Jon Austria Ñ The Daily TimesElias Gold of Kirtland, works on a painting at the Totah Festval, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, at the Farmington Civic Center in
Jon Austria Ñ The Daily Times Elias Gold of Kirtland, works on a painting at the Totah Festval, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, at the Farmington Civic Center in Farmington. (Jon Austria Ñ The Daily Times)
IF YOU GO

What: Totah Festival

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today

Where: Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington

Farmington — From beadings and rugs to dancing and food vendors, the Totah Festival provided an opportunity for Native American artists to celebrate their culture.

The Totah Festival began at 10 a.m. on Saturday with the gourd dance at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington.

Outside the building, dancers took to the ring to compete in a powwow.

Tommy Bull, one of the dancers, said the powwow is a long-standing tradition.

Jon Austria Ñ The Daily TimesTravontae Bencenti, center drums with is group, Young Crew from Kirtland during the Totah Festival, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013,
Jon Austria Ñ The Daily Times Travontae Bencenti, center drums with is group, Young Crew from Kirtland during the Totah Festival, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, at the Farmington Civic Center in Farmington. (Jon Austria Ñ The Daily Times)

"We get to share our culture with different people and different nationalities," Bull said.

Like many other participants, Bull created his own outfit. On it, there are bead work images of crosses and arrowheads. He explained that these symbols represent his family. The cross symbolizes his father's side, which is Christian. The arrowhead represents his mother's side, which is traditional.

Religion is one of the important parts of the powwow, according to Ella Castillo, who has had her children and grandchildren participating in powwows for more than two decades.

Castillo said the powwow is like the church.

"We pray, we help each other as a family," Castillo said.

She said she tells her grandchildren to dance for their people as well as for their sick relatives.

In addition to the powwow, artists displayed art inside the Civic Center.

Robert Manygoats was one of the artists who traveled to Farmington for the festival. Manygoats, who is from Arizona, grew up in a family of artists. His mother was a well-known weaver and she inspired him to start creating art. For the last four years, he has been coming to Farmington for the festival.

Jon Austria Ñ The Daily TimesShay Toya Ayze, performs the fancy shawl dance during the Totah Festival, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, at the Farmington Civic
Jon Austria Ñ The Daily Times Shay Toya Ayze, performs the fancy shawl dance during the Totah Festival, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, at the Farmington Civic Center in Farmington. (Jon Austria Ñ The Daily Times)

His art includes common themes and imagery, including the root pattern, which is where all art starts. He pointed to a woven rug -- which provided a backdrop for his paintings -- and the root pattern in its stitching.

Manygoats includes spiritual imagery in his art and he said people who see it often tell him that they feel as if the spirits are there with them.

He said when he sells art "a piece of my mind goes to their home."

These "pieces of his mind" have spread across the world, including to Australia.

Like Manygoats, other artists included pieces of their heritage in their art.

Jason Chee displayed a series of four large paintings of women with animals at his booth. He explained that the paintings represented the four original Navajo clans and their guardians.

He started by painting his own clan -- Kinyaa'aanii or the Towerhouse Clan. The woman in the picture was standing next to a bear, the guardian of his clan.

He said he liked the way the painting looked so he continued to the other three original clans -- Todich'ii'nii, Hasht l'ishnii, Honágháahnii.

But not all of Chee's art represented the stories of his people. The largest painting was of a bison. The story behind the bison came a few years ago when the animal shelter rescued Rosie, a bison who had been abused. Chee said she had only a handful of hay and was desperate to protect it.

Chee read a story in The Daily Times about Rosie and he decided to help out. He had a painting of a herd of bison that had won first place at a show. He had been planning on selling it for $1200. Upon reading about Rosie, he donated the painting for a raffle fundraiser to help feed Rosie.

Chee said a lot of people look at a painting and just see a picture.

"To an artist, it's not just a picture, it's a story," Chee said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.