Message #181
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 

Date: Sun, 31 May 1998 20:11:56
Subject: Navajo Churro / Sheep Is Life

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

From Recursos de Santa Fe Web Site --


SHEEP IS LIFE - Sheep Is Life is an annual
symposium on the Navajo Churro sheep and other
breeds. The 1997 event was held at San Juan
College in Farmington, NM, June 19-22, and
celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Navajo
Sheep Project with co-founders Dr. and Mrs. Lyle
McNeal and members of the Navajo group, Dine be
iina'. Included in the 1997 program were a shade
house, sheep camp, lecture series, workshops,
demonstrations and hands-on activities. The event
helps breeders, wool producers, weavers and others
exchange information among themselves and educates
the public about the quality of Navajo wool and
weaving. Throughout it all, people experience the
passions, stories and traditions that encompass
10,000 years of human history and lifeways shared
by people around the world. An expanded celebration
is planned for June, 1998. Call Giesela Happe,
program coordinator, at (505) 982-0807.

Background and History
Sheep were among the first animals domesticated.
This momentous development took place in Southwest
Asia and the Middle East about 11,000 years ago,
predating, and perhaps precipitating, the
agricultural revolution. Primitive genotypes of
sheep, descendants of the first breed, still exist
throughout the world, where they are under the same
pressures of extermination as their indigenous
herders.  In the early 1500s, the Spanish brought
Churros to the Americas. Navajo acquisition of
these domestic sheep in the mid-1600s inspired a
radical change from hunting and gathering to
pastoralism and farming. Sheep represent the Good
Life, sacred animals given to the Dine by the Holy
People. Herding, wool processing, and weaving are
accompanied by sacred songs and prayers. Churros
are hardy, genetically resistant to many sheep
diseases, and have excellently flavored meat. The
fleece has two types of wool fibers that both
protect the animal from the elements and give
Churro yarn extra strength. Unlike other wools,
Churro is low in lanolin, so it does not require
valuable water for washing nor time-consuming
carding. It can be shorn, hand cleaned, then spun
into tightly twisted yarn that readily absorbs
indigo and native vegetal dyes. The Navajo artists
use these special qualities of Churro wool to
create weavings famous for their exceptional
luster, fine texture and durability. A series of
government actions, beginning with forced
relocation of Navajos in the mid-1800s, resulted
in the almost total disappearance of the Churro
breed, disrupting traditional Navajo life and
weaving. Today, Dine bi'iina' and the Navajo Sheep
Project are working to restore the Navajo Churro
to its natural habitat. The experiences of the
Dine are analogous to those of indigenous and
traditional pastoralists world-wide. Sheep is
Life creates a forum for bringing together
ranchers, stock breeders, pastoralists, and
weavers from many cultures; educating the public
about traditional life ways; strengthening
communities; and developing economic support for
pastoralists, livestock producers, and weavers. It
is a celebration of prayer, song, tradition,
adaptability, and the interconnectedness of people,
spirit, and universe. 

Sponsoring Organizations 
Sheep is Life is organized by Dini bi iina',
Navajo Sheep Project, Recursos de Santa Fe, and
the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
Presented with support from the Intermountain
Farmers Association; Navajo-Churro Sheep
Association; and San Juan College; and funded in
part by the LaPides Foundation, and the Lila
Wallace-Reader's Digest Community Folklife Program,
administered by the Fund for Folk Culture and
underwritten by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest
Fund. The literary component is part of TumbleWords,
a program of the Western States Arts Federation,
New Mexico Arts, and The Lit Web, supported by the
Lannan Foundation. 
Dine bi'iina', 520-755-6366
Recursos, 1-800-732-6881; fax 505-989-8608
Suzanne Jamison, 505-536-9339; 
fax 505-536-9332; e-mail