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CROWNPOINT — Wingate High School student Terri Joe never tried wood burning art until the opportunity came up at the Diné Maker Nation Faire at Navajo Technical University.

"Art is my main escape for any stress, any depression, any anxiety in life," Joe said adding that learning about this art form was among the reasons she gave it a try.

The curiosity displayed by attendees at the Crownpoint campus and the do-it-yourself mindset by presenters merged at the event on March 12.

This is the second year that NTU organized the event, which had the theme of "The Evolution of Diné Makers," and featured exhibits and demonstrations on the forms of creation and how the art of making items has evolved for the Navajo people.

There were booths for making moccasins, assembling ties for a tsiiyéél – a traditional hair bun – and weaving. Other areas highlighted skilled trades such as welding, construction and automotive.

It also featured fun creations like button making, costume fabrication, photography and a chili and salsa competition.

Tohatchi High School teacher Albert Jim Jr. sampled chili at the competition.

While it was fun to taste the chili offerings, Jim commended what the event offered his students.

"Students are totally engaged with each of the exhibits. I'm just hoping they're exposed to all the different disciplines that are here. Their interest level is high today," Jim said.

By seeing what can be done creatively – either as a side gig or as a profession – will inspire students to continue their education, he said.

Cypress Mike, a senior at Tohatchi, enjoyed watching the demonstrations by the students from the automotive technology and welding programs at NTU.

At the booth, Mike saw a motorcycle the NTU students modified to accommodate a rider with a disability and equipment welders use on the job.

"It's pretty interesting. All these people out here showing what they have and giving opportunities, ideas to people," Mike said about the event.

There were several activities for attendees to try and to make their own.

NTU student Ronda Joe volunteered at the "making a Navajo bun" booth.

She said the students focused on the tsiiyéél because, in tradition, it represents a person's intellect and identity.

"We wanted them to learn the significance of the hair bun," Joe said.

At the product challenge for middle and high school students, a team from Crownpoint Middle School displayed the coffee cups and vases they developed by 3D printing.

The challenge had students develop items that were culturally relevant and that can be used by elderly Navajos.

In a written statement, the Crownpoint team explained that they developed the coffee mugs and vases "because our grandparents love to drink coffee every morning."

Sophie Ellsworth's product was a blue vase while Julianne Frausto made a yellow coffee mug.

"She drinks coffee every morning, which inspired me to make the mug," Frausto said.

For Ellsworth, the inspiration for the blue vase came from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," which is a movie her grandmother enjoys watching.

The middle school had several teams competing in the innovation challenge. Each team made their products in their science, technology, engineering and mathematics class.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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