'All about sheep': Event centers on role of sheep in Navajo life
SHIPROCK — Zefren Anderson knelt on a batch of fleece to demonstrate how to skirt the wool.
Anderson, a board member for Diné be' iiná Inc., pulled from the edge a foot of unwanted fleece to obtain a clean center coat.
"The fleece doesn't lie," he said. After examining the quality of the wool he then talked about how the technique is used in wool judging.
Anderson's demonstration was among several offered on June 14 at the 23rd annual Sheep is Life Celebration at Diné College's north campus in Shiprock.
The three-day event, organized by Diné be' iiná Inc., began on June 13 with a weaving and fiber art gathering and spin off. It continues through June 15 with activities that center on the role of sheep in Navajo life.
Among those watching Anderson's presentation were 35 students from Bread Springs Day School. The school is in the community of Bread Springs, an area south of Gallup.
Tifiney Houston, a teacher at the school, said since the kindergarten through third grade students have been studying the connection between Navajo people and sheep, they decided to attend the event to help them further understand that link.
"By actually seeing it in person, I think it's going to connect with them about how sheep is a valuable resource," Houston said.
Janet Thompson, education technician at the school, said the field trip is part of the school's 21st Century Summer Program.
Since the students are studying cultures from around the world, and the kindergarten class is learning about the Aboriginal people of Australia, this event will help them compare the role of sheep there to the Navajo Nation, Thompson said.
Away from the event's main area, Bonnie Barcus set up two enclosures for her adult and lamb Navajo Churro sheep.
Barcus brought the animals from her ranch in Boise, Idaho, where she has been raising the breed for several years.
"The first thing that attracted me to them was the colors. The variation in the colors, it's everything you could think of – grays, tans, blacks, whites," Barcus said.
She also likes that the animals are hearty and do not take as much feed and water as other domestic breeds.
"They're good mothers and rarely have problems lambing," she added.
Leia Stafford was enjoying her first time at the event.
She decided to attend after hearing about it from her weaving instructor in Gallup.
"I wanted to learn all about sheep and how they're raised and how to spin and how to clean wool. I'm just interested," Stafford said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.