A Story of Night and Day: the Navajo Shoe Game Pictorial Rug
Jane Hyden’s latest Pictorial rug celebrates the very first Navajo Shoe Game or Késhjéé. This first game was played long, long ago. At that time, the night animals and the day animals did not understand the importance of the cycles of the universe and each group wanted to have either day or night all the time. They decided to hold a contest to see which group would prevail and this was the first Shoe Game. A ball was made from the roots of the yucca plant and counters were made from the leaves. The yucca ball was hidden in one of four shoes that were buried in sand and each team tried to guess which shoe held the ball with a correct guess earning some of the yucca counters. The game was to continue until one team had gathered 102 counters, but as the sun rose, the animals realized that creatures do not have power over the natural cycles of the sun and moon, no matter which side won the game.
Jane’s charming weaving, which shows this first game is a wonderful example of her designing and weaving skill. The night animals, including the skunk, the bear, lynx and the mountain lion are skillfully depicted completing for night/day domination against the butterfly, turkey,bald eagle, hummingbird and other daylight loving animals. The night sky is full of glittering stars and the full moon illuminates the players. Jane uses fine weight Brown Sheep yarns that she re-spins for greater definition. The faces of the animals are beautifully detailed and the border work that sets off the composition is a masterpiece of careful planning and expert weaving. I’ve included a couple of close-up pictures of the faces of the animals below for those of you who would like to study Jane’s technique.
The Navajo Shoe Game Goes On
The Navajo Shoe Game is still played on long winter evenings and is a popular event during the holiday season. It teaches fairness, teamwork and loyalty plus you get to stay up all night. The Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock is sponsoring it’s sixth annual Késhjèé/Shoe Game Tournament on New Year’s Eve, December 21, 2014. It’s open to everyone, Navajo and non-Navajo, so feel free to check it out if you’re in the area. You may also find a Shoe Game in any area with a Navajo community. The game is played in the winter and in the very early Spring. As part of the Navajo Creation Story, the game is only spoken of between November and early Spring, when the animals involved are asleep and cannot hear us talking about them.
Jane’s Navajo Shoe Game Pictorial rug? You’ll find it in a private collection, but you can contact me to get touch with Jane if you’d like to commission one of her pictorials.
Hagoshíí (so long for now)