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Annual conference in Shiprock celebrates women

The annual Celebration of Women Conference offered lectures and workshops that promoted self-development for Navajo women

Noel Lyn Smith
nsmith@daily-times.com
Traditional herbalist Lynelle Washburn, second from the left, talks with workshop participants on Friday during the Celebration of Women Conference at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.

SHIPROCK — Navajo women from throughout the Northern Agency took time out of their daily routines last week to attend lectures and workshops that focused on personal development.

For Pauline Plummer, the eighth annual Celebration of Women Conference, which took place Friday at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock, provided the opportunity to share stories and talk about issues facing Navajo women.

"The whole day was very educational. … It made me feel good as a woman, to see the women spirit and their strength and their energy that came across today," Plummer said.

Traditional herbalist Lynelle Washburn talks about how yucca is used as a traditional soap and shampoo during a workshop on Friday at the Celebration of Women Conference at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.

One presentation that stood out for Plummer, a Farmington resident, dealt with the different coffee cups participants received in their gift bags.

"We were asked to express what our cups meant or what we're going to fill our cups with," she said.

Plummer received a gray BHP Billiton coffee cup, which she said reminded her of late husband, Marshall Plummer, the Navajo Nation's first vice president who died in March 2010.

She explained she was by her husband’s side as he worked his way up from a community leader to a tribal council delegate to the vice presidency before working for Arizona Public Service.

After her husband's death, Plummer said she had to reevaluate her role as a woman. She said it helped her to reflect on the words her husband shared with community members.

"Now, I've become an independent person," she said, adding that she shared her story about developing strength with participants.

The conference's intimate setting made participants feel comfortable in sharing personal details, and it provided time to catch up with friends, Plummer said.

The conference also provided information about financial management and self-sufficiency and offered creativity workshops.

From left, Kathy Benally and Suzannah M. Gould make butterflies out of yarn and Popsicle sticks on Friday during a workshop led by Leah Platero, a tribal extension agent with New Mexico State University, at the Celebration of Women Conference at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.

Suzannah M. Gould, of Newcomb, said the focus on women was her reason for attending the conference. Gould retired in June after working as substance abuse counselor for a Navajo Nation program.

There were a number of conferences focusing on women’s issues that Gould wanted to attend, but she was working at the time, so now she is catching up.

"It's time for me. It's time to do for myself," she said.

Lorraine Begaye holds a butterfly, or a K'Aalogii, made from yarn and Popsicle sticks on Friday during the Celebration of Women Conference at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.

She added the sessions that focused on Navajo traditions, such as gardening techniques, reminded her of methods practiced by her parents and grandparents.

"It reminded me that I can do that, that I can teach my grandchildren to do that," Gould said.

Part of the afternoon session included a presentation by San Juan College about educational opportunities. Gould said she appreciated the information because she had questions about returning to school.

In addition, she had the opportunity to speak one on one with the San Juan College representative.

The Navajo Women's Commission, Sisters in Circle and Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty sponsored the event.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.