Spider Woman: A Story of Navajo Weavers and Chanters
Almost 90 years have passed since Gladys Reichard moved into a dug out which was built like a hogan, but without a smokehole. It was located 6 miles south of the Hubbel Trading Post in the Ganado area. A well–known Navajo singer's place, Red Point, is where Reichard spent eight summers and parts of two winters. On the Navaho reservation she learned the language and participated in daily and ceremonial life. She witnessed performances of many chants including the 'Male Shooting Chant Holy' given by Red Point. Two of these were sung over her. Reichard was considered a relative of her host family and became part of their kinship and clan relationship system, expressed in the Navajo way as a concept: k’é. Having placed herself in such a unique position and being taught to weave by 'relatives', enabled her to record in an openly biographical manner. She recorded her progress as well as trials and frustrations in becoming proficient in the art of traditional Navajo weaving. We witness and learn about daily life and ceremonial occurrences in Navajoland: the desert climate and its effect on people and animals, the growing importance of the role of trading posts for Navajo economy, the influence the railway had on the People, the early beginnings of a tribal government, a wedding ceremony, the conflicts that a new health care system brings and how it is clashing with traditional healing ceremonies. We also learn about the food being consumed, at a time when self sufficiency was still the order of the day, and the white man’s food was mostly a welcome change in the daily diet rather than a diabetes creating curse, brought upon by drastic lifestyle changes. Reichard’s book is a historical time capsule, an eyewitness report of the fast changing culture and society of the Diné in the thirties of the 20th century.