238:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Like Two Sheeps Passing in the Night
Date: Mon, 29 Jul 96 10:09:00 MST
Encoding: 196 TEXT

From: Suzanne Jamison, Gila Hot Springs NM

Following is a description of a celebration of Navajo-Churro sheep being 
planned by several organizations.  We are interested in receiving 
information about Churro sheep, Navajo-Churro sheep and all aspects of the 
sheep culture in the Southwest.  This would include stories, songs, 
lifeways, and so forth specific to any ethnic group - Gaelic, Basque, Anglo, 
Spanish, Dine, French, and so forth.  In addition, we are establishing an 
e-mail list of those people who would like to receive updates on the 
celebration in particular and Navajo-Churro sheep in general.  I will be the 
e-mail contact for this exchange.  Regards, Suzanne

Sheep is Life: A Celebration of Navajo-Churro Shepherds and Weavers in 
Farmington, New Mexico, June 1997

Sheep is Life: A Celebration of Navajo-Churro Shepherds and Weavers focuses 
on the importance of sheep raising to traditional Navajo life; the role of 
Churro sheep in the evolution of Navajo weaving; the special qualities of 
Navajo-Churro wool, meat, and survival rates; and economic development.

Recursos de Santa Fe is coordinating with Dine be Iina, the Navajo Sheep 
Project, Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprises, Navajo weavers cooperatives, 
Hispanic sheep and weaving cooperatives, civic groups, and other 
professionals to create a public celebration during June 1997 in the 
Farmington area.

The event includes a public seminar; hands-on activities at a sheep camp; a 
weaving exhibit; plus workshops on processing and weaving with Navajo-Churro 
wool, economic  development and marketing, and livestock management.  Navajo 
shepherds and weavers are featured presenters and artists, sharing the love 
of sheep, wool, weaving and land in a program including representatives from 
Ganados del Valle and Tierra Wools, a New Mexico-based wool and weaving 
cooperative. Shepherds and folk artists from other heritages will be 
invited, as well.

A centennial celebration for Two Grey Hills Trading Post and annual meeting 
of the Navajo-Churro Sheep Association will be held in conjunction with 
Sheep is Life. (Navajo-Churro is the official name of the breed registered 
by the American Sheep Industry.)

Sheep is Life takes place mid-June, 1997, in Farmington, New Mexico and 
locations on the Navajo Nation.  At San Juan College, a seminar, workshops, 
sheep camp and shade house are venues for discussing the Navajo-Churro breed 
and experiencing the traditions built on its special qualities.  Tours of 
locations such as Two Grey Hills Trading Post and weavers' homes will be 
organized by Recursos as auxiliary activities.

For the Navajo, sheep represent the Good Life.  They are sacred animals 
given to the Dine by The Holy People.  Over 50 percent of Navajos are 
involved in sheep raising and other agricultural pursuits, as compared to 
only two percent of the total U.S. population.  Whereas the Navajos at one 
time exclusively raised the Churro breed, today it represents a small 
fraction of total sheep stock.

Navajo acquisition of the Spanish Churro in the mid-1600s inspired a radical 
change from hunting and gathering to pastoralism and farming.  Navajo 
culture and sheep have intertwined like the strongest yarn, co-evolving the 
distinctive Navajo-Churro breed and the famous Navajo weaving.

A series of federal government actions beginning in 1863, including 
slaughter of flocks and appropriation of summer grazing lands, and  market 
changes in demand for wool have led to the almost total eradication of the 
Churro, both on the Navajo Nation and in Spanish villages.  This loss 
negatively impacted traditional life style and self- sufficiency of these 
cultures.  The recent reintroduction of Navajo-Churro sheep opens many 
opportunities for communities to reclaim pastoral and folk art traditions. 
(The narrative section details the relationship between Navajo-Churro sheep 
and culture.)

Program Focus

Sheep is Life is a forum where elders, weavers and traditional people can 
express themselves, where young people can find out more about their 
cultures, and where there can be exchange among shepherds and weavers who 
love the Navajo-Churro breed.  The non-Native public attending can learn how 
to work respectfully with traditional people in perpetuating cultural 

The folk artists and cultural specialists planning, developing and 
implementing the project come primarily from the Navajo communities, with 
representatives from Spanish villages also involved.  These organizations 
and individuals have all been contacted in the preparation of this 
application.  Communications will be ongoing via face-to-face meetings, 
telephone, fax, regular mail, and e-mail.  The organizations will keep their 
members posted through internal communications, will solicit responses, and 
will convey concerns and suggestions to the planning group.  Each 
cooperating organization will determine the tasks it can carry out in 
implementing the project, with the lines of communication coordinated by 
Recursos, so that the parts will come together in June, 1997 to create the 
whole, Sheep is Life.

Project activities include: 1) a forum for Navajo-Churro weavers and sheep 
raisers to reinforce each other for what is often solitary work; 2) honoring 
tradition and culture in a manner relevant to weavers and families; 3) 
involving the younger generation; 4) connecting Navajo and Spanish weavers 
and wool producers with each other; 5) marketing workshops to increase 
economic viability of raising Navajo-Churro sheep; and 6) bringing together 
people from all cultures to share their love of sheep, wool, weaving and 
land. Under the shade house at the sheep camp, shepherds and weavers conduct 
hands-on activities for children and adults, building friendships through 
shared experiences.  Navajo elders offer perspectives on weaving, sheep 
raising, community, and the challenges of living a traditional lifestyle.

With songs and prayers, Medicine People bring forth the spirituality of the 
sheep culture.

Sheep is Life can reinforce efforts of tradition bearers and folk artists 
striving to maintain their cultural values amid the beckonings of 
contemporary life.  The Navajo-Churro herds built up through the efforts of 
the Navajo Sheep Project and cooperating producers are already contributing 
significantly to these efforts.  As the public and buyers become better 
informed, additional economic benefit can be attained from sale of weavings, 
wool, meat, and related products from the Navajo-Churro.  This, in turn, can 
encourage young people to maintain cultural traditions and educate the 
public about these rich lifeways to ensure their continuation.

Participants and Audience Outreach

The celebration draws its presenters primarily from the Navajo Nation; 
Spanish villages of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado; the sheep 
raising, wool and weaving communities; and traders, curators, historians and 
scholars.  The audience includes members of these same communities, as well 
as contemporary weavers, folk artists, collectors, museum personnel, 
agriculturists, ranchers, wool wholesalers, buyers, and the public, who 
hopefully will leave the celebration with an increased understanding of the 
dense, inter-relatedness between lifestyle, land, livestock and folk art.

Advertising will include radio promotions in Navajo and Spanish on local 
stations; posters and flyers distributed by cooperating organizations 
through Navajo Chapter Houses, trading posts, local businesses, post 
offices, churches, and other places of congregation; notices in professional 
publications and at other professional meetings, such as Navajo Studies 
Conference; direct mail to previous conference attendees; the extensive 
mailing lists maintained by the cooperating organizations; press releases to 
national, regional and local media; e-mail postings to specialized lists; 
and word of mouth.  Contacts have been made with local groups to help 
publicize the event throughout the Four Corners.

Native Americans and Spanish weavers and sheep raisers can attend at no 
charge.  Weaving cooperatives such as those at Ramah, Crownpoint, and Los 
Ojos, will be given stipends for gas and food to bring their members. As a 
general policy, Recursos offers work exchange and reduced fees for students, 
seniors, people with low incomes and representatives from community-based 

The style and format of the seminar will facilitate the Navajo rhetorical 
style, with ample opportunities for small groups to share meals, round table 
discussions and interaction among all participants and presenters.  Extended 
families will be encouraged to attend.  There will be hands-on activities 
for children and adults in the shade house and sheep camp during the 

Seminar sessions will be translated bilingually.  Scholarly papers will be 
sent for advance translation to ensure that technical information and terms 
are correctly explained in Navajo.  KTNN will be approached for on-site 
broadcast and simulcast of the seminar.

[ SASIG Editor's Note:
For additional information on Navajo Churro Sheep try  

Also, High Country News has a search engine and some articles about Navajo 
Churro Sheep; try:, or:

Trying to save two of the parts

Land-grant professor offers Navajo herds a helping hand

In the heart of the New West, the sheep win one